All You Need To Know About the New NMC Test of Competence

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Nurses and midwives who have received their primary training outside of the European Economic Area and wish to obtain the UK registration are required to pass a test of competency conducted by the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Passing this test enables international nurses to apply for nursing jobs in the UK. This test includes two parts and assesses the fundamental professional knowledge, skills, and attributes that are considered important for offering safe healthcare in the UK. If the nurses wish to be a part of the recruitment drives in the UK then taking and passing the competency test is extremely important. Recently, the NMC released new standards for nurses. It has been decided by the NMC to test the candidates with the new test of competence from April 2021 onwards.

Design of the Test

The test of competence 2021 assesses the competence of a candidate across seven platforms defined in the Future Nurse standards. The new test of competence will be a two-part test including an objective computer-based test and a practical objective structured clinical examination. Furthermore, it also assesses the knowledge and expertise of a candidate in the skills and procedures identified in annexes A and B. The TOC 21 has been designed to make sure that patient safety proficiencies get addressed. These proficiencies include issues of safety and should be passed by the candidates to guarantee public safety. The applicants who wish to be hired for nursing jobs in the UK for international nurses are required to undertake CBT before the OSCE. CBT can be taken in the home country.

Structure of CBT:

As mentioned above, the CBT will be a two-part examination including each test of 115 questions. All the candidates aspiring to be hired for nurse recruitment in the UK will be given three hours to complete the test. Part A will take 30 minutes and Part B will take over 2.5 hours. In addition, Part A will include a 15-mark numeracy test including constructed one number answers. Part B will be a 100 mark clinical assessment made up of four options, multiple-choice questions with a single correct answer. The first part of this test is a computer-based test (CBT) which includes multiple-choice questions. It is taken online and is conducted at a Pearson VUE test centre located in most of the countries all over the world. This part tests the knowledge and understanding of nurses across all the areas of nursing and midwifery care. The second part of this test is nursing or a midwifery objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) that is conducted to test the skills of nurses. It can be undertaken after passing the CBT successfully. It is available in the UK at a designated test centre and cannot be taken overseas.

How Is The Test Going To Change?

The test of competence is going to change in significant ways and all the professionals who wish to get hired for nursing jobs in the UK for international nurses should take heed. The computer-based test of CBT will be split into two parts out of which Part A is for numeracy and Part B is for theory. In addition, the objective structured clinical examination will have ten stations. Four out of them will continue to be linked together around specific scenarios and there will be one each for assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation. The other four stations will be testing skills and two new stations will be introduced that will assess the values and behaviors of a candidate along with evidence-based practice. Each station in the OSCE marking criteria will be assessed against specific criteria so that it can offer a holistic judgment. While developing the new test content, there was a thorough review of the current test content. In a safe and appropriate manner, the NMC has updated and included the existing content wherever it was necessary. To offer suitable candidate support, the NMC will also be improving the range and overall quality of the study material that is available to the candidates. Furthermore, to make sure that the candidates are comfortable, the NMC will also be improving the range and quality of the preparation material available to candidates and the ones who support them.

New CBT Question Trial:

The NMC will be trialling some new CBT questions that will help in finding out the pass marks for the new tests in the preparation for the new Test of Competence that is scheduled to go live in April 2021. For helping the candidates to set a pass mark, candidates are requested to take the adult nursing CBT for completing the addition of 10 questions. These questions are going to be un-scored which means that they won’t be counted in the final CBT result. Rather, the results of these questions will be used to set the pass marks for the new CBT that is going to be introduced in April 2021.

NMC Ensuring Clarity:

NMC is striving to make sure that the candidates have a clear picture of the entire process and understand what to expect while appearing for the test of competence. For this reason, NMC has published technical documentation including test specification and the NMC blueprint. This document gives the candidates a solid foundation to build upon. Moreover, the NMC will also be publishing the journey of a candidate to get a step by step guide on what to expect while taking the test of competence. There is going to be one version for the candidate and the other for the employer or an organization supporting the candidate. The other documents including a detailed overview of the scope of care in the UK and the report of the Chief Examiner will assist in providing further context and information. These documents will be offered and published as soon as possible so that the candidates have sufficient time to prepare. 


If you are a nurse who aims to work in the UK then being aware of new changes implemented by the NMC is a must. Make sure that you know all about them so that you can prepare accordingly and make the most out of the opportunity to appear for the test.


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