How is the NCLEX Scored? Quick Facts for NCLEX 2019


Article updated 2018

Welcome to this article on how the NCLEX really works. You may have been researching how the NCLEX works only to find that there is a lot of bad information out there and you need to know what’s true and what’s false regarding NCLEX rumors. Good news, you’ve come to the right place :slight_smile:

How does the NCLEX work?

Let’s start with a little background info, and talk about how the NCLEX works on a technical level. We now live in a digital age, and the old-fashioned days of paper and pencil are gone now many tests have transitioned to computer adaptive testing (CAT). You may be asking yourself, so what? Why should we care? Are there any advantages?

Absolutely! For starters, the tests are much shorter and faster now. With the old NCLEX written test, you would have to answer every single question on the exam. With the new NCLEX that uses CAT, the computer is able to accurately determine your performance to a near certainty without making you take all of the questions in the testing bank. It’s awesome!

Computerized grading is also 100% accurate… and fast! In just a few days you can have your final results, compared to the months it took during the dark ages.

Here is a step-by-step of how CAT works from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN):

  1. Every time you answer an item, the computer re-estimates your ability based on all the previous answers and the difficulty of those items.
  2. The computer then selects the next item that you should have a 50% chance of answering correctly.
    a. This way, the next item should not be too easy or too hard
    b. The computer’s goal is to get as much information as possible about your true ability level
    c. You should find each item challenging as each item is targeted to your ability
  3. With each item answered, the computer’s estimate of your ability becomes more precise.


There is good and bad information out there regarding how the NCLEX works, so let’s take a look at some of the common NCLEX rumors!

Does getting cut off at 75 questions mean that I passed the NCLEX?


I have seen countless people say that if your NCLEX cut off at 75 questions that you definitely passed the test. The truth is that you could have passed or failed. The reason you were cut off was simply that the computer had met a threshold of certainty of your testing level.

What does that mean? Basically, the computer has determined your performance average and has predicted that you will get the same results if you stop now or stop after 100 more questions. If your performance is at or above the passing threshold or cutoff line, then you passed. If it lies below it, you failed.

Bottom line: If you passed your NCLEX and got cut off at 75 questions then you did a great job. If you failed at 75 questions, then you really made of mess of it.

Does getting cut off at 265 questions mean that I failed the NCLEX?


Similar to the first question, you can pass or fail the NCLEX at the 265 question mark. If your final score places you above the passing threshold, then you passed, and if not, then you failed. Getting drawn out to 265 questions can mean multiple things, which leads us to the next question.

If I got all 265 questions on the NCLEX, does the last question determine if I pass or fail?

Maybe… it depends

If you have been drawn out until the last question, it can mean one of two things. Either the computer has not yet accurately predicted your testing level, or it has, but you’re so close to the cutoff line that it wants to give you a little more room to improve.

In the first case, maybe you have answered all of the questions so erratically that you’ve simply confused the computer. In this case, regardless of if you answer the last question correctly, you could pass or fail the NCLEX depending on your total score and the weight of each question (i.e. fancy computer maths).

On the other hand, if on the last question you are at the 50/50 pass/fail border, and if you get the last question correct, it will push you over the threshold and you will pass the NCLEX. On the flip side, if you were on the pass/fail border and got the last question wrong, then you would fail the NCLEX.

If I ran out of time on my NCLEX does the last question determine whether or not I passed?


Running out of time is probably the worst case scenario when it comes to ending your NCLEX because it’s the least flexible. If you managed to take 6 hours, then the last 60 questions will determine whether you pass or not. You must have every one of the last 60 questions above the passing threshold for this situation in order to pass your NCLEX.

Now, keep in mind, this doesn’t mean you have to answer every single question correctly in order to pass if this happens. You just can’t dip under the passing threshold at any point in the last 60 questions. So, if this is your situation, then I hope you were pretty consistently right towards the end… otherwise, better luck next time :cry:

Are Select-all-that-apply (SATA) and prioritization the hardest NCLEX questions and weighted the most?


SATA questions are generally the hardest questions on the NCLEX. The number of correct responses is unknown and getting partial credit is not an option, as it is either pass or fail.

Prioritization questions are also very difficult, as all of the responses are likely correct answers to a question, but rely heavily on critical thinking skills to find the correct order.

Because of this, SATA and prioritization questions are given the most weight when scoring the NCLEX final results. It’s similar to saying a correct SATA question might give you 3 points while a correct easier question might give you 1 point. This can be comforting because if you get a fact-based multiple choice question on a drug you’ve never even heard of before, it might not matter that much regarding your overall testing performance.

Here’s a relevant post on the different types of NCLEX questions:

If I mostly got SATA and prioritization questions, does that mean that I passed the NCLEX?

Maybe, it depends

Kind of like the first question, whether or not you passed the NCLEX will largely depend on whether or not you actually answered these questions correctly or not. If you get all SATA and prioritization questions AND you think you aced them, you probably passed.

If you got all SATA and prioritization questions AND you think you got the majority of them wrong, you could have failed the NCLEX.

However, even if you have failed many of the SATA and prioritization questions, you could still pass so long as you are above the passing threshold, you just might get extended beyond the 75 question cutoff number.

Does the NCLEX have experimental test questions and do they count?

Maybe, it depends

Prior to 2017, the NCLEX may have embedded experimental test questions into your NCLEX. The test was supposed to require a minimum of 75 questions to cut off, so if you only had 75 test questions, you probably did not receive any experimental questions.

However, in 2017, the NCSBN began using something called the special research section. Users are randomly selected based on certain conditions (such as total time spent testing, and whether or not the computer had cut you off) and this section would be appended to the end of your NCLEX. Here are some key points about this:

  • You should be informed that this section has started.
  • There is no credit! Your answers DO NOT COUNT for or against you.
  • This section will only show up after your NCLEX has been finished.
  • This section is voluntary and you can quit at any time without penalty.

Does the Pearson VUE registration trick actually work?


Assuming your results were actually delivered (which can take some time after you walk out of the building) you can try the Pearson VUE trick. If you go to re-register for your NCLEX after taking the test and get a pop-up stating “Our records indicate that you have recently scheduled this exam. Please contact your member board for further assistance. Another registration cannot be made at this time,” then you have passed your NCLEX! Congratulations!

So as you can see, there are a lot of complicated and possibly confusing elements to the NCLEX. In the end, try not to fret so much about the number of questions you got cut off at, or the amount of SATA and prioritization questions you received, as they don’t necessarily indicate a pass or fail. Don’t drive yourself crazy for the next few days that it could take to get your test back! Instead just wait a few hours and try the Pearson re-register trick… that actually works :wink:

Read more about the Pearson Vue trick here:

Here are some extra NCLEX facts:

  • 75 questions is the minimum amount of questions that are on the NCLEX.
  • 265 questions is the maximum amount of questions that are on the NCLEX.
  • There are experimental questions that are being trialed on the NCLEX that DO NOT count for credit. You will not know which questions are real and being counted and which ones are experimental, however, you can get them right or wrong without affecting your score.
  • The majority of students pass the NCLEX on the first try.
  • The NCLEX requires an authorization to test (ATT) which involves your school and your state board of nursing before you can register for your exam.
  • The Pearson Vue trick works for Canadian nurses as well as for those in the USA.
  • You can take the NCLEX as many times as you wish, with the limitations of one exam every 45 days, and 8 exams per year.
  • There is no NCLEX RN passing score. The test is determined by reaching a passing threshold and has nothing to do with the number of questions you take or how many you get right or wrong.

Some of the most common Google searches after the NCLEX involve:

  • If I got all 265 questions, does that mean I failed
  • If I got cut off at 75 questions, does that mean I passed
  • Can you pass the NCLEX with 265 questions
  • NCLEX 265 questions pass rate
  • 265 questions on NCLEX chances of passing
  • nclex shut off at 265
  • can you pass nclex with 265 questions
  • 265 nclex questions did i pass
  • 265 questions on nclex pass or fail
  • can you fail nclex with 75 questions
  • 75 questions on nclex pass or fail
  • NCLEX RN passing score

And it goes on and on my friends…

Too many people assume these, but both will see success and failure, and how you answer the questions will matter the most. But after reading this, I’m sure you know better :slight_smile:

Extra advice:

How to Pass the NCLEX-RN in 75 Questions
Is UWorld Harder Than the NCLEX RN 2019?
Pearson Vue Trick 2019 NCLEX - Does the PVT still work?

I read this article and was initially skeptical about the Pearson Vue trick, but it must be true because I as well as countless of my nursing school friends (and others online) have all had success with the pop-up being accurate. It’s articles like this that helped to ease my mind in that stressful waiting period after taking the test, so thanks guys!

This was a doozy of a test, and I’m so glad it’s finally over!!

1 Like

Yeah, we’ve had multiple people confirm these rumors so we really think they’re the real deal. Glad it worked for you too, and congrats on passing!

1 Like

Thanks! I’m relieved ha :relieved:


I 'member

Never in my life had I been so glad to get a pop-up.


Some of the most common Google searches after the NCLEX involve:

  • If I got all 265 questions, does that mean I failed
  • If I got cut off at 75 questions, does that mean I passed
  • Can you pass the NCLEX with 265 questions
  • NCLEX 265 questions pass rate
  • 265 questions on NCLEX chances of passing
  • nclex shut off at 265
  • can you pass nclex with 265 questions
  • 265 nclex questions did i pass
  • 265 questions on nclex pass or fail
  • can you fail nclex with 75 questions
  • 75 questions on nclex pass or fail

And it goes on and on my friends…

Too many people assume these, but both will see success and failure, and how you answer the questions will matter the most.


Yeah, the number of questions is not some magical thing like some people make it out to be. The actual answer choices are far more important to your chances of passing. I don’t know why people think the cutoff number is so important.

1 Like

I agree. You can’t do poorly on every question and expect to pass just because of a cut off number :roll_eyes:


It’s all about the computer’s confidence level for your testing. So long as you’re not super erratic with your answering, the confidence level is probably very close for any cutoff number after 75.

So if it’s confident it knows what level you’re testing at around question 75, then it will stop. Confident at 76? Stop. 79? Stop. Etc. etc. etc…

Any cutoff number is not inherently good or bad.


Thanks for the great advice! I haven’t taken the NCLEX yet, but it’s never too early to start preparing.

1 Like

If anyone likes this advice, check out the Nursejanx FREE NCLEX study guide:


I’m sure You must be used to the post exam-ers who have anxiety… but I tried to register. I went all the way through and hit “submit order” and the message came up;

“Our records indicate that you have recently scheduled this exam. Another registration Cannot be made at this time.”

I’m nervous cuz it’s not verbatim what you wrote… I also wonder if it does that because there’s some rule about waiting 45 days to write again if you did not pass?


No worries :slight_smile:

It is possible that Pearson Vue has changed their pop-up messages over time, and we have updated the article to include a few variety of success messages. Your message looks extremely promising and I would assume that you have passed… congratulations! Please let us know when you get the official results!

1 Like

:crossed_fingers: Fingers crossed! Thank you, I will!


I PASSSSSED!!! :confetti_ball:

Thank you so much for answering my questions and in such a timely manner! I got my official results this afternoon!!!


Congratulations, Nance! Glad we could help :smiley:


So, I took the NCLEX-RN in California this morning. It cut off at 75, I have no idea how I did. Other then the fact that there were fewer than 5 SATA questions and only 2 (very easy) calculation questions, the rest seemed to be pharm and priority. I tried the PVT an hour or less after leaving, so I assume there is no way the response is truly accurate, but I am going to pretend it is…for today anyway! It takes an act of God to get through to the BRN here and I expect it’ll be several weeks before I really know anything. I am wondering though if you think there is any validity to the PVT “good pop up” message within an hour of taking the exam, or if it’s just standard. Thanks :slight_smile:

1 Like

I absolutely think there’s validity to the PVT. See this thread for details on that:

I hope you’ll report back when you get your final results!


I PASSED!!! :star_struck:

Took my NCLEX for the first time last week. I got 112 questions, a lot of difficult SATA and prioritization questions, and only 2 math questions. I did the PVT right after the test, and got the good pop up, but I wanted to wait until the results were 100% official. Thank you for this thread, it kept me sane :slight_smile:


Congratulations! I’m glad you got a random question cutoff number, because it gives credence to the way that the NCLEX functions. Too many people are focused on a number like 75 or 265 that they think will determine their passing chances. But the truth is that you can pass with any number of questions from 75-265.