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Clinical Performance in Nursing Exam® (CPNE)


The CPNE is a required 8-credit criterion-referenced performance exam administered over two and a half days in an acute care hospital.

You must pass this capstone exam to graduate from your associate nursing program at Excelsior College.

CPNE administration and scoring processes follow standards established by the American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, and the National Council of Measurement in Education.


You're eligible to apply for the CPNE once you’ve completed all of your nursing theory requirements, have 10 or fewer remaining general education credits to complete, and have passed your FCCA.

Exam Content

When you register for the CPNE, you’ll be randomly assigned to a clinical examiner (CE) who prepares your patient assignment and evaluates your competencies in performing patient-centered care in the following areas:

  • Application of nursing knowledge
  • Capability in making patient-centered judgments
  • Performance of critical elements (single, discrete, observable behaviors) consistent with professional nursing practice
  • Provision of 100% accurate authentic and simulated patient care

Although Excelsior tries to provide each CPNE student with a pediatric patient, an adult patient is substituted when necessary. Critical elements requiring interpretation of sounds are evaluated with a double stethoscope used at once by the student and the CE. Assessment accuracy is determined in comparison to CE findings.

Important Note 

You’re responsible for all costs associated with the CPNE, any necessary credentialing, and travel and lodging costs required for you to take your exam at the site you’re assigned.

Components of the CPNE

Components of the 22nd Edition CPNE