Nursing has enthusiastically embraced the concept of continuing competence as the key means of reassuring the public of the overall quality of the profession. There are many definitions of competence and a number of nursing regulatory bodies have put into operation, a definition which is reductionist rather then holistic in nature. Not surprisingly, and as a consequence many nurses, including nurse educators, think competence comprises a number of key competencies which can be isolated, accumulated and tallied. It is clear that both philosophically and practically these notions of competence have influenced the way that student nurses are currently educated. More specifically it is in preparation for their initial entry to practice that the approach to competence assessment of student nurses becomes problematic. In this paper it will be argued that the principles of continuing competence assessment, associated with the on going competence of experienced registered nurses, do not readily translate to students who are still in the process of learning. We suggest that solutions to this problem are three-fold and can be found by replicating for the student the conditions that apply to the assessment of continuing competence for registered nurses.