Number of Exam Re-Writes

Regulators who require applicants to pass an examination before registration grapple with how often the applicant should be able to attempt the exam. There is a concern about fairness to the applicant (the rationale being that few people who fail an exam three or four times ever pass it). Repeated retakes are expensive for both applicants and regulators alike and arguably “block” the number of seats available for new applicants. Other concerns include applicants “learning the exam” rather than the underlying competencies that are being tested and the deterioration of applicants’ competencies over the months and years as they focus on the exam.

For the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) the most frequent ground of appeal in registration matters to the Appeal Board are from applicants who have been unsuccessful in the examination more than three times. The CNO is currently consulting on a proposed registration regulation change that would give its Council the ability to expand the number of examination attempts and could even make them unlimited. The CNO has advised the National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurse that its review of all of the information, including psychometric evidence, suggests that it is appropriate to permit unlimited attempts. This step by a major regulatory body may spark a reconsideration of the issue by other regulators. See: for more details.

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