Scoring the Exam

The CPN exam contains 175 multiple-choice items. Of these, 150 are preselected as 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 current passing rate?

Current statistics for all PNCB exams can be found here.

How is the exam scored?

PNCB examinations are criterion referenced. This means the passing score is based on predetermined criteria. Your ability to pass the examination depends on the knowledge you display, not on the performance of other candidates.

The 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 credential you are seeking. This panel evaluated each question on the examination to determine how many correct answers are necessary to demonstrate the knowledge and skills required to pass.

How many questions do I need to get right to pass the exam?

Passing scores may vary slightly for each version of the examination. 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 examination content blueprint.
  2. Obtaining an overall difficulty level (as each scored question has been pretested, a difficulty level is available); the standard setting process then considers the overall difficulty level of each test 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 examination application.

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.

How is the exam experience different than NCLEX?

PNCB does 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, the CPN exam only asks multiple choice questions, while NCLEX contains alternative item formats (fill in the blanks, hot spot items, etc.). With the CPN exam, you can also return to questions and change an answer before final submission.

When do I know if I passed?

You will receive notification of pass/fail status immediately after completing the computer-based exam. An official PNCB exam pass packet is mailed to you 2-3 weeks after your testing date and includes your letter of congratulations. Exam results are not given by phone or email. Passing candidates receive a wall certificate, lapel pin, and important details about promoting and maintaining your certification.

What if I do not pass?

Candidates must wait to reapply until they receive official mailed PNCB exam results. A new 90-day testing period is assigned. Apply to re-examine via self-pay here, or via No Pass, No Pay here.

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