Preparing for a rigorous exam like the NCLEX® can leave even the most prepared nursing student wondering, What happens if I don’t pass the NCLEX? What are my options? When can I retake it? How many times can I take the NCLEX?
These are reasonable questions to ask. Students have spent a significant amount of time, money, mental exertion, and emotional energy working to get through nursing school. And now there is one remaining hurdle . . .
The NCLEX is the high-stakes licensure exam that stands as the final obstacle between a nursing student and the job that is more than a career, it’s a calling.
If you’re studying to take an upcoming NCLEX, resist the urge to feel overly stressed. Hopefully you’re well prepared and poised to ace your exam on the first try, but if you don’t find immediate NCLEX success, you won’t be the first candidate to retake the exam.
Here are a few things to consider about taking the NCLEX, retaking the NCLEX, and the answer to the question, How many times can I take the NCLEX?
For Starters: How Soon Can You Take the NCLEX Exam?
The earliest you can take your NCLEX upon graduation from an accredited nursing program varies from state to state, but generally speaking, once you receive your Authorization to Test (ATT) email from your nursing regulatory body (NRB), you have 90 days to sit for the NCLEX exam. Candidates should check their ATT for their specific expiration date.
How Will I Know if I Passed the NCLEX?
If your nursing regulatory body (NRB) participates in a service called the Quick Results Service, you can get “unofficial” results two business days after your NCLEX exam date. This service costs $7.95 to access. Your unofficial results are accurate, but even if you passed, they do not give you authorization to begin practicing as a licensed nurse. You will still be required to wait for your “official” results.
Official results are distributed through your nursing regulatory body and are issued approximately six weeks after you take the NCLEX. If you have not received your results after six weeks, contact your nursing regulatory body with an inquiry.
Note: If you find out via your unofficial results that you did not pass your NCLEX, you do not have to wait six weeks (for your official results) to register for your next exam. You can begin the process right away.
How Soon Can I Retake the NCLEX Exam?
Candidates who fail to pass the NCLEX are permitted to retake the exam 45 days after their previous attempt.
How Many Times Can I Take the NCLEX Exam?
“Candidates who have applied for licensure/registration with a participating nursing regulatory body (NRB) will be permitted to take the NCLEX eight times a year and there must be 45 test-free days between each examination. This is unless the desired jurisdiction of licensure/registration only offers a limited amount of NCLEX exams per year.”
Though the NCSBN states that candidates are permitted to take the NCLEX eight times a year, notice the caveat at the end of the statement — “This is unless the desired jurisdiction of licensure/registration only offers a limited amount of NCLEX exams per year.”
Translation: There are some state nursing regulatory bodies with certain limitations. Therefore, it is important to check with your local NRB to see if there is a limit on the number of times you can retake the NCLEX.
How Do I Start the Process of Retaking the NCLEX?
If you’re planning on retaking the NCLEX exam . . .
- Contact your Nursing Regulatory Body and inform them that you intend to retake your NCLEX. Fees vary from state to state.
- Re-register with Pearson VUE and pay your registration fee.
- Wait to receive your Authorization to Test (ATT).
- Look at available test dates and locations, and schedule your new exam.
- Review your individualized Candidate Performance Report which provides information about your performance in each of the content areas of the exam. This report will help you identify areas for remediation and build an effective study plan.
If you are preparing for your NCLEX and you’re worried about passing, or if you’ve recently taken the NCLEX but did not pass the exam, there is no need to be hard on yourself or overly stressed. You can retake the exam 45 days after your last attempt, and you can take the NCLEX up to eight times a year. (Note: There are some nursing regulatory bodies with limitations specific to their states, so check with your NRB to find out the guidelines in your area.)
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