Competencies & Cognitive Abilities

The competencies and cognitive abilities are each organized into 3 categories.

Competencies Cognitive Abilities


There are 76 competencies that make up the content domain for the exam.

Each question on the CPNRE is linked to one of these competencies.


List of CPNRE Competencies


Competency Categories

Professional, ethical & legal practice

Number of competencies


Percentage of questions on the exam


Foundations of practice

Number of competencies


Percentage of questions on the exam


Collaborative practice

Number of competencies


Percentage of questions on the exam


Success on the CPNRE depends on two main factors:

  1. Your knowledge of practical nursing principles and content
  2. Your ability to apply this knowledge in the context of specific healthcare scenarios presented on the CPNRE

Cognitive Ability Levels

Knowledge & Comprehension

This level combines the ability to recall previously learned material and to understand its meaning. It includes such mental abilities as knowing and understanding definitions, facts and principles, and interpreting data (e.g., knowing the effects of certain procedures or interventions, understanding a change in a client’s vital signs).

Knowledge & comprehension questions make up a maximum of 5% of the CPNRE.


This level refers to the ability to apply knowledge and learning to new or practical situations. It includes applying rules, methods, principles and nursing theories in providing care to clients (e.g., applying principles of drug administration and concepts of comfort and safety to the nursing care of clients).

Application questions make up a minimum of 50% of the CPNRE.

Critical Thinking

The third level deals with higher-level thinking processes. It includes the ability to judge the relevance of data, to deal with abstractions and to solve problems (e.g., identifying priorities of care, evaluating the effectiveness of nursing actions). The practical nurse should be able to identify cause-and-effect relationships, distinguish between relevant and irrelevant data, formulate valid conclusions and make judgments concerning the needs of clients.

Critical thinking questions make up a minimum of 45% of the CPNRE.

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