Signs You Failed the NCLEX

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Rebecca Nolan

Group Content Manager

Exhausted student in a library.
Signs You Failed NCLEX: Dealing with the aftermath of a failed NCLEX attempt.

Feeling that NCLEX exam weight on your shoulders? You’re not alone. In 2022, about 20% of NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN test-takers failed on the first try. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it happens. Here’s the real deal: an NCLEX fail doesn’t define you. It’s just a hurdle, not a dead end. 

In this blog, we’ll delve into the signs that might indicate you didn’t ace the NCLEX and, more importantly, what you can do next to get back on the path to your nursing career. Let’s navigate this challenging road together.

3 Major Signs You Failed NCLEX

Facing the reality of a failed NCLEX can be a daunting experience. You might be wondering how you ended up in this situation, and it’s essential to recognize the signs that indicate a less-than-ideal outcome.

1. Low Test Scores

Low test scores are one of the most apparent signs that you’ve fallen short on the NCLEX. If your scores are significantly below the passing threshold, it’s a strong indicator that you didn’t perform as well as you’d hoped. Scores aren’t the sole measure of your abilities, but they provide a clear picture of your knowledge in the exam context.

failed NCLEX

2. Gut Feeling

Sometimes, your gut feeling is a valuable indicator. If you walk out of the exam room with a sense of unease or doubt, it’s important to acknowledge it. Your intuition can be surprisingly accurate. Trusting your instincts when they tell you something is amiss can help you address the issue promptly.

3. Post-Exam Anxiety

The anxiety that follows your NCLEX exam can be revealing. If you constantly worry about your performance or struggle with sleepless nights, it’s a sign that you might not have aced the test. Post-exam anxiety often arises from a lack of confidence in your answers or lingering doubts about your performance.

Recognizing these signs is the first step toward addressing the situation. While low test scores and post-exam anxiety might feel disheartening, they are not the end of your nursing journey. In the following sections, we’ll explore what happens if you fail the NCLEX and how you can bounce back from this setback.

The Impact of Failing the NCLEX

A failed NCLEX isn’t just a setback; it can significantly impact your nursing career aspirations and personal life. Understanding these consequences is crucial to make informed decisions moving forward.

1. Delayed Nursing Career

A nurse with a stethoscope.
Evaluating your nursing career after a challenging NCLEX experience.

One of the most immediate effects of an NCLEX fail is a delay in your nursing career. Typically, you must pass this exam to become a registered nurse. Failing means you can’t embark on your nursing journey as planned. You may have to postpone your career goals and reevaluate your timeline.

2. Financial Implications

Failing the NCLEX can also have financial consequences. Preparing for and taking the exam requires an investment in study materials, exam fees, and possibly even preparation courses. Failing means you must allocate additional resources for a retake, extending your financial commitment.

3. Emotional Stress

Students taking a break during NCLEX study.
Coping with exam stress and its impact on results

The emotional impact of an NCLEX fail should not be underestimated. It can be emotionally draining and challenging to cope with the disappointment. You might question your abilities and feel disheartened, adding a layer of stress to an already challenging situation.

1-1 NCLEX Tutoring
Personalised study plan and expert NCLEX tutoring with regular feedback and progress updates

Next Steps: If You Fail the NCLEX What Happens?

Failing the NCLEX is undoubtedly disheartening, but it’s crucial to understand the steps and options available if you find yourself in this situation. So, what happens if you fail the NCLEX?

A. Retake Options

After a failed NCLEX, you’re not left in the lurch. You have the opportunity to retake the exam. The exact process and waiting period between attempts may vary by state, so you must check with your state’s nursing board for specific guidelines. Most states allow you to retake the exam after a 45-day waiting period. Below are the details about the states that do not allow unlimited NCLEX attempts:

NCLEX Requirements by State

StateRestrictions/Additional Guidelines
AlaskaMust pass within two years of the first attempt; a remedial course required after continuous failure.
ColoradoThree attempts within three years; evaluation and possible additional courses required for a fourth attempt.
DelawareUp to five years for retakes.
FloridaA remedial course is required after three failed attempts.
GeorgiaA remedial course is required after three failed attempts.
HawaiiMust pass within two years of the first attempt; a remedial course is required after continuous failure.
IllinoisThree-year time frame to pass the exam; additional education and reapplication if unsuccessful.
IndianaBoard review procedure after three failed attempts.
KentuckyReapplication and additional requirements after multiple unsuccessful attempts.
LouisianaLimited attempts for practical nurses with re-enrollment after failure.
MichiganThree years to pass; certification or extension might be required after.
MinnesotaNo limit, but a test retake request is required within eight months.
MississippiUp to six attempts within two years.
MissouriRemedial course was required after three failed attempts.
NevadaUp to four test attempts.
New HampshireFive attempts allowed, including those in other states.
New JerseyRemedial training after three failed attempts.
New MexicoUp to three attempts within three years.
OklahomaFive attempts are allowed, including those in other states.
OregonThe time limit for exam retake or refresher course required.
TennesseeThe three-year limit for passing the NCLEX.
TexasAdditional education after four years of graduation if unsuccessful.
UtahPass within five years or additional education required.
VermontAdditional education if not passed within five years.
West VirginiaRemedial activities after two failures; evidence of courses after four failures.
WyomingUp to 10 attempts within a five-year period.
1-1 NCLEX Tutoring
Personalised study plan and expert NCLEX tutoring with regular feedback and progress updates

B. Studying Strategies

As you prepare for your retake, consider revising your study strategies. Reflect on what worked and what didn’t during your initial preparation. Maybe it’s time to explore different study resources or techniques. Some students benefit from enrolling in refresher courses or seeking personalized NCLEX tutoring to target their specific weaknesses.

Utilizing NCLEX practice questions and review materials can help you gauge your readiness for the NCLEX and build your confidence. Remember that the NCLEX is a comprehensive exam covering many nursing topics, so effective study habits are essential.

With determination and an improved study plan, many nursing students who initially fail the NCLEX go on to pass successfully on their subsequent attempts. Failing the first time doesn’t define your nursing career; it’s just a hurdle to overcome.

Final Takeaway

In conclusion, failing the NCLEX may feel like a setback, but it’s just one chapter in your nursing journey. The key is to recognize the signs, understand the impact, and be prepared for the next steps. You can overcome this hurdle with determination and a solid plan.

If you’re looking for personalized guidance to ace your NCLEX, consider Medic Mind’s NCLEX tutors. With a track record of success, expert tutors, and tailored study plans, they can help you become a registered nurse. Don’t let a setback define your future. Take that first step towards success—book a free call with an NCLEX tutor now and kickstart your NCLEX preparation. Your nursing career is within reach.


Will failing the NCLEX affect my chances of finding a nursing job?

Answer: Failing the NCLEX doesn’t have a direct impact on your job prospects in the long term. Many nursing graduates who initially fail the NCLEX go on to pass and have successful nursing careers. However, it may delay your entry into the workforce. Employers typically require you to pass the NCLEX before working as a registered nurse, so you’ll need to retake and pass the exam before starting your nursing career.

Is it common to fail the NCLEX on the first try?

Answer: Yes, it’s relatively common for some nursing students to fail the NCLEX on their first attempt. Statistics show that around 20% of NCLEX-PN and NCLEX-RN test-takers failed on their first try in 2022. Failing the NCLEX on the first attempt is not uncommon, and it doesn’t reflect negatively on your abilities as a nurse.

What support is available for students who fail the NCLEX?

Answer: If you fail the NCLEX, various support options are available. Consider enrolling in NCLEX review courses, seeking personalized tutoring, or joining study groups. Additionally, many nursing schools offer resources and guidance to help students prepare for a retake. It’s crucial to take advantage of these support networks to increase your chances of success.

Can I appeal my NCLEX exam results if I believe there was an error?

Answer: Typically, there is no provision for appealing NCLEX exam results. The exam is computer-adaptive, and the scoring process is carefully monitored to ensure accuracy. However, you can request a reread of your exam, but this is a rare process and involves additional fees. It’s essential to focus on preparing for your retake rather than seeking an appeal.

RNolan Profile picture
Rebecca Nolan
Group Content Manager
Certifications: BA History of Art, PGCE Education, PGC Advanced Educational Practice
Education: University: University of East Anglia
Lives in: London

Rebecca studied at History of Art at UEA before deciding on a career in education. Having worked with children from 3-18 years old, she has worked both in the UK and international schools including Dubai and Zurich, where she was Head of Primary. Rebecca has extensive knowledge in curriculum design and has worked with various curricular models including English National Curriculum and International Baccalaureate.

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