Can you take the NCLEX exam more than once? There are only two reasons to ask this question:

  1. You’re worried you may not pass the NCLEX exam
  2. You took the NCLEX exam and didn’t pass

Well, we’re not going to make you wait until the end to find out, here it is: YES, you can take the NCLEX exam more than once. Whether you’re just worried about the NCLEX or you didn’t pass, that should alleviate a little of your anxiety.

Look, the NCLEX exam is difficult – very difficult. It’s unlike any test you ever took in nursing school. And the NCSBN (National Council of State Boards of Nursing) who develop the NCLEX exam knows this. That’s why you get more than one chance.

We’re going to talk about the requirements to take the NCLEX exam, why people fail it, and tell you how to retake it – plus give you a few tips that may help you reach that passing number.


Why People Fail The NCLEX


Although the NCLEX exam has about an 88% pass rate – not everyone passes it the first time. Sounds pretty good right? And if you didn’t pass the first time, that number might make you feel a little down – but don’t get down on yourself if this is you.

There are two main reasons why people don’t make it the first time:


Not Being Prepared

The NCLEX exam isn’t some final exam you might be able to pass if you pull a couple of all-nighter cram sessions.

It covers literally everything you’ve learned in nursing school, which is a ton of information to know. Plus, you also have to understand and apply the concepts.

If you didn’t study regularly with a variety of tools and study methods, chances are you won’t be ready when test time comes.

Check out this link for a great study aid: Mosby’s NCLEX review cards. And if you want to make NCLEX studying fun with flashcards learning games here we listed that are worth the try.


Not Understanding How NCLEX Works

The NCLEX isn’t like any test you’ve taken. It’s a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT) that adapts and changes according to how you answer the NCLEX questions.

It not only tests you on what you know but if you can apply what you’ve learned. The NCLEX isn’t testing you on what you know, but if you can safely and effectively provide care for your patients.

Being prepared (putting the study time in) and understanding how the NCLEX works are the two best things you can do to pass the exam. So if you don’t pass the NCLEX the first time what do you do? Let’s explore that.


What To Do If You Fail The NCLEX


First of all – don’t let it get you down and don’t beat yourself up. Take some time, decompress, let off some steam – scream at the sky, eat a whole pint of Rocky Road ice cream. Do whatever you need to do to reset and tackle the problem at hand – passing the NCLEX exam.

Take an honest inventory, looking at:

  • How much you studied
  • How you studied (what resources did you use?)
  • What parts of the test gave you the most trouble

Once you have identified where the problem areas are, you’ll be ready to give it another shot.

Hey, maybe you did all the studying, had all the resources, and thought you did pretty well on the exam and don’t see where you went wrong. Don’t let that bother you.

Look at it this way – you got in some good practice for your next attack. If this has you worried – click here to find out how to pass the NCLEX the first time.


How Many Times Can You Take The NCLEX?


According to the NCSBN rules, any nursing student who doesn’t pass the NCLEX can retest, with these rules:

  • You must wait 45 days between testing
  • You can only take the NCLEX 8 times a year
  • There are no restrictions on how many times you can take the test in your lifetime

Now those are the major rules, HOWEVER – there are different rules in different states. Here are some examples:

  • Louisiana – you’ve got 4 years from when you graduate to pass the NCLEX. In those 4 years, you may only take the test 4 times.
  • Kansas – you must pass the NCLEX within 2 years of graduation. If you don’t, you’ll have to meet certain state requirements and submit a petition to retest.
  • Colorado – you can retest 3 times within 3 years
  • Pennsylvania – the retest time is 46 days
  • Florida, Hawaii, Michigan – if you fail the NCLEX 3 times you must complete a remedial program before you can test again

These are just a few examples, so you’ll need to contact the licensing board of the state you want to get licensed in to be sure of their NCLEX testing policies.


How To Retake The NCLEX Exam


Once you’ve dusted yourself off and you’re ready to give it another go, here’s what you do:


1. Go over your CPR (Candidate Performance Report)

Everyone gets CPR. It’s an individualized report that gives you a breakdown of how you did on each section of the NCLEX. YOU NEED TO READ THIS. It’s going to show you the areas where you had problems and where you need to focus your studying.


2. Contact your NRB (National Review Board)

As soon as possible, contact your NRB and let them know you plan on taking the NCLEX exam again. DON’T WAIT. Taking time off has shown to actually decrease your chances of passing. Think about all that knowledge in your head going stale.

3. Re-register with Pearson VUE and pay the fee


4. Wait until you get your new ATT (Authorization To Test)


5. Schedule your exam


6. Take the NCLEX and crush it


It can be demoralizing if you don’t pass the NCLEX the first time. Of course, it is – nobody likes to fail. But don’t look at it as a failure. Instead, view it as a practice test and now you know how you need to attack it.

Don’t worry – you’re going to pass the NCLEX exam. Do the studying. Review lots of practice questions. Talk to people who passed it. And most of all – keep your chin up and don’t let test anxiety get to you.

You’re going to make it.

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