CPN Exam Scoring

Explaining the results process

Learn about the exam scoring process that results in becoming a Certified Pediatric Nurse, like Daniel Marx, MSN, RN, CPN at Children's Mercy Hospital

Scoring the CPN exam

The CPN exam contains 175 multiple-choice items. Of these, 150 are scored questions and 25 are non-scored pretest questions. Pretest questions are dispersed throughout the exam and are not distinguishable from scored questions.

Total testing time is 3 hours.

What is the pass rate for the CPN exam? Current annual statistics for all PNCB exams are provided here.

PNCB exams are criterion referenced. This means that your passing score is based on predetermined criterion. Your score is not compared to that of other candidates but is compared to the passing point criteria and the knowledge it represents. 

The standard setting methodology used to set the minimum passing score is the Angoff method, applied by a representative sample group of subject matter experts in the field from across the country who also hold the credential you are seeking. This group rates the questions to make judgments about each item’s level of difficulty, and their ratings form the basis for recommending a standard of what a minimally competent candidate will know about the tested content to obtain a passing score. The decision regarding the passing score was made by PNCB, based on recommendations, and was transferred through use of statistical procedures to the exams currently being administered.

Passing scores may vary slightly for each version of the exam. To ensure fairness to all candidates, a process of statistical equating is used. This involves the following:

  1. Selecting an appropriate mix of individual questions for each version of the examination that meet the content distribution requirements of the exam content outline.
  2. Obtaining an overall difficulty level for the form (as each scored question has been pretested, a difficulty level is available); the standard setting process then considers the overall difficulty level of each exam form.
  3. Slight variations in difficulty level are determined, then addressed by adjusting the passing score up or down, depending on the overall difficulty level statistics for the group of scored questions that appear on a particular form of the exam form.

PNCB uses scaled scores that range from 200 (0 items correct) to 800 (all items correct) with a scaled score of 400 corresponding to the cut-point on the exam. This means that the passing score across all forms is 400. Using a scaled score is how a certification board may put all scores, regardless of which form the candidate takes, on the same scale, or frame of reference.

PNCB exams are different than NCLEX in that our exam do not use adaptive testing, which can vary the number of questions a tester sees, and ends when competence is determined.

Your exam will only stop if you reach the end of the 3-hour testing period or if you finish and submit your answers for scoring.

In addition to that difference, PNCB's exams only ask multiple choice questions with one correct answer, while NCLEX contains alternative item formats (fill in the blanks, hot spot items, etc.).

With PNCB's exams, you can also return to questions and change an answer before final submission.

You will receive on-screen notification of unofficial, preliminary pass/fail status immediately after completing the computer-based exam. Official PNCB exam results are emailed to you 2-3 weeks after your testing date and includes your letter of congratulations.

Approximately 6-8 weeks after a candidate passes, PNCB mails a wall certificate.

Exam results are not given by phone or email.

Candidates must wait to reapply until they receive official emailed PNCB exam results (within 2-3 weeks).

Use your score report to assess retest readiness. Reapply under Steps to Certification.

A new 90-day testing period is assigned.

No, because certification exams are secure, and important efforts are made to ensure that security, some of which you noticed at the testing center. This security is a requirement for exam accreditation. While we understand that people want to learn from their mistakes, releasing questions (with or without answers) exposes exam questions that are still in use on exams. Once those questions are shared outside of the secure exam environment, the security and integrity of the exam is compromised. However, if you are unsuccessful on the exam, your report will offer information about strengths and weaknesses in topic areas that may be helpful to considering future study needs.  

Faces of Certification

PNCB-certified nursing professionals work in a variety of roles and settings throughout the US and beyond. Share your photo today!

Tyneisha Orr, CPNP-PC Children's Hospital & Medical Center Omaha, NE
Amairani Jimenez, CPN Tripler Army Medical Center Honolulu, Hawaii
Gia Nguyen, CPNP-AC St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Arlington, VA
View more Faces of Certification