We use the Test of Competence (ToC) to assess the skills and knowledge of people applying to join our register from overseas or rejoin our register after a long period away from practice.

The ToC is made up of two parts:

  • a computer-based multiple choice test (CBT) 
  • an observed structured clinical examination (OSCE) where candidates carry out practical tests.

The information below shows the number of people who have taken each part of the test and their pass rates.

We update this information four times per year.

CBT

The CBT is run by our partners Pearson VUE. Candidates can attend one of a number of test centres to take the test.

Between January and March 2021, a total of 6501 applicants took a CBT and 98 percent achieved a pass.

January - March 2021: CBT pass rates

This represents the total number of CBTs delivered including resits.

  January 2021 February 2021 March 2021 Quarter total

CBT sittings

1757

1956

2857

6570

Pass rate

96%

97% 97%

97%

OSCE

Applicants are able to sit the OSCE in the UK at one of our approved test centres. Between January and March, a total of 5720 applicants took the OSCE and 93 percent achieved a pass.

Since reopening on 20 July 2020, we have been operating at a slightly reduced capacity to adhere to the social distancing procedures. This is to ensure the safety of both candidates and test centre staff.

January - March 2021: OSCE pass rates

The below table represents the total number of OSCEs delivered including resits.

  January 2021 February 2021 March 2021 Quarter total

Oxford Brookes University

OSCE sittings

656

728

859

2243

Pass rate

71%

69%

73%

71%

University of Northampton

OSCE sittings

764

773

793

2330

Pass rate

80%

79%

79%

80%

Ulster University

OSCE sittings

665

559

874

9028

Pass rate

91%

93%

87%

90%

Total sittings 

OSCE sittings

2085

2060

2526

6671

Pass rate

81%

79%

80%

80%

Factors that influence pass rates

The test of competence gives us assurance that nurses and midwives coming to the UK are capable of working safely and effectively.

There are a number of factors that influence an applicant’s success rate, in particular for the OSCE, and we've been working with OSCE test centres and employers who support applicants through the OSCE process to better understand these.

The most important factor is test preparation and having access to good quality support. The vast majority of applicants are supported by an employer or recruitment agency and the level of support and quality of test preparation can vary greatly.

Also important, in particular for candidates who are new to the UK, is the amount of time candidates have to settle in and acclimatise themselves to the UK ahead of the examination.

The impact of pastoral care that is given to applicants during the settling in, preparation period and on the day of the OSCE should not be underestimated. This period can often be emotional and, at times, stressful due to the high levels of pressure and responsibility that many candidates face.

Over the last year, to help candidates prepare for their OSCE, test centres have released various support materials, including OSCE mock exams, marking criteria and top tips. These materials and other guidance documents can be found on their websites: