Here are some common questions about the exam

Frequently Asked Questions

Do exam questions have more than one correct answer, and how is the correct answer determined?

The exam is the end result of many test development activities. Practical nurse subject matter experts from across Canada create and evaluate the exam questions with assistance from YAS Testing and Measurement consultants, who ensure that the CPNRE meets the Blueprint guidelines and specifications.

Each question on the exam is supported by two references. Most of these references have been published within the past five years. The purpose of the references is twofold: (1) to indicate that the correct answer within each question has authoritative support from at least two experts in the field and (2) to provide a source for further reading and review. Every attempt has been made to use references that are up-to-date, accessible and accepted within the nursing community.

Does each question have equal weight on the exam?

Each exam question has the same value: one mark. Your score on the exam is calculated as the number of questions that you answered correctly. In this process, each question is worth one, and only one, mark.

Are there any questions that you must answer correctly to pass the exam?

No. There are no critical questions that a candidate must answer correctly to receive a passing score on the CPNRE. Each exam question has the same value: one mark.

How is the pass mark for the exam set?

The pass mark is set in reference to the content and the difficulty of the test questions. The pass mark is NOT set using a norm-referenced approach such as “bell curving”. The pass mark is set by a panel of content experts from across Canada. These content experts work closely with entry-level practical nurses, and include educators, experienced practitioners and administrators. The pass mark is set at a level that represents the performance expected of a competent entry-level practical nurse.

The panel of content experts reviews each exam question and produces ratings based on a common understanding of a competent entry-level practical nurse. In addition to these ratings, a variety of relevant data (for example, information on the preparation of new graduates, data on results from previously administered exam) are carefully considered to ensure that the pass mark that candidates must achieve on the exam is valid and fair. Based on this information, an appropriate pass mark is set. Also, to ensure fairness, the different versions of the exam are equated so that all candidates have to meet the same standard regardless of the version of the exam.

For each form of the CPNRE, the pass mark is the same across writing centres and across provinces and territories. The pass mark is also the same for English and French versions of the CPNRE.

What can I do differently next time?

This brochure is for candidates preparing to re-write the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Examination (CPNRE).

What can I do differently next time?

Could a mistake have been made in marking my exam?

The answers of candidates with a “borderline” result—those with a total number of correct answers close to the pass mark—are remarked to confirm the number of correct answers. Several additional quality control measures are taken throughout the process to ensure that the correct result is assigned to each candidate. Candidates who do not pass can request that their answers be remarked. There is a fee for this service, contact the regulatory authority in your province or territory.

Why is my exam result indicated as PASS or FAIL?

The exam is designed to determine whether candidates possess the competencies (knowledge, abilities, skills, attitudes and judgments) required of an entry-level practical nurse to practise safely and effectively. The purpose of the CPNRE is to separate candidates who meet the required standard (pass) from those who do not (fail).

The exam is marked by a computer which tallies the total number of correct answers obtained by the candidate, then compares this number with the number of correct answers needed to meet the pass mark. If your total number of correct answers is equal to or higher than the pass mark, then the computer will assign you a pass result. However, if your total number of correct answers is lower than the pass mark, the computer will assign you a fail result.

Who do I contact if I have questions about my exam result?

If you have any questions or concerns about your exam result, please contact the regulatory authority in your province or territory.

My exam result was “FAIL.” Can I appeal my result?

Yes, there is an appeals process. To file an appeal, you must contact the regulatory authority in your province or territory.


Cheating includes sharing, copying, publishing or providing to anyone exam questions or answers by any means, including in person, telephone, electronically or digitally. Cheating also includes giving a summary or recollection of a question to someone else by any means.

Consequences of Cheating

The consequences of cheating or behaviour that is viewed as suspicious can be serious and may include:

  1. Being given a fail result on the exam. This counts towards the limited number of times that you can write the exam.
  2. Having a complaint filed against you.
  3. Being denied entry into the practical nursing profession by the regulatory authority.
  4. Having a civil lawsuit filed against you.

Reporting Cheating

While you have a responsibility to be ethical, you also have an obligation to report unethical behaviour. In fact, some standards of practice and ethical codes require that professionals report unethical behaviour, which would include cheating or cheating schemes. In the exam process, this might include:

  1. Reporting someone who has requested that you disclose the content of exam questions to them after you write the CPNRE.
  2. Reporting someone who has written the CPNRE and is now offering to share confidential information on exam questions with you.

If you suspect cheating, please contact the Exam Integrity Tips Line.
All calls and emails will be handled discreetly and confidentially.


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