15 Steps to Pass After You Failed NCLEX-RN

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

One of the most frustrating things for a nursing school graduate is to learn they failed NCLEX. As disheartening as it can be, there is hope. If you have taken the exam and were unsuccessful, you may be asking how to pass after you failed the NCLEX. In this article, you will find useful information about NCLEX retakes, including 15 steps to pass after you failed NCLEX-RN.


How Do You Know If You Failed The NCLEX-RN?

The only way to know with one hundred percent certainty if you failed NCLEX is when you receive results from your state Board of Nursing. Official results are prepared and delivered to NCLEX candidates approximately six weeks after completing the exam. Although they are not official, there are a few ways to get unofficial results.

You can try the Pearson Vue NCLEX Trick, which is a popular hack some test-takers use to try and figure out if they have passed the exam. To use the PVT, wait until you receive the email from Pearson Vue confirming your test has been submitted for scoring. Most people receive the email about two hours after testing. Log in to your Pearson Vue account and try to register for the NCLEX-RN again. If the system does not allow you to re-register, this is considered a good pop-up and believed to be an indicator that you have passed the NCLEX. If the system allows you to register for the NCLEX again and charges the registration fee, this is known as a bad pop-up and indicative of a failing attempt on the NCLEX-RN.

Some State Boards of Nursing use the Quick Results Service, by which test candidates can get unofficial NCLEX test results in approximately two days after testing. Of the two options, the Quick Results Service results are believed to be the most accurate. However, the only results that are considered official and permit an NCLEX candidate to practice as a nurse are those released by the nursing regulatory body to which you applied for licensure.

How Many Times Can You Fail The NCLEX-RN?

NCLEX-RN candidates can fail the NCLEX and retest up to eight times each year in most states. Some states limit the number of times a candidate may retest before a refresher course is required. If you failed the NCLEX, it is best to contact your state Board of Nursing to verify guidelines for repeat testing.

5 Possible Reasons Why You Failed NCLEX-RN On The 1st Attempt

There are several reasons why test candidates may have failed NCLEX on the first attempt. Being aware of possible reasons for failure can help you prepare for success. Here are five top reasons why you may have failed the NCLEX-RN on your first attempt.

1. You may have underestimated the test’s difficulty.

The NCLEX-RN is hard, as it should be. The test is designed to determine a candidate’s likelihood of success providing safe, effective nursing care. Take the time you need to study and be realistic about your preparedness for the exam.

2. You tried to memorize facts instead of learning to analyze and apply information.

The NCLEX will test your ability to exercise critical thinking and decision-making skills. While some facts, such as normal vital sign ranges or lab values, can be memorized, nursing is about taking information and applying what you know to help you find the best nursing action to promote positive patient outcomes. In a nutshell, you cannot memorize how to communicate with a patient or perform a physical assessment effectively.

3. Test anxiety!

The NCLEX-RN could be the most important test you have or will ever take. Even if you are usually calm on test day, it is normal to feel anxious about this important test. If you are prone to experience test anxiety, you could feel it more intensely on test day. The good news is, you can overcome test anxiety and pass the NCLEX. If you failed the NCLEX, take a deep breath, exhale, study, and repeat the exam.

4. Lack of sleep.

When you are tired, your response time is slowed, you become frustrated more easily, and you lose your mental sharpness. Many NCLEX candidates go into the test with little sleep in the days or weeks leading up to the exam and end up with poor results. It is vital to your mental focus and test performance for you to get enough restful sleep in the days leading up to the test.

5. Trying to cram information:

To pass the NCLEX-RN, you must apply critical thinking and logic to nursing knowledge and skills. While you may be able to cram a few last-minute lab values or terms in your short-term memory, you cannot learn essential nursing skills in the short amount of time it takes to cram content. Many nursing school graduates fail the NCLEX-RN because they schedule the test without planning long enough to study and attempt to pack large amounts of information in their memory in a short amount of time. It will not work!

How Soon Can You Retake The NCLEX-RN After Failing?

The earliest you can retake the NCLEX-RN is forty-five days after your previous test was completed and submitted for scoring. Although you may retake the exam in as few as forty-five days, it is good to consider how much time you need to prepare to retest and schedule the test farther out if you feel the need.

How To Reapply for the NCLEX-RN After Failing?

To reapply after you failed NCLEX, contact your Nursing Regulatory Board/State Board of Nursing and notify them that you plan to retake the exam. The BON will advise you of any documents or fees you need to submit before you can retest. Log in to your Pearson VUE account and re-register for the NCLEX exam. You will pay the testing fee each time you register for the exam. After registering, wait to receive a new Authorization to Test (ATT) from Pearson Vue. Once the ATT is received, you can schedule to retake the NCLEX.


If you failed the NCLEX-RN on your first attempt, you might feel unsure about what you can do to ensure success on a retake. While everyone learns and performs differently on tests, there are some things you can do to help improve your chances of success the next time you take the NCLEX. The following are fifteen recommended steps to help you pass the NCLEX-RN after failing the first attempt.

1. Acknowledge the fact that you were unsuccessful.

Nothing can dash the hopes of a nursing graduate as much as failing the NCLEX. Although it may hurt and leave you feeling discouraged, the first step to help you pass the NCLEX after you fail is to acknowledge the fact that you were unsuccessful. If you can accept the fact that you failed, for whatever reason, then you can make a plan to move forward and succeed on your next attempt.

2. Find out the NCLEX retake policy for your state.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing retake policy allows NCLEX candidates to retake their exam forty-five days after the administration of their most recent exam. However, some nursing jurisdictions offer a limited number of NCLEX exams each year. It is best to contact the Board of Nursing/Regulatory Board in your state to confirm their policy for NCLEX retakes.

3. Consider talking with your former nursing instructor.

If you find out you failed NCLEX, you may find it helpful to talk with your former nursing instructor(s). Your instructors understand what it is like to be a student and how difficult the NCLEX-RN is. They can often offer you some insight into strategies for passing the NCLEX that you may not have considered.

4. Understand why you failed NCLEX the first time.

All NCLEX-RN candidates who fail the test will receive a Candidate Performance Report (CPR). The CPR indicates whether a candidate met the passing standard in each of the eight content areas covered on the NCLEX-RN. If your Candidate Performance Report has a note that states “below the passing standard” or “near the passing standard,” these are the content areas you should focus on as you prepare to retest.

5. Familiarize yourself with the NCLEX content areas.

Take the time to visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website ( and review the content areas covered on the exam.

6. Create a detailed study plan.

After reviewing the NCLEX content guide and your Candidate Performance Report, create a study schedule that addresses each area where you need help. Unless it is absolutely unavoidable, do not stray from your plan, as this can make getting back on track difficult.

7. Take an NCLEX prep course.

I know, I know! You have spent all this time in nursing school, and the last thing you want to do is take another class, right? Wrong! The last thing you want to do is fail the NCLEX again. An NCLEX prep course may only last a few weeks, and the time you invest could mean the difference between passing on your next attempt or facing failure again.

8. Join a study group of peers who are scheduled to test.

You may find it helpful to study with others as you prepare to retest. There may be a subject you don’t understand, and one of your study partners may be able to help you see more clearly.

9. Take NCLEX practice tests.

There are thousands of NCLEX practice tests. Whether you use an NCLEX study book or online resources, you can never become too familiar with the test format and content. The more you practice, the better equipped you will be on test day.

10. Learn how to break down NCLEX questions.

The nurses who create NCLEX exam questions say it is imperative for candidates to understand the question before answering. Learn to read the question two or three times. Rearrange the questions and answers into a true/false format as you read to see if you can find the correct answer. If you master the art of dissecting the parts of a question and plug answer options into the question, you can improve your chances of success the next time you test.

11. Read questions AND rationales for all answer options as you practice.

It is not enough to answer a question and know you got it wrong. You need to understand why an answer is right or wrong. So, as you prepare to retest after failing NCLEX, take the time to read through questions and answers until you understand why an answer is correct or not.

12. Don’t stop practicing!

It can be easy to get overconfident and set your books aside, but unless you have passed the NCLEX, you cannot be licensed as a nurse. If you failed NCLEX, do not stop practicing until you take the test and pass it.

13. Keep moving!

If you failed the NCLEX, the only way left to go is up. Cry if you need to, talk to a friend, and keep moving.

14. Schedule a date to retake the exam.

If you failed NCLEX, it is best to request a new authorization to test and schedule the exam as soon as possible. While you may not take the test in forty-five days, which is allowable, having a designated test date will give you a goal date. Once the exam is scheduled, stick with your study plan and prepare for the retest.


After failing NCLEX, it could be easy to give up, but nothing worth having comes easy. Whatever you do, never give up. You may have failed the NCLEX on your first attempt, but you passed nursing school. You have been exposed to the information and clinical skills necessary to become an effective nurse. Take a deep breath and retest.

5 Things to Do If You Fail The NCLEX-RN Retake

Failing the NCLEX may feel like the worst experience of your life, but you can test again. Even if you fail the NCLEX on a retake, there is still hope. If you take the NCLEX-RN and are unsuccessful on more than one attempt, here are some things you can do.

1. Evaluate your study methods.

It could be that you have been approaching your preparation for the NCLEX with ineffective study methods. Talk to members of your peer or study group, a nursing instructor, or NCLEX prep coach and discuss the things you do to prepare for a test as well as other methods of learning that may prove helpful.

2. Take a refresher course.

Even if your state does not require you to take a refresher course, it won't hurt you to do so. After failing the NCLEX more than once, you may find having someone who can provide you with instruction and answer your questions will help you identify areas of weakness and improve your odds of success on your next attempt.

3. Take a short break.

Failing NCLEX can cause increased stress or anxiety, leading to another failed attempt. If you feel overwhelmed, take a short break from intense study sessions. Enjoy some time with family and friends. Go out to a movie or for a weekend away. Anything you can do to free your mind and relax will benefit your mental health, which can improve your odds on test day later.

4. Form a study group.

If you have not already done so, get together with a group of peers who are also preparing to take the NCLEX and study together. You may choose to study together a few nights each week or study independently throughout the week and come together once at the end of the week for open discussion.

5. Go for it!

You accomplished more than a lot of students by graduating from nursing school. Don't sell yourself short by stopping before you pass the NCLEX. No matter how many times you have failed NCLEX, take it again.

My Final Thoughts

If you have taken the NCLEX and were unsuccessful, it is natural to ask, “Is there a way to know how to pass after you failed the NCLEX?” This article taught you 15 steps to pass after you failed NCLEX-RN. Although every candidate who sits for the NCLEX-RN performs differently, these are some excellent recommendations to help you succeed the next time you test.


1. How Many Students Fail The NCLEX-RN On the First Attempt?

From 2016 to 2020, an average of 21,553 NCLEX-RN candidates failed the exam on their first attempt each year. In 2016, more than 24,000 test-takers were unsuccessful. Although that number decreased in 2017 and 2018, first-time failure rates increased in 2019 and 2020 to 20,258 and 23,826, respectively.

YearTotal TakenTotal Failed

2. What Is The NCLEX-RN Fail Rate?

The NCLEX-RN fail rate in 2020 was 13.43%, an increase from the 11.82% fail rate the previous year. The average yearly failure rate for the NCLEX-RN between 2016 and 2020 was 13.05%.

YearTotal TakenPass %

3. Can I Fail The NCLEX-RN In 75 Questions?

It is possible to fail the NCLEX-RN in 75 questions. However, if you answered 75 questions and the test shut off, this is not a clear indication you failed the test. The NCLEX is designed to test your knowledge and ability to perform as an entry-level nurse based on the content and difficulty of the NCLEX items presented to you on the exam. Your state Board of Nursing provides the only official indication of a pass or fail on the NCLEX-RN after the test is scored and results are processed.

4. Will I Get Performance Reports If I Fail The NCLEX-RN?

Any NCLEX-RN candidate who fails the test will receive a Candidate Performance Report. This report will explain what content areas you had the most difficulty answering questions and can be used as a guide to prepare for a retest.

5. Can Employers See If I Failed The NCLEX-RN?

Employers may request a copy of your nursing license or verify that your nursing license is active and unencumbered through the state Board of Nursing. However, they do not have access to NCLEX-RN results.

6. Can I Still Be Hired After Failing The NCLEX-RN?

To practice as a registered nurse, you must first pass the NCLEX-RN. Some employers may extend an offer of employment contingent upon you passing the exam on a subsequent attempt. However, it is unlawful to practice as a nurse until you have passed the exam and a license number has been issued in your name.

Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years of experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels. Because of her love of nursing education, Darby became a test-taking strategist and NCLEX prep coach and assists nursing graduates across the United States who are preparing to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX).