CHICAGO—The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) has voted to retain the existing passing standard for the National Certification Examination (NCE), which was last raised in 2014.

The passing standard is the level of knowledge or ability that must be demonstrated in order to achieve a passing score on the NCE. The NBCRNA periodically evaluates the passing standard to ensure it reflects current expectations for competent professional performance at entry level. The Board’s decision to retain the current passing standard recognizes that the standard continues to reflect the growth of anesthesia services and their complexity, and the related, required level of knowledge and skills. The periodic review of the standard can continue to provide assurance to the public that entry-level nurse anesthetists possess the knowledge required to provide anesthesia care.

At its August 2017 meeting, the NBCRNA Board of Directors reviewed the results of the 2017 standard setting study. The results were consistent with and re-validated the current passing standard. The study involved a panel of certified registered nurse anesthetists who analyzed the appropriateness of the existing standard for the certification examination. Periodic standard-setting studies are required by our own accrediting agencies, and the procedure NBCRNA follows is firmly grounded in the testing literature and used by numerous other credentialing bodies, including the National Council of State Boards of Nursing in its NCLEX examination. Subject matter experts representing a diverse sample of anesthesia providers throughout the United States participated in the standard-setting meeting. The panel members were identified primarily for their familiarity with the skills and knowledge necessary for entry-level practice. They were selected to represent a variety of perspectives based on region, work setting, gender, etc. The panel followed the Modified Angoff and Hofstee Methods for item-level and holistic evaluation, respectively. The results were similar to the 2014 standard setting results, which used the Bookmark Method to reach consensus on a recommended passing standard. The NBCRNA Board of Directors decided to retain the existing passing standard based on the panel’s results applying the Angoff and Hofstee methods. These are methods commonly applied by credentialing organizations to help to evaluate passing standards.

Students should know that retaining the existing standard does not mean the individual questions on the NCE will be easier or more difficult. The NCE is adaptive, which means that only questions appropriate to the ability level of the examinee will be administered.