15 Signs You Failed the NCLEX in 2023

Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you a nursing student or a recent graduate preparing to take the NCLEX? Perhaps you have studied but are worried you will be unsuccessful when you test. Have you wondered, "What are the signs you failed the NCLEX?” Signs you failed the NCLEX vary from one candidate to the next. In this article, you will learn about 15 signs you failed the NCLEX in 2023 and what to do if this should happen.


What Does Failing The NCLEX-RN Mean?

The NCLEX-RN tests a candidate's ability to provide entry-level nursing care to patients in a safe, effective manner. Failing the NCLEX-RN may indicate you are not prepared to provide nursing care. However, everyone who fails the NCLEX is not incapable. Some test-takers have test anxiety or have other issues such as illness or fatigue that may impede their testing abilities. If you fail the NCLEX-RN, you will receive an NCLEX Candidate Performance Report. The report is individualized and shows how well you performed in each content area on the test. You can use the Candidate Performance Report (CPR) as a guide to prepare you to retest.

Why You Should Worry About Failing The NCLEX-RN?

All nursing students dream of graduating and passing the NCLEX. Unfortunately, more than thirteen percent of NCLEX-RN candidates fail the exam on their first attempt. Here are five reasons to be concerned about failing the NCLEX-RN.

1. Failing the NCLEX means you will not be issued a nursing license.

Nursing school graduates in every state must pass the NCLEX-RN before being issued a license to practice as a registered nurse. Working as an RN without an active nursing license is against the law and can result in criminal charges and being restricted from practicing as a nurse later.

2. Failing the NCLEX-RN can make you question your ability to practice as a nurse.

As a nursing instructor, I have counseled former students who took the NCLEX and did not pass on their first attempt. Failing the exam has a way of shattering one's perspective of themselves and their abilities. While it can be disheartening to learn you were unsuccessful on the NCLEX-RN, remember you can retest. Take some time to regroup and study. Then, schedule to retake the test.

3. You may lose a job prospect.

It is not uncommon for nursing students or recent graduates to have a job offer contingent upon passing the licensure exam. If a prospective employer needs to fill a position, you may lose the opportunity to take a job when you fail the NCLEX-RN. Although this can feel discouraging, keep in mind there are other nursing jobs. Focus on preparing to retest, then apply for another job when you pass the NCLEX.

4. You may have to wait to go back to school.

One of the admission criteria for graduate nursing programs is for applicants to possess an active, unencumbered license to practice as a registered nurse. If you have plans to go back to school right away, perhaps to earn a graduate degree, you may need to put those plans on hold.

5. Too many failed attempts could mean you need to take a refresher course.

If you fail the NCLEX-RN, you can retake the exam. However, some states limit the number of times you can retest before taking a refresher course or going back to nursing school.

What Number Of People Fail The NCLEX-RN On Their First Attempt?

The average number of people who failed the NCLEX between 2016 and 2020 was 21,553. 23,826 NCLEX-RN candidates failed the exam on their first attempt in 2020, the highest number since 2016 when the number of failed first-time attempts was 24,236. If the same trajectory of failed attempts continues through 2023, the number of people who failed the NCLEX in 2023 could be approximately 30,450.

Year People Failed
2016 24,236
2017 20,330
2018 19,115
2019 20,258
2020 23,826

What Percentage Of People Fail The NCLEX-RN On Their First Attempt?

Approximately 13.43% of first-time NCLEX-RN candidates failed the exam in 2020. This is nearly a two percent increase from the previous year. The average yearly failure rate for the NCLEX-RN since 2016 is 13.05%.

Year Fail %
2016 15.43%
2017 12.89%
2018 11.71%
2019 11.82%
2020 13.43%

What Are Your Chances Of Failing NCLEX-RN On The First Attempt?

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) reports 13.43% of NCLEX-RN candidates fail the exam on their first attempt. The number of unsuccessful test-takers is low compared to the more than 86% who pass the exam on their first try. Candidates who fail the NCLEX-RN can retest forty-five days after their most recent attempt. Being alert for signs you failed the NCLEX-RN will help you prepare before receiving official results.


If you are preparing to take the NCLEX-RN, you probably want to know what signs to look for to indicate how well you do on the exam. While no one wants to fail the test, knowing if you were successful or not before receiving your official results will help you determine which steps to follow next. The following are the 15 signs you failed the NCLEX-RN in 2023

1. You got questions that ranged from very easy to extremely difficult in no particular sequence.

The NCLEX-RN is delivered in a Computerized Adaptive Test format which means every correct answer you give will result in the next question being more challenging. If you answer a question incorrectly, the following question is a bit easier. The test is programmed to determine with 95% accuracy that you have the skills and ability to practice as an entry-level nurse. If test questions alternate from easy to challenging instead of getting progressively more difficult, this is one of the signs you failed the NCLEX in 2023.

2. The test shuts off before you answer the minimum number of questions.

The NCLEX-RN has a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 145, and you have five hours to complete the exam. If the maximum amount of time has elapsed and you have not answered the minimum number of questions, this indicates you failed the NCLEX in 2023.

3. Your test presented questions that did not progress in difficulty level.

With every correct answer you give on the NCLEX, the more challenging the following questions become. If you are given questions that stay within the same difficulty level or become easier, this is one of the signs you failed the NCLEX.

4. You took an NCLEX-prep course and did not do well.

When you enroll in an NCLEX-prep class, you will review information from each of the content areas on the NCLEX and take practice tests to help prepare you for the actual exam. These classes are designed to promote your success on the NCLEX. If you took an NCLEX-prep course and did not do well, this could indicate an inability to pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

5. The time limit for the test expires before the test shuts off.

The NCLEX test is designed to shut off when you have answered enough questions to determine your ability is clearly above or below the passing standard required to practice as a registered nurse in a safe, effective manner. If the test cannot determine your ability to practice as a nurse before the five-hour time limit expires, you were likely unsuccessful in your attempt to pass the NCLEX-RN.

6. You answered the maximum number of questions but did not feel like questions became more challenging.

Answering all 145 questions on the NCLEX-RN alone does not mean you failed the exam. However, with each correct answer you provide, the test should give you a question that becomes increasingly more difficult than the previous one. If you answer the maximum number of questions but do not feel like the test got progressively more difficult, this could be one of the signs you failed the NCLEX-RN.

7. The Pearson Vue NCLEX Trick gives you a bad pop-up.

Many NCLEX candidates use a hack known as the Pearson Vue NCLEX Trick to get an idea of whether they passed the exam. Although the PVT is not 100% accurate, you can use it to determine one of the signs you failed the NCLEX-RN and decide whether or not you need to prepare to retest. To try the trick, wait at least two hours after completing and submitting the NCLEX-RN for scoring. Then, log in to your Pearson Vue account and attempt to register for the NCLEX again. If the website allows you to register and processes your payment for the new test date, this is considered a bad pop-up and indicates you failed the NCLEX.

8. The Pearson Vue Quick Results Service reports you failed the NCLEX-RN.

Many states participate in the NCLEX Quick Results Service. This service gives NCLEX candidates unofficial test results in as few as two days after the test is complete and submitted for scoring. Although the results offered by the Quick Results Service are unofficial, they are believed to be accurate.

9. You checked your state Board of Nursing and cannot find your name and license number.

Official NCLEX results may not be available for up to six weeks. However, in some cases, some NCLEX candidates have accessed their state license number on their state Board of Nursing website. If you check the website and cannot find your name, especially if several weeks have passed, this could mean you failed the NCLEX in 2023.

10. You feel like you were ill-prepared or that you failed the exam.

There are cases when a case of bad nerves or test anxiety can make you worry about whether you passed the NCLEX, only to find out you did well and made it through successfully. However, if you take the exam and truly feel like you did not pass, this could be a strong indication you were not successful.

11. You were unfamiliar with a lot of the question content.

Accredited nursing programs deliver a curriculum that is aligned with NCSBN guidelines. If you passed the program and prepared for the NCLEX, you should be familiar with the information presented on the exam. If you took the NCLEX-RN and the questions or question content were unfamiliar to you or felt like you had not learned that information, this is one of the signs you failed the NCLEX in 2023.

12. The NCLEX gave you what many people consider “easy-level” questions.

NCLEX questions are based on Bloom's Taxonomy of cognitive domain. The first level of understanding an idea or process, according to Bloom's Taxonomy, is to remember. If the NCLEX offers you questions based on the first level, which would be the skill of memorization, it could be the program has determined you cannot answer more complex questions. These questions may ask you to identify a normal blood pressure or respiratory rate or to recall a lab value.

13. You took an NCLEX Predictor Test and did not do well.

NCLEX Predictor Tests are tools used to identify and measure a nursing student's strengths and weaknesses related to a particular subject or skill. Students who take an NCLEX Predictor Test and do not score well may find failing the NCLEX-RN in 2023 likely.

14. The test did not ask you questions related to higher-level nursing skills.

As previously mentioned, NCLEX test questions get progressively more difficult with each correct answer you submit. The harder the question, the more content you will see related to higher-level skills, such as nursing analysis or evaluation. If your test asks you questions with more basic nursing skills such as assessment skills, signs and symptoms of primary illness, or normal body functioning, it could be because you have not answered basic questions with enough accuracy to indicate your ability to succeed with more challenging questions. This is another of the signs you failed the NCLEX in 2023.

15. Did the test give you questions about diseases, disorders, or medication types you knew nothing about?

It is normal to see some questions on the NCLEX that present information you may not have studied in-depth. However, if you are given a lot of questions, and you feel like the content is entirely unfamiliar, you may not have been well-prepared for the test, which could be a sign you failed the NCLEX-RN.

7 Things To Do Next After Failing The NCLEX-RN

It can be disappointing to find out you did not do well on the NCLEX-RN. Although a failed attempt is not what you were hoping for, it is not the end of the world. If you see signs you failed the NCLEX in 2023, here are seven things you should do next.

1. Analyze why you failed the NCLEX.

Before you can retake the NCLEX and expect to see better results, you need to understand why you failed on your previous attempt.

2. Schedule to retake the NCLEX test as soon as possible.

You can retest forty-five days after your last NCLEX-RN test date. After you have processed your feelings about failing the NCLEX, go ahead and schedule a retest. By putting forth the effort to establish a new test date, you are giving yourself a timeline upon which you can base your study plan.

3. Consider your previous NCLEX study habits.

Reflect on how you prepared for the NCLEX before your first attempt. You may not have given yourself enough time to study or cram for the exam, both of which could lead to failing the NCLEX.

4. Develop an NCLEX study plan.

Look at how much available time you have and develop a plan for studying. While it is vital to dedicate a significant amount of time to study, don't overextend yourself as this can cause frustration and may lead to another failed attempt. Instead, create a plan and pace yourself to accomplish something new every day. Consider an NCLEX-Prep Course. If you failed the NCLEX-RN, enrolling in an NCLEX-prep course can be helpful, especially if you feel it benefits you to have personalized attention or instruction.

5. Take multiple practice tests.

There are many resources you can use to take practice NCLEX tests. It would be beneficial for you to spend some time practicing tests and reviewing the rationale for answer options each day.

6. Take care of yourself!

Lack of rest or sleep and poor nutrition can affect your physical and mental well-being. Develop a routine of going to bed at a specific time each night to promote good rest and sleep. Eat a well-balanced diet and exercise to help keep you mentally sharp.

7. Retake the NCLEX!

After you have implemented self-care measures, reviewed reasons you were unsuccessful before and followed through on your NCLEX study plan, the only thing left to do is retake the test. Remember, you have made it this far. You can do this!

My Final Thoughts

Even the most well-prepared NCLEX candidates ask, “What are the signs you failed the NCLEX?" While failure is not anyone's goal after graduating nursing school, there are times when unsuccessful NCLEX attempts occur. If you are preparing for the NCLEX, being aware of the 15 signs you failed the NCLEX in 2023 featured in this article can help you prepare for your next steps following testing. It is important to be mindful that everyone has good and bad test days. If you take the NCLEX-RN and do not pass, take some time to prepare and try again.


1. Is It Normal to Fail NCLEX-RN The First Time?

It is normal for some people to fail the NCLEX-RN the first time. In fact, the NCSBN reports more than thirteen percent of first-time NCLEX candidates are unsuccessful on their first attempt.

2. What Happens If I Fail NCLEX-RN 3 Times?

Each state Board of Nursing regulatory body determines how many times an NCLEX candidate may retest after a failed attempt. For example, in Hawaii, Florida, and Michigan, NCLEX candidates who fail the exam three times must take and successfully complete a state-approved remedial course(s) before they may retake the exam a fourth time. If you fail the NCLEX, you will be notified by your state Board of Nursing and receive instructions on how to proceed. If you do not receive written notification within six weeks, contact your state Board of Nursing.

3. How Many Times Can I Fail The NCLEX-RN?

NCLEX-RN candidates may retest up to eight times in one calendar year in most states. Repeat testing is restricted to forty-five days after the most recent failed attempt.

4. Is It Common to Fail NCLEX-RN At 75 Questions?

There is a 50/50 chance of failing the NCLEX-RN if the test shuts off at 75 questions. The NCLEX test is designed to determine with 95% accuracy that you could practice competently as a registered nurse. If you answer the minimum number of questions

5. Can I Fail The NCLEX-RN But Still End Up with A Good GPA In Nursing School?

Yes, it is possible to fail the NCLEX-RN and still have a good grade point average in nursing school. Your nursing school GPA is the combined average of your grades throughout the nursing program. The NCLEX is one test that you either pass or fail.

6. Can I Be a Nurse If I Fail The NCLEX-RN?

You must first pass the NCLEX-RN if you want to practice as a registered nurse. However, if you fail the NCLEX-RN, you can retest.

7. Why Do I Keep Failing NCLEX-RN?

NCLEX-RN candidates may fail the exam for any number of reasons. You may have been unsuccessful due to test anxiety or fatigue. On the other hand, you may have tested too soon and not given yourself enough time to prepare for the exam adequately. Whatever the reason you failed the NCLEX-RN, do not give up. If you are unsuccessful the first time, take some time to regroup and try again.

8. How Soon Can I Retake NCLEX-RN After Failing?

You can retake the NCLEX-RN forty-five days after your last test was completed and submitted for scoring.

9. Does NCLEX-RN Get Harder with Every Retake After Failing?

Some candidates mistakenly believe that the NCLEX is harder each time. Questions become more challenging with each correct answer you provide on the NCLEX. However, subsequent tests are not easier or more difficult than previous exams.

10. What States Have the Highest NCLEX-RN Failure Rates?

The states with the highest NCLEX-RN failure rates are Florida, Wyoming, New York, Arkansas, Minnesota, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, and Iowa. Failure rates in these ten states range from 13.42% to 31.17%.

Rank State People Failed Fail %
1 Florida 5,760 31.17%
2 Wyoming 67 19.20%
3 New York 1,838 16.83%
4 Arkansas 371 16.64%
5 Minnesota 612 16.18%
6 Ohio 1,276 15.59%
7 Oklahoma 322 14.69%
8 New Mexico 138 14.29%
9 Kansas 263 13.86%
10 Iowa 287 13.42%

11. What States Have the Lowest NCLEX-RN Failure Rates?

New Hampshire, Delaware, Nevada, Louisiana, South Dakota, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, North Dakota, and Arizona have the lowest NCLEX-RN failure rates in the nation. These states have NCLEX-RN fail rates ranging from 3.79% to 8.56%.

Rank State People Failed Fail %
1 New Hampshire 28 3.79%
2 Delaware 33 6.41%
3 Nevada 89 6.82%
4 Louisiana 156 7.23%
5 South Dakota 66 7.65%
6 North Carolina 358 8.01%
7 Pennsylvania 657 8.32%
8 Tennessee 340 8.33%
9 North Dakota 50 8.43%
10 Arizona 302 8.56%

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).