Options when failing the CPNRE: Frequently Asked Questions

On Tuesday, January 4, 2022, a new regulatory exam will be implemented for those applying to practice as an RPN in Ontario. Known as the REx-PN, applicants will have no limit on the number of times they can write the exam in order to pass.

Each time an applicant fails the REx-PN, they will have to wait a minimum of 60 days before they can write the exam again (a maximum of six attempts per year).

Will I have unlimited chances to write the current (CPNRE) exam as well?

No. The current practical nurse exam, the Canadian Practical Nurse Registration Exam (or CPNRE for short), is limited to three writes due to the type it is — a multiple-choice exam using "classical test theory." With classical test theory, the mark a writer has at the end of the exam can includes some measurement error. For example, a person could get an answer correct by guessing. If they fail the exam and retake it later, they may see the same questions again and could have memorized the answers. The exam would then be scoring their memorization skill rather than their ability.

For a classical test theory exam, the more often a person writes the exam, the more likely they are to pass because of measurement error. This is why CNO's Council limits the number of writes on this type of exam to three times; it supports the final exam result as being a valid and reliable measure.

I'm applying for registration in Ontario. Will I be able to write the CPNRE and the REx-PN?

The CPNRE will remain the registration exam for Practical Nurses in Ontario until the end of 2021. On Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, the REx-PN will become the registration exam for Ontario Practical Nurses, and the CPNRE will no longer be an option for Ontario applicants.

What if I fail the CPNRE three times? Can my application remain open so I can write the REx-PN?

Yes. On December 5, 2019, CNO’s Council approved that the REx-PN would have no limit on writes. Applicants who, as of December 5, 2019, had already been referred to the Registration Committee for review because they failed the CPNRE three times will be given the choice to keep their application with CNO open and then attempt the REx-PN exam when it is implemented in January 2022.

Similarly, as of that date, applicants who fail the CPNRE three times can choose to go to Registration Committee if they believe extenuating circumstances may be the reasons to have one of their CPNRE exam writes annulled. If an applicant chooses to proceed with a Committee review, then a Registration Committee Notification will be sent to the applicant advising them of required next steps. Otherwise, CNO will keep their application open so they can attempt the REx-PN exam when it is implemented in January 2022.

What if there are extenuating circumstances relating to one of my unsuccessful CPNRE attempts? Can I have that attempt reviewed, or do I have to wait to write the REx-PN?

If you believe there are extenuating circumstances relating to one or more unsuccessful CPNRE attempts, you can choose to have your application reviewed by the Registration Committee. If the Committee finds that there is an extenuating circumstance, it will annul the attempt and you will have another chance to attempt the CPNRE before the REx-PN comes into effect in January 2022.

If the Committee decides not to annul any attempts, then you will have two options:

  • keep your application open
  • request a review of the Committee’s decision by the Health Professions’ Appeal and Review Board.

Are there any time limits I should be aware of if I choose to keep my application open?

Three registration requirements are time limited. An applicant must have:

  1. practiced nursing in the last three years (many applicants to CNO meet this requirement by completing a CNO-approved nursing program within the past three years)
  2. completed the jurisprudence exam in the last five years
  3. demonstrated proficiency in English or French in the last two years.

If any of these requirements expire, you will have to renew them in order to keep your application open. For more information about how to meet these requirements, go to: https://www.cno.org/en/become-a-nurse/registration-requirements/

What if I failed the CPNRE twice? Should I wait to take the REx-PN?

There is no reason to wait; you can attempt the CPNRE a third time if you choose. If you fail the CPNRE a third time, CNO will offer to keep your application open so you can write the REx-PN in 2022.

Why are you offering applicants an option to keep their application open?

On December 5, 2019, CNO’s Council approved the REx-PN with unlimited number of writes. Now that this decision has been made, to be fair to applicants, we are giving applicants who failed the CPNRE three times the option to write the new exam when it takes effect in January 2022. This means these applicants won’t be refused registration and they won’t have to reapply if they choose to continue to seek registration with CNO. This will save these applicants time and money.

How did CNO choose the date to begin offering to keep applications open?

December 5, 2019 is the date Council approved the REx-PN would have unlimited writes.

If my application was refused because I failed the CPNRE three times and went to Registration Committee before December 5, 2019, will CNO reopen it?

No. If your application has been refused prior to December 5, 2019, CNO will not reopen it. This cut-off date allows us to manage applicants’ applications fairly and objectively.

You can choose to either:

  • reapply to CNO and wait to write the REx-PN in 2022. (Note: If you completed your nursing education outside of Canada, you will also have to reapply to the National Nursing Assessment Service (NNAS). For more information about this process, visit: http://www.cno.org/en/become-a-nurse/qa-national-nursing-assessment-service/. )

    You will have to demonstrate that you meet all the registration requirements, including:
    • meeting the nursing education requirement again to become eligible to attempt the REx-PN;
    • providing evidence of practice within the last three years, or completing a refresher program if you do not have practice within the last three years;
    • successfully completing the jurisprudence exam within the past 5 years; and
    • providing evidence of language proficiency relevant to the past two years


  • successfully complete a new Practical Nurse program. If you complete this before January 2022, you would get three further attempts on the CPNRE (if written prior to January 2022).
Page last reviewed December 18, 2019