Registered Psychiatric Nurses, Partnering with People

RPNCE Examination

The Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Canada Examination (RPNCE) is offered in all Canadian psychiatric nursing jurisdictions.  Anyone wishing to practice as a Registered Psychiatric Nurse must first pass the RPNCE.  The RPNCE is a multiple-choice, paper and pencil examination that has been designed to test the entry-level competence and safety-to-practice of new graduates and international applicants who are seeking registration as a Registered Psychiatric Nurse.  This new, one-day examination replaces the former two-day examination.  It will be overseen by Canada’s Testing Company, Assessment Strategies Inc., which currently develops and maintains over 120 national and provincial tests, including national licensure examinations.


General Exam Questions

What is the cost of the examination?

The fee to write the examination is currently $672 (subject to change without notice).

Who can write the RPNCE?

To write the RPNCE for the first time, you must meet the following eligibility requirements:

  • Graduate of an approved Canadian psychiatric nursing program within the last 4 years or deemed substantially equivalent within last 2 years
  • Be of good character and fit to practice
  • Pass a criminal record check
  • Pay all required fees
  • Submit identification and all other required documents
  • Have acceptable English fluency (CELBAN or IELTs testing in appropriate cases)
  • For international applicants, able to attend in Canada to write the examination within your 2 year eligibility

Internationally Educated Psychiatrics Nurses

Once the RPNAS notifies you that you are eligible to write the examination, you must write the exam within two (2) years. If you do not write the exam within the first year of that two-year period, you will have to resubmit a Resume, Criminal Record Check, Confirmation of Registration and Employment References.

Important: After two (2) years have passed, you must restart the application process from the beginning, directly through the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS)

Effective August 12, 2014, all internationally educated nurses who want to register with the RPNAS must first apply directly through the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS), a national online application service developed by the nursing regulatory bodies across Canada

Visit for more information.

What are the deadlines?

Note:  Late applications will not be accepted.  You may only apply for the next scheduled examination, not for one further in the future.



Timeline in Relation to Examination

If Exam Is on Oct 16

Application for accommodation

12 weeks before

July 24

Application to write in another jurisdiction

10 weeks before

Aug 7

Application to write RPNCE

8 weeks before

Aug 21

Withdrawals without charge

5 weeks before

Sept 11


Examination Date

October 16

Compassionate withdrawal request

12 days after

Oct 30

Exam results released

4 weeks after

Nov 13

Hand scoring request

11 weeks after

Jan 1


Can I apply to write the RPNCE if I have not completed the Psychiatric Nursing Program?

Yes.  If you are in the final term of a psychiatric nursing education program in Canada; you have started, or are about to start, the final practicum of the program; and your school advises us that they can provide confirmation of graduation at least 7 weeks prior to the exam date.  The risk is that if you are unable to complete your practicum or should the confirmation of graduation not be provided in time, you may be subject to a 10% withdrawal fee plus a $50 administration fee (subject to change without notice).

However, you will need to meet the other requirements for registration, including submitting your application, payment and required documents to the RPNAS on time (8 weeks before the examination date).




Requirements for Eligibility include:

  • 500 Clinical Hours in Mental Health (Acute and Community Mental Health)
  • All Nursing Transcripts (SIAST, University of Saskatchewan etc.)
  • Drugs and Behavior & Abnormal Psychology Athabasca University
  • Abnormal Psychology
  • Psychopharmacology

What if I require testing accommodation?

If you have a documented disability or special need that requires a testing accommodation, please contact the RPNAS immediately to obtain information and forms to apply for accommodation.  The deadline for application is 12 weeks before the examination date.  You will need to submit documentation completed by a qualified health professional (e.g., physician or psychologist) to certify that you require the accommodation.

What if I have to withdraw from the scheduled examination?

Withdrawals for any reason are permitted without any cost if you notify the RPNAS office up to 5 weeks before the examination date.

After the 5-week deadline, there is a withdrawal fee of 10% of the examination fee plus a $50 administration fee ( change without notice)  unless the fee is waived on compassionate grounds (e.g., serious illness, death or an act of God).   Compassionate withdrawals must meet the criteria in the ASI Withdrawal Policy and the decision will be in the sole discretion of the RPNAS.  Requests for compassionate withdrawal must be made to the RPNAS no later than 12 days after the examination date.

Can I write the RPNCE in another jurisdiction?

If you wish to write the examination in another psychiatric nursing jurisdiction (British Columbia, Alberta or Manitoba), you need to apply to the RPNAS at least 10 weeks before the examination date and include a letter of request with your application.  Your request will be forwarded to the other jurisdiction and will be subject to their approval.

What is the content of the RPNCE?

The examination has between 230-250 multiple choice questions divided between two books (one book for the morning and one book for the afternoon).  The object is to text entry-level competencies and knowledge.

See the below summary chart:

Competency framework categories and weightings  Psychopathology:                                   25-35%General Medical-Surgical Nursing:             20-30%

Treatment Modalities:                              10-20%

Older Adults:                                           8-17%

Professional and Ethical Practice:               3-12%

Child and Adolescent:                                3-8%

Co-Occurring Conditions:                           3-7%

Examination length and format 230-250 questions (2 books/115-125 questions each)
Item presentation Independent items:                                 55-75%Case-based items:                                  25-45%
Cognitive level Knowledge/Comprehension:                      Maximum of 20%Application:                                            55-75%Critical Thinking:                                     15-35%
Patient age Examination questions will reflect health situations relevant to all phases of life.
Culture Questions included measure awareness, sensitivity and respect for different cultural values, beliefs and practices, without introducing stereotypes.
Diversity In the development of the RPNCE, the patient is viewed holistically. The patient health situations presented reflect a cross-section of health problems, mental health problems and mental illnesses.
Work environment It is recognized that psychiatric nursing is practised in a variety of settings. For the purposes of this exam, the health-care environment is specified only when it is required for clarity or in order to provide guidance to the examinee.






















Where does the examination take place?

In Saskatchewan, the RPNCE is administered ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­in Regina, SK  and is offered three times a year in January, May and October.  You will be notified prior to the examination date with venue information.

Is there anything I should know about the day of examination?

Allow plenty of travel time and arrive at least 20 minutes before the start time so you are not rushed during check-in.  You must bring government photo ID like a driver’s license or passport.  For information on what to wear and what you can and cannot bring, see the Entry Into Exam Room Policy on our website

Can I work while waiting to write the RPNCE?

Yes, if you have Interim Registration.  This registration is available is for those who have met all the requirements of Practicing registration except passing the examination and who (a) have a job offer and (b) have applied to write the next scheduled RPNCE.   These Interim registrations are subject to the following conditions:

  1. to practice only under the supervision of a Registered Psychiatric Nurse or Registered Nurse;
  2. not to be in charge of a unit or service;
  3. to use only the title Graduate Psychiatric Nurse, not Registered Psychiatric Nurse; and
  4. expiry in 4 months with one 4 month extension if required.

When can I expect my results and will the results tell me my mark?

Results can be expected 6-8 weeks from the writing date and the result will be shown as a Pass of Fail report.   Results will be released via letter email.  Exam results  will never be released via telephone.

What if I fail the examination?

You have 3 chances to write the examination within 4 years of graduation from an approved psychiatric nursing program (or, for international applicants, within 2 years of approval to write the examination).  After the first failure, there is no barrier to writing the examination a second time except for the time limit.  After the second failure, you must first take an approved remediation course before you will be permitted to write the exam a third time.  After the third failure, you may not write again until you have completed an approved psychiatric nursing re-entry program.

Can I dispute the result?

Scores are not provided to candidates.  If you passed, this is all you will learn.  If you have failed, you will be given an assessment of the areas you were weak in. Boderline exams are automatically re-scored by hand.  You may also apply to have your examination handscored if you notify the RPNAS up to 11 weeks after the examination and pay a fee equal to 10% of the exam fee.

I can’t find the answer to my question here.

Please contact our office at 306-586-5617, or email [email protected]

Scoring Questions

Do exam questions have more than one correct answer, and how is the correct answer determined?

A multiple-choice question is constructed so that only someone who has mastered the subject matter will select the correct answer; to that person, only one option will appear to be the correct answer. To
someone who lacks a firm grasp of the subject matter, all options may look plausible.

The exam is the end result of many test development activities that take place throughout a two-year period. Registered psychiatric nurses, clinicians and administrators from across Canada create and
evaluate the exam questions with assistance from ASI test consultants, who ensure that the RPNCE meets the Blueprint guidelines and specifications.

Each question on the exam is supported by two references. Most of these references have been published within the past five years. The purpose of the references is twofold: (1) to indicate that the correct answer within each question has authoritative support from at least two experts in the field and (2) to provide a source for further reading and review. Every attempt has been made to use references that are up-to-date, accessible and accepted within the nursing community.

Does each question have equal weight on the exam?

Each exam question has the same value: one mark. Your score on the exam is calculated as the number of questions that you answered correctly. In this process, each question is worth one, and only one mark.

Are there any questions that I MUST answer correctly to pass the exam?

The answer to this question is “no”. There are no critical questions that a candidate must answer correctly to receive a passing score on the RPNCE. Each exam question has the same value: one mark.

How is the pass mark for the exam set?

The pass mark is set in reference to the content and the difficulty of the test questions. The pass mark is NOT set using a norm-referenced approach such as “bell curving”. The pass mark is set by a panel of
content experts from across Canada. These content experts work closely with entry-level Registered Psychiatric Nurses, and include educators, experienced practitioners and administrators. The pass mark is set at a level that represents the performance expected of a competent entry-level psychiatric nurse.

The panel of content experts reviews each exam question and produces ratings based on a common understanding of a competent entry-level practical nurse. In addition to these ratings, a variety of relevant data (for example, information on the preparation of new graduates, data on results from previously administered exam) are carefully considered to ensure that the pass mark that candidates must achieve on the exam is valid and fair. Based on this information, an appropriate pass mark is set. Also, to ensure fairness, the different versions of the exam are equated so that all candidates have to meet the same standard regardless of the version of the exam.

For each form of the RPNCE, the pass mark is the same across writing centres and across the four western provinces.