Unlike other standardized tests you might be familiar with, the NCLEX-RN is a pass/fail exam. That means that the actual numerical score you get doesn’t really matter — all that matters is that you pass. But scoring the NCLEX is more complicated than simply counting up your number of correct answers and giving you a grade.
Computer Adaptive Testing
Before talking about how the exam is scored, it’s useful to understand the format of the test. The NCLEX exams (both RN and PN) are computer adaptive, meaning that you’re going to get different questions based on how you answered previous questions. The goal of the NCLEX is to figure out what your level of ability is. To do that, the test gives you questions that it thinks you’ll have a 50/50 chance of getting right. If you answer a question correctly, then the test will give you a harder question next. If you answer it incorrectly, they’ll give you an easier one next. The test will go on like this until it has pinpointed your ability level where you are answering 50% of questions correct.
How is the NCLEX-RN Scored?
Since the NCLEX wants to figure out the difficulty of questions that you will answer correctly 50% of the time, the “score” in the traditional sense is meaningless. In fact, the passing score on the NCLEX-RN is actually zero! But that obviously doesn’t mean that you can leave everything blank.
The score you receive on your NCLEX-RN exam is called a “logit,” which is a unit of measurement that compares your ability to answer questions to the difficulty of the questions. The harder the questions you’re getting, the higher the logit score. According to a recent release from the NCSBN, the passing logit score for the NCLEX-RN (through 2019) is 0.00. Basically, this means that you need to be answering the medium difficulty questions correctly at least 50% of the time to pass.
The NCLEX and Confidence Intervals
If you really want to get into the weeds of how the NCLEX is scored, read on. But beware — statistics lay ahead!
Since the NCLEX gives different people different questions, it doesn’t just rely on a simple score. Instead, the test calculates a confidence interval for what your logit score is. If you didn’t take (or don’t remember!) enough statistics to know what that is, it essentially just means that the NCLEX wants to be really sure that you’re a competent nurse. So they’re going to keep giving you questions until they are sure that your real ability is above the passing standard. This means that you don’t know how many questions you’re actually going to see on the NCLEX-RN. You could see as few as 75 questions (15 experimental and 60 actually scored) or as many as 265, but you’ll see enough for the test to maker to be at least 95% confident that your real ability is above the 0.00 logit score needed to pass. The more questions you see, the more confident the test becomes.
There’s a lot more to learn about the way that you’ll work through questions on the NCLEX.