Understanding NAPLEX® Scoring and Results

The NAPLEX, or North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination®, is designed to evaluate a candidate’s competence to practice as a pharmacist. It is just one component of the licensure process. Graduates of an accredited pharmacy school within the United States or international pharmacy graduates with FPGEC (Foreign Pharmacy Graduate Examination Committee™) certification are eligible to register for the exam.

As of 2021, the NAPLEX moved from numerical scoring to “Pass/Fail.” Still, many students want to know how their performance on the NAPLEX translates into a pass or fail result. To that end, this article will answer some commonly asked questions about how the exam is scored.

What is the NAPLEX?

The NAPLEX is a computer-based exam designed and owned by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®). Candidates are allowed a maximum of six hours to complete the 225-question exam. The exam tests six different areas of a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and judgment related to pharmacy practice. These areas are published on NABP’s website in the “NAPLEX Competency Statements.”

6
Hour Exam

225
Questions

How often are changes made to the NAPLEX?

NABP’s Executive Committee reviews and approves standard-setting exercises every five years to evaluate the minimum standards for licensure. The standard-setting exercises may or may not change the exam structure and content. The exam content is also updated as needed to reflect changes in clinical practice (for example, when a new “blockbuster” medication is approved).

What is a passing score for the NAPLEX?

Historically, NAPLEX results were reported numerically as a scaled score, with the passing score set at 75. However, effective January 2021, NABP moved to a “pass” or “fail” scoring system. In other words, the NABP no longer discloses numerical scores to applicants. Instead, applicants are notified that their result is either “pass” or “fail.”

What is the average NAPLEX score?

Most individuals who take the NAPLEX no longer receive a numerical score, so no data are available related to “average” scores. However, NABP does publish national pass rates for the NAPLEX annually on its website. Passing rates from 2018 to 2020 are shown below for first-time attempts of graduates of ACPE®-accredited programs. Pass rates are lower when all NAPLEX administrations are included

NAPLEX Passing Rates for 2018 - 2020
Graduates of ACPE-Accredited Programs

Year First-time Attempts Pass Rate
2018 14,103 89.46%
2019 13,869 88.34%
2020 13,313 88.43%

Why did the NABP stop reporting numerical scores?

The NABP stopped reporting numerical scores after their last standard-setting exercise. The rationale is that the test determines whether a candidate is “competent” or “not competent” for entry-level practice. Therefore, a “pass” (competent) or “fail” (not competent) result is valid, while a numerical score is not (numerical scores are not supported by the evidence when analyzing the purpose of the exam).

Why do some candidates still receive a numerical NAPLEX score while others do not?

Currently, the NABP releases results, including a numerical score, to the board of pharmacy for the state-designated on the candidate’s NAPLEX application. It is up to each state board whether or not to share numerical results with test-takers in their state; most states do not share their candidates’ numerical scores. Therefore, candidates from some areas will still receive a numerical score, which is much less common than the “pass” or “fail” result.

How long does it take to receive NAPLEX results?

The majority of candidates will receive results about seven business days after taking the exam. Waiting times may differ for candidates from states that do not participate in the NABP’s online exam results interface.

How are NAPLEX results distributed?

Most states post NAPLEX results in the candidate’s NABP e-profile. Candidates can find their results by logging into the profile, selecting the ‘Exam Services’ box, then the ‘Exam Results’ tab. Exceptions include candidates testing for licensure in California, Guam, Illinois, Minnesota, Montana, Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, and the Virgin Islands.

Candidates seeking licensure in these states or territories will receive their results directly from the board of pharmacy or governing body in that jurisdiction (typically by mail).

What happens if a candidate fails the NAPLEX?

Candidates who receive a “fail” result on the NAPLEX can access the Candidate Performance Report to see some details about their performance. This updated report was developed to assist test-takers by showing the breakdown of their achievement level within each competency area to improve preparation (and hopefully success) for future NAPLEX attempts. Candidates will have to apply for a second and any subsequent attempts as they did for their first attempt.

How often can the NAPLEX be taken?

Individuals who fail the NAPLEX may retake the exam up to five times, contingent upon eligibility determination by the state board of pharmacy; that is, some states may allow fewer attempts, but no state allows more than five. Candidates are allowed a maximum of three attempts per 12-month period, which will require reapplying and paying the appropriate application fees again.

Also, eligibility must be confirmed by the state board of pharmacy to which the candidate is applying. The candidate must wait 45 days to reapply – this is the mandatory waiting period set by NAPB. If a candidate fails all three attempts, they will be required to wait at least 12 months from the first attempt to try again.

How much does it cost to retake the NAPLEX?

Retaking the NAPLEX will mean completing the application process and paying the application fee again. Once eligibility has been granted to sit for another NAPLEX attempt, the candidate will have to pay the examination fee. This makes the total cost to retake the NAPLEX the same as the initial attempt.

If you’d like to learn more about registration, please check out our blog post:
Everything You Need To Know About NAPLEX Exam Registration.

Will candidates receive details about their performance on the NAPLEX?

If a candidate passes the NAPLEX, they will not receive any details about their performance from the NABP. If a candidate has to retake the exam, they will receive a Candidate Performance Report. The content areas listed on the Candidate Performance Report correspond to the NAPLEX competency statements. There are currently six areas in which candidates are provided feedback.
Performance in each area is rated using one of the following descriptors:
  • Far below meeting the minimum performance.
  • Does not meet the minimum performance.
  • Meets the minimum performance.
  • Exceeds the minimum performance.
Candidates must perform at the “meets the minimum performance” or “exceeds the minimum performance” level overall to achieve a “pass” on the exam.

Can NAPLEX scores be transferred?

The NAPLEX score transfer program allows quick score transferrals to multiple boards of pharmacy in states where candidates wish to obtain pharmacy licensure. Candidates can submit NAPLEX score transfer requests on their NABP e-profile up to 89 days after taking the exam, and each score transfer request costs $75.

How long is a score transfer valid?

The duration of score transfer validity differs from location to location. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands allow NAPLEX score transfers. However, it is advisable to contact individual state boards of pharmacy for additional information (i.e., current board fees, updated participation information, etc.).

What is the best way to prepare for the NAPLEX?

Like any other high-stakes exam, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to preparing for the NAPLEX. Nevertheless, passing will require discipline, dedication, a proper but realistic study plan, and suitable prep materials.

From our experience, the most successful candidates prepare with solid study materials that have comprehensive reviews, test banks, and up-to-date material. Many options are available, so selecting the best resources for your preferred learning style is critical.

For over 20 years, pharmacy graduates have trusted the RxPrep course book and online course to help summarize the “must-know” information that is most likely to be tested on the NAPLEX. Our experienced pharmacy team emphasizes and breaks down complex material into digestible pieces, making learning easier.

Our learning platform provides one place to watch videos, complete knowledge assessment tests, create flashcards, and track progress. Plus, the test performance summary reports help identify areas of improvement with direct links to the course book and video lectures.

Finally, when you have mastered the material, assess your readiness with our practice exam, and prepare to ace your pharmacy exams with a provider trusted by pharmacy graduates across the United States and worldwide.

Prepare for NAPLEX success with UWorld RxPrep.
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