Competence Assessment Frequently Asked Questions

What has changed?

The Nursing Council has changed the competence assessment requirements for internationally qualified nurses applying for registration in New Zealand.

Some applicants will be required by the Council to undergo an assessment of competence. If you have been told you require a competence assessment, you will need to successfully complete the following:

  • The IQN theoretical examination
  • This is an online examination that tests nursing knowledge, taken at an accredited exam centre, overseas or in New Zealand.

  • The clinical competence assessment process
  • This includes a two-day orientation and preparation course followed on a separate day by a three-hour clinical examination known as an Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE). These will take place in person in New Zealand at an accredited centre.

What is the theoretical examination?

The theoretical multi-choice examination tests nursing knowledge across a range of competencies, including the ethical and legislative requirements to practice in New Zealand, medicine calculations, and the management of nursing care.

It is an online exam managed by an external company, Pearson VUE, which has been accredited by the Nursing Council.

The online exams are offered overseas or in New Zealand at Pearson VUE centres.

  • Candidates complete 120 questions within 180 minutes.
  • The theoretical examination is in two parts:
    • Part A: Medication Safety and
    • Part B: Nursing Knowledge
  • You can have a total of three attempts to successfully complete Parts A and B of the examination. On your first attempt, you must complete both Parts A and B.
  • If you fail one part of the exam, you are only required to re-sit that part.

You will be able to book the theoretical exam once your application has been assessed by the Council.

Before I take the clinical exam (OSCE), do I need to do the orientation and preparation course?

Yes, you do.

The orientation and preparation course will assist with your preparation to nurse in New Zealand as well as familiarise you with the basic equipment for the OSCE.

Even if you are familiar with the New Zealand health setting, we still require you to undertake the orientation and preparation course before taking the OSCE.

You will be able to book online to take the clinical examination following the successful completion of the theoretical examination and once your application has been assessed by the Council.

Do I have to do my clinical exam (OSCE) in New Zealand?

Yes, you will need to be in person in New Zealand to be able to take both the orientation and preparation course, along with the clinical exam known as an OSCE.

The orientation course and the clinical exam (OSCE) will be delivered by Nurse Maude Simulation & Assessment Centre.

The centre offers the clinical examinations in purpose-designed facilities in Christchurch which can be used five days a week.

Nurse Maude is a New Zealand healthcare organisation that has been accredited by the Nursing Council to deliver the orientation and preparation course, and the OSCE.

What is the OSCE?

The clinical examination, OSCE, assesses your applied nursing knowledge, communication, and safe clinical practice at the level of a New Zealand registered nurse.

The OSCE will take on average three hours and will involve a range of different clinical scenarios representing clinical skills and management of patient care:

  • You must complete 10 OSCE scenarios (stations) in 120 minutes. Twelve minutes are allocated per station with two minutes for reading the instructions, eight minutes to complete each scenario and two minutes for movement between stations (2+8+2 minutes per station).
  • If you do not pass the OSCE, you can re-sit the exam two more times.

These types of assessments are widely used for assessing health professionals internationally.

Can I do my clinical exam (OSCE) elsewhere?

No, Nurse Maude is the only centre accredited by the Nursing Council to deliver the clinical examination (OSCE).

The orientation and preparation course and the OSCE must both be taken in person in Christchurch at the Nurse Maude Simulation & Assessment Centre.

When can I sit the clinical exam (OSCE)?

We anticipate that the clinical exams will be up and running from June 1, 2024.

Do all international nurses have to take the competence assessment exams?

No, some internationally qualified nurses will not be required to complete the theoretical examination or the orientation and preparation course plus clinical examination (OSCE).

The assessment of competence is at the direction of the Council.

We will let you know after we have assessed your application as to whether you are required to take a competence assessment.

What happens if I fail either my theoretical or OSCE examinations?

You will be given the opportunity to re-sit the theory exam or the clinical exam (OSCE) or both.

You will be able to attempt two more re-sits for each.

How much does this all cost?

The Nursing Council fee to process your application is $485 (New Zealand).

There are additional costs from external providers which can be found here.

Do I need to complete the ‘Welcome to Aotearoa New Zealand’ online programme?

Yes, it is a requirement that internationally qualified nurses complete the ‘Welcome to Aotearoa New Zealand’ online programme prior to registration.

The programme currently consists of two free online courses that will provide you with an introduction to culturally safe nursing practice in New Zealand and to Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

The only exception are nurses registered in Australia who have a different pathway (see next FAQ).

You can find out more about the Welcome to Aotearoa programme here and scroll down.

What if I am a nurse with an Australian practising certificate?

Nurses with a current Australian practising certificate have a separate process.

Under the TTMR agreement, you would apply to the Nursing Council here.

Are the English language assessment requirements changing?

No. There will be no change to the current English language requirements.

Further information about the current English language evidence pathways can be found here.

Once on the page, scroll down to English language.

Does CGFNS still have to verify my documents?

Yes, this is your first step.

CGFNS is the Nursing Council’s only accredited provider of verification services.

You will need to submit your documents and have them verified by CGFNS before you can begin your application to the Nursing Council for registration.

How do I check my CGFNS status?

Log in to your CGFNS applicant portal here.

Can I apply directly to the Nursing Council with all my documents?


You must first verify your documents with CGFNS before you can begin your application for registration with the Nursing Council.

How do I apply for Council registration?

After your documents have been verified and authenticated by CGFNS, an email will be sent to you from the Nursing Council inviting you to apply for registration.

Do I need to submit my documents to the Nursing Council?

CGFNS will send all the documents you have provided directly to the Nursing Council.

Do I need to complete a criminal record check?

Yes, you do as it is a requirement of the Nursing Council.

The Council will tell you how and when to do this but for more information, click here, and scroll down to the Fitness to Practise requirement.

How long will registration take?

We are receiving high volumes of applications from internationally qualified nurses.

All applications are individually assessed, and the length of the process varies depending on what is needed.

If the Council assesses your application and says you require a competence assessment, you will need to successfully complete a theoretical and a clinical examination as part of the registration process.

If we require further documentation from you or documents are missing from the application, the process will take longer as we follow up.

We also require all internationally qualified nurses to take the ‘Welcome to Aotearoa New Zealand’ online programme to introduce you to culturally safe nursing practice in a New Zealand setting, and to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. You then upload your completion certificates.

All IQNs have to complete a criminal history check as the Council needs to make sure nurses coming to practise in New Zealand are of good standing. That check needs to be completed before registration occurs.

Check the requirements to complete your application here.

You can track the progress of your application via MyIQN, the Council’s online portal.

Can I withdraw my application?

You can withdraw your application at any stage.

However, all fees you have paid are non-refundable.