How I Passed The NMC CBT Test | Tips & Advice


So if you're reading this i'm guessing you're also an international nurse trying to get your nursing registration in the UK. As you may have discovered yourself or seen in the forums: it isn't exactly a walk in the park.

I have spoken to nurses at my work about going over to the UK to work as a nurse and they recall their time over there so fondly saying it was such a fun time and a great travel opportunity. For them  it was easy! In recent years they have made it a lot more difficult for international nurses to get their registration. Fun times! Ultimately it will be worth it but for now it's a little stressful.

I sat the Nursing Midwifery Council's (NMC) Computer Based Test (CBT) and passed first attempt after only two weeks of study.

After reading through the many forums it occurred to me that perhaps I shouldn't have booked the test so quickly, I should have given myself more time to study. I was a woman on a mission though and was determined to get it done. After passing I now have some great tips advice to give anyone else who is going to be taking this exam. :) As per the confidentiality agreement I signed before taking the exam I won't give any specifics but more give guidance on how best to study.

What the CBT is on and how to pass it
The NMC provides this handy booklet so have a read through of it.

There are 120 multiple choice questions and the exam goes for 4 hours. There are a portion of questions which are deemed critical questions, and you have to pass 90% of them to pass the test overall. I believe I read somewhere there are about 20 critical questions. On the exam it doesn't tell you which ones are the critical questions but they would be ones on things such as medication calculations, consent, and safeguarding. It made me very nervous that I had to pass basically all of the critical questions to pass overall but these things should be common sense for everyone. So try not to stress on these, just focus on reading up the policies again and you'll be fine.

Firstly...the Blue Prints
This is what they look like if you haven't seen them already. They are pretty much the only resource you are given. At first when I saw them I was quite overwhelmed and had no clue what all the symbols meant (the Y, E* etc). What is also overwhelming is all the links they give you...SO. MANY. LINKS. So how do you best make sense of the blue prints?

Well firstly it's important to note that all competencies with an E* mean they are on the exam and are a crucial area to study. As for the Y's...yeah I still have no clue what those mean. Make sure to take special note of the ones with the E* next to them

After reading through all the competencies I then went clicking through allll the links..
If I can give you advice on the links it would be: have a quick read of them but don't spend too much time on links where the information you know already. I spent hours and hours going through all the links taking notes on every single one and reading back on my notes I realised it was all a lot of common sense/ repeated information. They are very useful to read but I think it's best to really take note of particular areas you aren't so sure about. It's also great to read in depth on the NMC's own policies and codes. I found the medication management one was handy, and also The Code which is mentioned a lot. The NMC I notice is very big on safeguarding so make sure to read up on all those documents.

Just try take a deep breath. Make yourself a coffee or tea. Click through some links, take some notes on important things you want to remember. Take breaks regularly. You'll get there.

Secondly...The Royal Marsden
If you've been on forums then there is a good chance you have seen this mentioned time and time again. At first I just kept brushing it off thinking it's fine I don't need to buy a textbook, i'll be right. Then I just kept reading up on how fantastic this is as a resource and many people who had passed the CBT recommended this. i'm recommending it! Is it essential for passing? Not really, it's hard to say. Is it really helpful and will be an awesome resource for when you do the OSCE? ABSOLUTELY!

Basically I think you should get this. I bought it on amazon and just got it kindle edition for about $50. This textbook is great as at the end of each chapter it has exam questions which you can test yourself on. As an operating theatre nurse there are a lot of clinical skills I haven't used in a long time so this was great to read and refresh my memory. You won't only use this for the CBT but it will be great for the OSCE as well so I think it's definitely worth buying. I know it's expensive..and after all the other costs associated with getting the UK registration it's just another thing to buy..but I really do think it will be worth it and may make the difference between having to retake an exam or not.

The Forums..

Now come on, who else in desperation has gone to the forums for any and every hint on what to study? To be honest the forums SCARED me. Absolutely scared me. Hearing all these tales of people failing..people saying different all became a bit too much for me stressing me out further. I think avoid them as much as you can. Although they do provide some guidance once you have written out some of the tips from people just click exit and start studying.

What should you be studying in particular...
I can't really give away too much here but really think of the things you do day in day out in nursing which are deemed very important? Medications for example. Medication safety is such a big thing everywhere in the world for good reason. Brush up on your medication calculations, you can't bring a calculator into the exam so as you can imagine they are quite easy to compensate for you having to work it out just on paper. Consent is also a very big part of what we do day-to-day, so read up on the policies and laws surrounding that. As you may have noticed in the NMC blueprint there are a lot of articles on safeguarding so they are great to have a decent read through.

In the NMC booklet it breaks down the questions as %: Professional values make up 27%, communication and interpersonal skills make up 10%, nursing practice and decision making make up 33%, leadership management and team working make up 13%, and unique specific competencies to your field of nursing make up 17%. This is a good like gauge of how they assess you.

What to do on the day of your test...
Give yourself good time in the morning. Make a decent breakfast, and do something to relax yourself. I just read over my notes a last time just refreshing my memory on things. Realise you have 4 hours to complete the test which is more than enough time, I actually only took 2 1/2 hours and spent the last half hour just going back through all my questions double checking. Realise that you probably already know all of it already. It's a lot of common sense and isn't as tricky as people make it out to be. The pass rates for first time are 75-80% so the odds are already in your favour. If you don't pass the first time least you then have an idea of what the content is like and you are then able to go back study areas that you feel you may need more knowledge about.

If you have a faith (i'm a christian) make sure to pray as this always calms my nerves and makes me feel like the weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Good luck! Please if you have any questions feel free to comment down below. Would also love to connect with anyone else who is going through this whole process as there are so many questions I have (like should I go with an agency? but which one?).

Holly xx

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  1. Hey Holly
    Thanks for your blog, i'm studying for the CBT at the moment with the hope of working in the UK from next July. I'm also from QLD on the gold coast.
    There's not a lot of resources online but i've found your blog helpful.

  2. Thanks for your blog Holly!
    You are right about the different forums telling their stories about the test and it makes me even worried whether I can make it to the test or not! It does freaks me the hell out.
    Now it feel a bit of relief.

  3. Thanks Holly. This is so helpful and enlightening. I also have no idea what those Ys mean on the blueprint! I was smiling when you said to stay away from forums. I went through one before I came across your blog. haha

  4. Thanks Holly
    Have a date set to take the test and your blog is the best advise i have seen.

  5. Thank you this is so helpful. I'm from NZ and moved to the UK a few months ago. In december I failed my cbt exam which was a big shock and I've taken a month off. I was told it was super easy and I didnt study as much as I should have (my own fault!!). Going to start studying seriously again now and book my exam. :)

    1. Thanks hey,i am following your advice on forums,they are giving me headaches.Be blessed.

    2. What are the books we should study for this exam


    Hai pls try the above link u will get the Royal Marsden Manual for free.

    1. Thanks for the info. God bless you loads

  8. Thank you for the advice! first time I have found a real article about someone's positive advice studying for the test. Having a hard time sorting out everything that is available for the CBT's not much and it seems fairly scattered. My test is in a month! fingers crossed :)

  9. Thank you so much. Helpful advice. God bless you

  10. I've been putting off CBT for months now.. I'm from the US and have been obsessed with Europe for years, but can't deny the idea and process of moving there and possibility of failure scares me. Thank you for your blog, it was so helpful and gave me hope! No more putting it off :)

  11. Hi, thanx for the great article. Is there anyone doing the CBT for midwives? Im struggling to find information. Thanx in advance

  12. Hi everybody
    Does anyone have a Whatsapp group where people share questions materials and tips for the cbt ??? If you are in groups like that please add me +5571997275213

  13. Thanks in advance !

  14. This was really helpful Holly. Thanks.

  15. Holly hi,
    I have an doubt , please clarify me
    Is that book is ok to prepare for CBT the royal Marsden book

  16. Thanks for ur advice,i have been so scared of the cbt exams but now so relived God help me i will pass.