5 Tips for Students Retaking the NCLEX®

Nursing student preparing for exam

For test-takers who receive the news that they didn’t pass the NCLEX®, questions begin to swirl. What did I do wrong? Did I study enough? Do I have what it takes? What are my next steps?

If you find yourself in this situation, don’t be discouraged. You’re not the first one who hasn’t passed the NCLEX. Far from it. The NCLEX is a highly demanding exam, and it takes some students multiple attempts before receiving a passing score.

Once you move past the initial disappointment, it’s time to develop a plan to ensure that you avoid the mistakes you made on the previous exam and that you’re well positioned for success on the next exam. If you’re ready to work hard and study well, you can do this!

Here are five tips to consider when retaking the NCLEX-RN® or NCLEX-PN® exam . . .

1) Register for a New Exam

GOOD NEWS: You get another chance! In fact, the NCSBN allows test takers to take the NCLEX up to eight times per year (with a minimum 45-day period between exams). 

You may have been knocked down, but it’s time to get back up on that horse. The NCSBN allows candidates to retake their exam 45 days after administration of the exam, so what are you waiting for?

In order to retake the NCLEX, do the following:

  • Contact your Nursing Regulatory Body and inform them that you intend to retake your NCLEX.
  • Determine the materials you’ll need to submit and the fees you’ll need to pay.
  • Re-register with Pearson VUE (this is when you’ll pay your registration fee).
  • Wait to receive your Authorization to Test (ATT).
  • Look at available test dates and locations, and schedule your new exam.

Note: This process will take some time. Don’t waste these days. Go ahead and start preparing for your next exam during this time. 

2) Discover the Areas in Which You Need To Improve

GOOD NEWS: As you prepare to retake the NCLEX, you’re not flying blind. You get to see where you underperformed previously. This allows you to focus your study moving forward.

If you didn’t pass your exam, the NCSBN will send you a NCLEX Candidate Performance Report (CPR). This two-page report will inform you of how Computerized Adaptive Testing (CAT) works and will detail your performance on the different NCLEX content areas.

With this report, you can see the specific areas in which you need to improve in order to succeed when you retake the exam.

Note: Though you’ll see a breakdown of content areas, the exam is not graded in sections. It is your overall performance that determines whether you pass or fail. The CPR is a tool designed to indicate your stronger and weaker areas. 

3) Adjust Your Study Plan

GOOD NEWS: Now you know what didn’t work. This is an opportunity to take a different approach in order to be better prepared on exam day.

Perhaps you didn’t build a disciplined study plan previously, or perhaps you tried and it just didn’t work; whichever the case, it is important to shift your preparation strategy for your next exam.

It’s often been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Don’t be insane 🙂 Build a different study plan this time around in order to ace your NCLEX exam.

The best study plan will . . . 

a) Establish a daily study schedule (length of study time each day will depend on the length of time before your exam)

b) Identify the best preparation tools and resources

c) Focus on subjects or systems where you need the most improvement

d) Consider study partners for collaboration, inspiration, and accountability

e) Allow for remediation in content areas where you struggle on practice tests

Note: You may not have to discard everything you did before and start from scratch. It could just be a calendar adjustment or a better prep resource that will put you over the top the next time around.

4) Use the Right Test-Prep Resource

GOOD NEWS: UWorld is the industry leader for NCLEX test preparation. Over 700,000 nurses have trusted us for their licensing exam preparation since our launch in 2015. It’s easy to use and will have you prepared to ace the NCLEX on exam day.

A lot of students struggle with high-stakes exams like the NCLEX because they study on their own, they use an inadequate test-prep resource, or they use a combination of resources that leave them feeling confused and overwhelmed.

The best resource for NCLEX prep will offer challenging questions, detailed rationales for correct and incorrect answer choices, vivid illustrations, self-assessments, performance tracking, and an NCLEX readiness predictor.

Note: Flashcards that utilize spaced repetition are also key for test preparation. Spaced repetition technology ensures you study difficult information more frequently until you master it, then less frequently so your brain is challenged to create long term retention.

5) Don’t Give Up

GOOD NEWS: One of the most important keys to success in any area of life is determination. If you are determined to do your best, and if you refuse to give up, you’re going to fulfill your dream of becoming a nurse.

Thomas Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Don’t let the disappointment of a failed test keep you from your calling. Every successful person has dealt with a setback at one time or another, but the key is to keep moving forward.

Consider this . . . 

  • Michael Jordan was famously cut from his high school basketball team
  • J.K. Rowling had her first Harry Potter novel rejected 12 times by publishers
  • A record executive once told an upcoming band called The Beatles that they “have no future in show business.”
  • Thomas Edison failed 10,000 times before successfully inventing the light bulb

If Jordan, Rowling, The Beatles, and Edison can shrug off failure and keep going until they find success, you can too. Learn from your mistakes. Hold your head up high. Study harder than ever before. Be determined. You can do this!

Getting ready for an upcoming NCLEX exam? Let us help! Our industry leading online learning tool incorporates NCLEX-style practice questions, detailed explanations, vivid illustrations, and customizable flashcards as part of our active learning process. It’s no surprise that over 700,000 nursing students have used UWorld for their NCLEX exam preparation since we launched our nursing product in 2015. Check us out today to see how we can prepare you for the test and for a lifetime of clinical success.

Scroll to Top