Exclusive: NCLEX-RN Shut-Off Data Reveals Pass and Fail Rates

Here's how likely you passed the NCLEX-RN based on shut-off time, according to hundreds of allnurses' community members. Articles Resources

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Administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) is a standardized exam that assesses the competencies and knowledge of individuals seeking to become licensed nurses in the United States. It is required for registered nurses (RN) and licensed practical nurses (LPN), with a different exam offered for each specialty, the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN.

As the NCLEX is a computerized adaptive test (CAT), it will stop administering questions once it is 95% sure whether a student will pass or fail. When looking at data, the following pass and fail rates are according to when the test shuts off.

NCLEX Shut-Off Data Reveals Pass and Fail Rates

The most recent generation of the NCLEX exam has a minimum of 85 and a maximum of 145 questions. This number includes 15 pre-test questions that don't count toward your final pass rate.

Reconciling this with the previous NCLEX generation, allnurses reviewed 50+ community threads to find more than 175 submitted correlating shut-off times to pass and fail rates.

Shut-Off Pass Rates Reported by Community

  • 75-79: Pass rate of 95%
  • 80-84: Pass rate of 99%
  • 85-89: Pass Rate of 77%
  • 90-119: Pass Rate of 99%
  • 120-124: Pass Rate of 0%
  • 125-129: Pass Rate of 99%
  • 130-134: Pass Rate of 70%
  • 135-145: Pass Rate of 0%

How to Pass the NCLEX-RN

Passing the NCLEX-RN requires diligent preparation and a focused approach. Successful students often create a study plan, understand the exam format, review core content, use online resources, form study groups, manage test anxiety, review test-taking strategies, analyze weak areas, and simulate exam conditions.

The following are some of the most popular exam prep resources available:

  • Kaplan: includes over 2,100 practice questions with rationales, known to be like the NCLEX and CATs in format and adaptability.
  • UWorld: includes over 2,700 practice questions authored by nurse educators and practicing nurses, with detailed rationales for correct and incorrect answers.
  • Picmonic: covers many topics commonly tested on the NCLEX exam, such as pharmacology, fundamentals of nursing, medical-surgical nursing, pediatric nursing, psychiatric nursing, and more.

Related: Best RN Jobs and Salaries in 2023

How Long Is the NCLEX-RN

The newest generation of the NCLEX-RN exam has a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 145 questions.

It does not have a fixed time limit, though candidates are given a maximum of five hours to complete the exam, including breaks. However, the actual exam duration depends on the individual's performance and the number of questions they answer because the test shuts down once you've either passed or failed.

It's worth noting that the NCLEX exam is designed to evaluate the candidate's ability to think critically and make clinical judgments rather than test their knowledge of specific facts.

The number of questions and the exam length is determined based on the candidate's ability to consistently demonstrate their nursing competency throughout the test.

Signs You Passed the NCLEX Exam

It's important to note that the NCLEX exam results are not immediately available after taking the test. The respective nursing regulatory board typically releases the official results within a few weeks. However, there are a few signs that can suggest a candidate may have performed well on the exam:

  • Feeling confident about the answers: While subjective, confidence and familiarity with the content and reasoning behind the answers chosen throughout the exam may indicate a strong performance.
  • Questions progressively get harder before shutting off: CAT tests begin with relatively easy questions. Then, as you correctly answer questions, they get progressively more challenging. However, if you miss several questions in a row, the questions get progressively easier. So, getting questions that are more complex is a good sign.

    Taking and passing an NCLEX predictor test: Many NCLEX prep courses have a practice exam that predicts your performance on the NCLEX-RN. These tests do an excellent job of preparing you for the actual test, and if you pass the predictor test, the odds are in your favor to do well on the NCLEX-RN.

Remembering that these signs are not definitive indicators of passing the NCLEX exam is essential. 

Signs You Failed the NCLEX Exam

While the nursing regulatory board only provides the official results of the NCLEX exam, there may be some indications that a candidate did not pass the exam:

  • Feeling unsure or guessing on many questions: If a candidate consistently struggled to answer questions correctly or found themselves frequently guessing, it could indicate that they did not perform well on the exam.
  • Leaving the exam unprepared or overwhelmed: If a test-taker finishes the NCLEX exam with a sense of uncertainty or feeling overwhelmed by the content, it may suggest that they did not perform strongly.
  • A lack of familiarity with the content or difficulty understanding the questions: If a candidate found the exam questions to be challenging, difficult to comprehend, or if they encountered unfamiliar content, it could indicate that they may not have performed well on the exam.

However, it is essential to remember that these signs are not definitive indicators of failing the NCLEX exam. The only way to know the official results is through the notification provided by the nursing regulatory board. It is crucial to wait for the official outcome before drawing any conclusions about the exam results, even though this can be very challenging.


Q: If you fail the NCLEX-RN, when can you retake it?

If you fail the NCLEX, the exact time frame for when you can retake the exam depends on the policies of the regulatory board or nursing authority in the state or jurisdiction where you plan to be licensed. Generally, the waiting period can vary from a few weeks to several months. Check with your state board of nursing for exact rules.

Q: How many times can you take the NCLEX-RN?

The number of times you can take the NCLEX-RN depends on the policies set by the regulatory board or nursing authority in your state or jurisdiction. Generally, there is no limit on the number of attempts allowed to take the NCLEX-RN, but certain jurisdictions may have specific rules. Check with your state board of nursing for exact rules.

Q: What happens if you don't pass the NCLEX-RN?

It can be disheartening, but it is important to remember that you have options and opportunities to try again. Typically, those who do not pass will receive a notification of exam results in a report or letter, including an analysis of performance. Use the waiting period to review and target your study focus before retaking the exam.

It's also essential to change your study plan before retaking the exam. For example, if you first completed a self-study exam prep course, try finding a nurse specializing in one-on-one or small-group exam prep. The individualized attention and feedback from these courses can be just what you need to pass the exam.

Workforce Development Columnist

Melissa Mills has 25 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Workforce Development, Education, Advancement.

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