How to Retake NCLEX® Exam: Tips and Strategies

Image of nursing student preparing to retake the NCLEX
Learn about the NCLEX® retake process, and get tips and strategies on how to make your next NCLEX your last.
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Image of nursing student preparing to retake the NCLEX
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The NCLEX® retake process is almost identical to the initial application process. This means that if your first attempt was unsuccessful, you should already be familiar with your Nursing Regulatory Body (NRB), Pearson VUE, and the Authorization to Test (ATT). Consider that of the tens of thousands of students who take the NCLEX, an average of 31% do not pass. In short, retaking the NCLEX-PN or NCLEX-RN is common. Many successful nurses didn’t pass on their first attempt. Life happens. You only need to pass it once, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a nurse. This article will walk you through the NCLEX retake process and provide actionable tips on how to improve your chances of success. 

NCLEX Retake Policy

If a candidate fails the NCLEX, they will receive a Candidate Performance Report (CPR). The CPR shows how you performed on all areas of the NCLEX Test Plan. This report is designed to help you prepare better for your next exam.

How soon can you retake the NCLEX

If you do not pass the NCLEX, you may retake the exam. However, you must wait a minimum of 45 days between each attempt. This waiting period has been established by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) to provide candidates with sufficient time to study and prepare for the exam.

Keep in mind that each state’s board of nursing may have additional requirements or limitations on the number of times you can retake the exam, so it’s essential to check with your state’s board for specific information and guidelines.

How many times can you retake the NCLEX?

If you’ve applied for registration or licensure with a participating NRB, you can take the NCLEX eight times a year. Some states allow unlimited retakes, while others may limit the number of attempts or require additional education or remediation after a certain number of failed attempts. Be sure to consult your state’s board of nursing for information on retake policies specific to your location.

Step by Step Process of for Retaking NCLEX

Below, we’ll walk you through the registration and scheduling process in 4 easy-to-follow steps.

Graphic showing the 4 steps to rescheduling your NCLEX

Step 1: Contact the NRB

Once you receive your Candidate Performance Report indicating an unsuccessful attempt, contact the NRB. Remember, you have to wait a minimum of 45 days between exam attempts. 

Step 2: Register with Pearson VUE

You’ll have to reregister with Pearson VUE and pay the registration fee again with a valid VISA, MasterCard, or American Express credit, debit, or prepaid card. If you don’t receive confirmations within two days, do not submit another registration until you contact Pearson Vue Candidate Services to check your status. It’s important to note that the name you use when registering must match the name on the ID you present on exam day. 

Step 3: Receive your ATT

Just as when you applied for the NCLEX the first time, you’ll have to wait for the NRB to review your application before receiving an Authorization to Test (ATT) through the email you used to register. Your ATT is required to schedule your NCLEX appointment. Be sure to carefully review the validity dates on your ATT and remember that you must take the exam within the dates provided by Pearson Vue. 

Step 4: Schedule a New Exam Appointment 

Finally, you must find a testing location and schedule your NCLEX appointment. This can be done online via the Pearson Vue website or by calling Pearson Vue Candidate Services directly. Payments can be made with debit, prepaid Visa, Mastercard, or American Express card. 

  • Online – Register through the Pearson Vue website. It’s recommended that you register online to expedite the process. Simply sign in and request your time/date/location preference. 
  • Telephone – Use Pearson Vue Candidate Services to find the correct telephone number for your region/language. Be ready to provide your ATT number and information to verify your identity, then request your time/date/location preference. 

Tips for Retaking NCLEX

Whatever you did to study for the NCLEX the first time didn’t work. That’s not a problem, as long as you learn from your mistakes and commit to revising your study plan. The tips listed below will help get you started. 

Discover the areas in which you need to improve 

Your two-page Candidate Performance Report details how you performed on each NCLEX domain. Performance is described in three tiers:

  • Above the passing standard
  • Near the passing standard
  • Below the passing standard

For example, if you took the NCLEX-RN and did poorly on Management of Care, that section of your CPR report will indicate “BELOW THE PASSING STANDARD”.

Notice that a description of Management of Care is given. This is what you must focus on. Spend more time on the domains where your performance was lowest, but continue reviewing even those areas in which you did well. Also note that while there is a breakdown of content areas, the exam is not graded in sections. It is your overall performance that determines whether you pass or fail. 

Adjust the study plan

Maybe some parts of your study plan were solid, but others need improvement, maybe you just didn’t have the time, or something got in the way, or maybe you just had a bad day. Whatever the reason, there are some basic adjustments you can make that will increase your chances of passing the NCLEX your second time around. 

  • Dedicated study time — Consistency beats cramming. Make a realistic study schedule. It might feel great planning intensive, hours-long study sessions into the future, but execution is never as easy. Carve out dedicated study time, preferably at the same time(s) each day. Even 20 minutes here or an hour there, done consistently, is far better than one 8-hour, caffeine-fueled study session per week. 
  • Use NCLEX-like study materials — Studying with questions that reflect the NCLEX in both format and difficulty is the best way to prepare. It might feel nice to do well on easy questions, but you’ll be disappointed come the actual exam. The same goes for practice tests. Use NCLEX-like self-assessment tests and simulate the time constraints of exam day. 
  • In-depth answer explanations — It’s not enough to flip through exam-like questions. You need to understand why you are getting each question right or wrong. The best test prep materials contain in-depth answer explanations for every answer choice. These rationales will help you develop the habit of reasoning through the questions and eliminating incorrect choices. 
  • Monitor your progress — Measure your performance in each subject and system. Especially the ones where your performance was below the passing standard. Checking to see how you’ve improved will ensure that you don’t keep studying things you already know. This is much easier to do with a test prep product that offers performance analytics. 
  • Spaced-repetition flashcards Flashcards are generally an excellent way to quickly review a broad range of information. However, some ways of using flashcards are smarter than others. Spaced-repetition has been proven to enhance retention. The basic idea is that you see more difficult topics more frequently, while topics that you already understand, or have a pretty good grip on, are shown less. Make sure that whatever test prep you choose has customizable digital flashcards that use spaced-repetition software. 

The above tips will help you improve your score on the NCLEX, but it’s also important to keep your health in check—mental and physical. Keeping a routine makes this much easier. Make sure to get good sleep, go to bed and wake up at the same time. Try to study a bit in the morning and a bit at night before you go to bed in addition to your scheduled study time. Eat healthy food that doesn’t make you feel lethargic, exercise, and take a break when you need to. Your study sessions can be done in chunks if you have trouble focusing, but remember to simulate the actual exam a few times to build your endurance for exam day. 

Use the right test-prep resource

There are a number of NCLEX resources available. Some are free, some are paid. Some are quality, some are not so great. Some, like Uworld Nursing, have helped over a million nurses prepare for their licensing exam since 2015. We’ve got everything you need to pass. Just take a look at one of our sample NCLEX questions

You’ll notice that our NCLEX-like questions meet or exceed exam-level difficulty and reflect the current exam format (including NGN). Each question has in-depth explanations for each answer choice and descriptive images that make hard material easier to understand. Plus, you’ll get access to unlimited, customizable flashcards that use spaced-repetition software, advanced performance analytics, and more, all available on desktop, tablet, and mobile. Check it out for yourself. NCLEX success is just a click away. 

Don’t give up

Thousands of students attempt the NCLEX-RN or NCLEX-PN every year, and thousands do not succeed. The difference between those who eventually become nurses and those who don’t is perseverance. You’ve studied hard and earned your education. There is no point in throwing that away because of one misstep. The best part of retaking the NCLEX is that you’ve done it before. You know what to expect, and you aren’t starting from scratch. With that knowledge, the right study plan, and quality prep, you’ll be able to prepare in the 45 days before your next exam, and that unsuccessful attempt will quickly become a distant memory.

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