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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

View the full summary.

Essential Competency Professional Behaviors

Nursing Simulation Laboratory (NSL)

  • Application of Sterile Technique for Common Procedures
  • Medication Administration NSL Station

Patient Care Situations (PCS)

Overriding Areas of Competency (AOC)

  • Plan of Care
  • Safe Patient Care

Selected AOC

  • Abdominal assessment
  • Comfort management
  • Fluid management
  • Medications
  • Musculoskeletal management
  • Neurological assessment
  • Oxygen management
  • Peripheral neurovascular management
  • Respiratory management
  • Skin management
  • Vital signs
  • Wound Management

CPNE: Pass Rates

CPNE and NCLEX Pass Rates

View pass rates for the CPNE and National Council Licensure Examination-RN (NCLEX-RN®). Note: If you don't pass your initial CPNE, you'll need to retake and pass all portions of a subsequent exam to complete your associate nursing program at Excelsior College. In this scenario, you're responsible for payment of all fees and expenses related to the retake.

Important Info About Test Preparation Providers

Beware of Test Preparation Providers!

Excelsior College does not contract with or endorse the services of, or study materials sold by, any test preparation providers. Be cautious of anyone selling test preparation services or materials; whatever they may say to you, they are not affiliated with Excelsior College. As an enrolled student, you'll be guided to the right learning resources and services. Learn more.

Contact: Contact Your Academic Advisor

Questions? Contact Your Academic Advisor

Visit your My Advising Team page in MyExcelsior.

Accreditation: Nursing Specialized Accreditation

Specialized Nursing Accreditation

The associate, bachelor's, and master's degree programs in nursing at Excelsior College are accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN), formerly known as the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC). The ACEN is a specialized accrediting agency for nursing recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN)
3343 Peachtree Road, Suite 850
Atlanta, GA 30326

Recognition: Nursing

Center of Excellence in Nursing Education

The National League for Nursing (NLN) designated Excelsior College's School of Nursing a 2016-2021 Center of Excellence in Nursing Education, for the fourth consecutive time, in recognition of the School's sustained achievements in creating environments that promote student learning and professional development.