NBE Statistics

Welcome to the NBE

A guide to the development, processes, and results reporting of the National Board Exam.

NBE Pass Rate Frequently Asked Questions

The NBE Arts and NBE Sciences is specifically developed to provide licensing boards with a content-valid evaluation of applicants for licensure in the funeral service profession. The exams’ purpose is to determine who possesses the minimum knowledge necessary to perform tasks on the job safely and competently as an entry-level practitioner. Essentially, it measures whether or not a candidate for licensure meets the threshold of knowledge required to serve the public safely as one component of the licensure process.

When considering the pass rate, it’s important to first understand the purpose and the development process of licensure exams, as well as the range of possible factors that contribute to the overall pass rate. While these factors may vary over time, the exam is a consistent measure of entry-level knowledge that only changes when the profession demonstrates a need. Any changes are determined and peer approved through the Job Task Analysis (JTA) survey and Standard Setting process, which is the accepted standard for all high-stakes licensure exams.


The JTA is conducted every 5-7 years and produces the exam blueprint, otherwise known as the exam content outline. During this time period, this outline remains the same with every question on the exam tied to a designated section of the blueprint. This ensures that the necessary knowledge is being tested throughout the lifecycle of the outline. Immediately following the JTA, the passing cut score of the exam is set through the Standard Setting process, which is a direct measure of the amount of knowledge required to safely serve the public in the funeral service profession.


This passing standard is set directly by a volunteer committee of funeral service licensees from across the country. Using this passing standard, every form of the exam is then equated by evaluating the psychometrics of each exam question to ensure that every version of the exam is statistically testing the same level of knowledge, regardless of which version of the test each candidate receives. During this time period, the individual test questions are refreshed in order to preserve the integrity of the exam and prevent memorization, but the framework and passing standard of the test does not fluctuate.

While there is likely not one overall driving force of the NBE pass rate, there are a combination of factors that can have an overall impact. A few potential elements are as follows:

  • Educational standards (ABFSE accredits the mortuary science programs & publishes program information, including those on probation, on their website. While programs are held to the same accreditation standards, the programs will have varying admission requirements, syllabuses, class options, professors, etc.)
  • Varying use of textbooks by students and professors (Every question on the NBE is tied to a textbook on the approved reference book list. This list is compiled using the direct results from a survey open to all ABFSE programs regarding which books are utilized most in their program.)
  • Individual student engagement and performance during educational experience
  • Varying state licensure requirements (ex: Some licensing agencies require mortuary science education, while others do not require any education beyond high school.)
  • Varying levels of previous professional experience for each candidate
  • Pandemic impact (ex: increased online learning, decreased hands-on/in-person learning, etc.)
  • Condensed ABFSE curriculum outlines (In addition to the exam blueprint and textbook list, every question on the exam is tied to this outline created by the ABFSE. In recent years, some of these sections, such as Embalming, have been reduced.)
  • Individual study/preparation methods

The current NBE/SBE blueprint was published in 2018. The next JTA survey took place in early 2022, with the updated blueprint set to go live January 1, 2023. The NBE pass rate is updated monthly on our website and is also available annually by ABFSE program.

NBE Statistics

NBE Statistics by Mortuary Science Program

These statistics reflect the pass/fail status of all first-time exam candidates for each program. This information may vary from the statistics available on the American Board of Funeral Service Education’s (ABFSE) website. The ABFSE’s Committee on Accreditation offers exemptions to their programs’ pass rates when candidates fail a section of the NBE a year or more after graduation.

Program Statistics by State



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