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Passing Standard

CAT Definitions

Candidate Ability - The level of entry-level nursing knowledge, skills and abilities that the candidate has.

Ability Estimate - The level of entry-level nursing knowledge, skills and abilities that the computer has determined that the candidate has.

Passing Standard - A cut point along an ability range that marks the minimum ability level requirement. For the NCLEX, it is the minimum ability required to safely and effectively practice nursing at the entry-level.

Logit - A unit of measurement to report relative differences between candidate ability estimates and item difficulties.

Setting the NCLEX Passing Standards

Because the practice of nursing changes over time, it is necessary to periodically re-evaluate the appropriateness of the passing standards for both the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN. To ensure that the passing standards for these exams accurately reflect the amount of nursing ability currently required to practice competently at the entry level, the NCSBN Board of Directors re-evaluates their passing standards every three years when the test plans are reviewed. Below is a sample of the information considered in the evaluation of a passing standard:

  1. The results of a standard setting exercise undertaken by the Panel of Judges. Currently, this exercise consists of a criterion-referenced standard setting method, with additional statistical result compromise procedures. Also, a list of members on the Panel of Judges and their qualifications are included.
  2. A historical record of the passing standard and annual summaries of candidate performance on the NCLEX since the implementation of the CAT methodology in 1994.
  3. The results from the annual standard setting survey, which solicits the opinions of employers and educators regarding the competence of the current cohort of entry-level nurses.
  4. The educational readiness of high school graduates who expressed an interest in nursing. Currently, American College Testing service (ACT) provides this information.
For more information on the NCLEX Passing Standard go to Passing Standard FAQs.


NCLEX-RN Passing Standard

The NCSBN Board of Directors voted on Dec. 17, 2012, to raise the passing standard for the NCLEX-RN. The passing standard was revised from -0.16 logits to 0.00 logit. This passing standard was implemented April 1, 2013, in conjunction with the 2013 NCLEX-RN Test Plan. The new passing standard will remain in effect through March 31, 2016.  The announcement about the revised 2013 NCLEX-RN passing standard is available under 2013 News Releases.  

NCLEX-PN Passing Standard

The NCSBN Board of Directors voted in December 2013 to raise the passing standard for the NCLEX-PN. The passing standard was revised from -0.27 to -0.21 logits. The passing standard was implemented April 1, 2014 in conjunction with the 2014 NCLEX-PN Test Plan.  The new standard will remain in effect through March 31, 2017.

Tags: CAT,Computerized Adaptive Testing,Dates,FAQ,Logit,NCLEX,NCLEX-PN,NCLEX-RN,Passing standard,Test plan,NCSBN