On This Page

Working to improve French-language exam results

Ongoing research and analysis

Pass rates for those writing the RN or RPN entry exams in French are lower than for those who write the exams in English. This trend isn’t new. For example, on the previous RN entry-to-practice exam (known as the CRNE), there was a marked difference in pass rates between those writing the English and French versions of the exam. This difference increased in the first year of the NCLEX-RN exam.

To determine why this is the case and what everyone involved can do to change it, we’ll be working with government, students and educators. CNO will be investigating to determine what factors are influencing the outcomes of English and French writers of both the RN and RPN exams. Our plans are to include recent graduates and nurse educators of both French and English nursing programs in our research.

Addressing concerns about NCLEX-RN

Students and educators have raised issue around the lack of exam prep materials available in French and the translation of the exam. The College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) has been addressing these concerns and is working to determine why pass rates for those writing the exam in French continue to be low.

Exam prep materials

A concern raised has been the lack of exam preparation materials available in French. To maintain the integrity of the exam, CNO does not participate in developing sample questions, and questions are not shared with third-party providers of exam preparation materials. Additional materials provided by the exam’s administrator to help exam writers prepare for the test process have been translated into French, including the current online prep guide.


Uncertainties exist in the education community about the translation of any exam from English to French, and some educators were advising students from the beginning not to attempt the exam in French. As a result, the number of students attempting the French-language version of the exam remains much smaller than the number of students graduating from a French-language nursing program.

As part of our ongoing monitoring and in response to some stakeholders’ concerns, we have completed due diligence regarding accuracy of the French translation of the exam. Our thorough review confirms that the exam is free of problems in these areas. Translation of NCLEX-RN items is conducted using Canadian federal translation standards. Translated items are reviewed by a translation panel consisting of three to six Canadian bilingual nurses. The translation process and the steps taken to ensure equivalence of measurement between the anglophone and francophone populations is rigorous. In addition, work is underway to establish agreement across Canadian nursing jurisdictions on the lexicon that will be used by all translation panels, eliminating the potential for an individual panel to make ad hoc lexicon changes.

A review is also being done on the exam prep material.

Page last reviewed August 19, 2016