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How to Excel after failing NCLEX-RN Exam on 1st attempt?

Failures come and go in our lives. Sometimes, we experience failure in our personal life at times in our professional life. Sometimes, they come earlier while we are young, wild, and free; other times when we are adults and less of a risk-taker as compared in our younger years. Regardless of the age and time failures occur in our respective lives, what matters most is how we respond to those failures. How do we cope after failing an examination? What do we do next? It does not matter whether you do something good about that failure right away like retaking the examination again as soon as you can or take some time to let it go, recover in your own good time, and then retake it several years later. Here some tips and facts you can begin with as you start over again.


Tip 1: Pick up the broken pieces.

“When I found out that I failed the NCLEX I didn’t find much information other than bits and pieces of what to do or expect, and I felt completely lost at first.”

Cry if you feel like crying. Sleep and get enough rest right after knowing that you were unsuccessful in your NCLEX-RN examination. The process of applying for the NCLEX was not a piece of cake but you finally got to take the examination after the long wait. However, even though you went through all those tedious steps, you end up failing. It can be very exhausting and heart-breaking. Cry it all out. Express the hurt and sadness you feel. It is understandable that you may feel embarrassed and not talk about it but it will only prolong your recovery process. Talk to someone you trust and express how you feel after knowing you failed. It helps that you have someone with you to pick up the broken pieces. You do not need to put them back together. You just need to stand up once again and pick up where you left.

People have different ways of coping after a failure and we have different timelines. Some are able to get back on their feet less than a month, others less than a year and are able to retake the NCLEX-RN examination as soon as they can and as allowed by the state BON. There are others who find no strength to retake the exam again and completely give up only to recover several years later and decide to take again the NCLEX-RN exam. That’s alright. No one else defines what it means by “picking up the broken pieces” but only you. You can recover as fast as you can and retake the exam as soon as possible or you can take your time and heal in your own good time even if takes eight or more years later. The important thing is that you recover and you pick up the broken pieces so you can start over again. Suicide is never a cool option.

Tip 2: Know the facts and figures.

Well, you know that graduates in a nursing program must first pass the NCLEX-RN offered by Pearson Vue before they can be licensed in their state. If you are from a foreign country (outside the USA) and you finished nursing school outside the USA, even if you already have your own license to practice in your own country or another country other than the USA, you are still required to pass NCLEX-RN before you can be licensed to practice in your chosen state. How many nursing graduates in the USA and professional nurses from foreign countries do you think attempted to take the NCLEX-RN examination and failed? Statistics-wise, you are not alone. To date, the total number of first time US educated RNs who took the NCLEX-RN examination is 143,475, and 85.26% is the passing rate for 2016 (October to December 2016 excluded). There are 8,284 first time internationally educated RNs who took the NCLEX-RN examination this year and 37.49% is the passing rate. There are also repeaters who took the NCLEX-RN exam and the passing rate are as follows: 46.17% (repeater, US educated) and 22.29% (repeater, internationally educated). See the details from NCSBN NCLEX statistics. Read and compare with all the other NCLEX passing rates of the previous years. Was it ever 100% passing rate?

So like many others who did not make it the first time, start over again know the retake policy.

What is the retake policy?

The NCSBN retake policy allows candidates to retake their exam 45 days after administration of the exam. Candidates who have applied for licensure/registration with a participating board of nursing/regulatory body (BON/RB) will be permitted to take the NCLEX eight times a year, but no more than once in any 45-day period. This is unless the desired jurisdiction of licensure/registration only offers a limited amount of NCLEX exams per year. Candidates are encouraged to contact the BON/RB for their policy on NCLEX retakes.

(taken from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing)

Tip 3: Look back and ask, “what went wrong?”

Failing a major examination is always multifactorial. You cannot just say you failed because you are not smart enough or that your cognitive ability is now degrading. Reflect on what happened before and during your NCLEX-RN examination. Did you experience an illness? Have you been having lack of sleep? Was there a family crisis? Did you fail to review adequately for the examination? Were you distracted? Did you have severe test anxiety? By the time, you have realized what went wrong you can begin to say that you are now going to improve on that area. Before you can truly move on, you need to accept that something went wrong. Embrace that weakness and strengthen yourself.

Tip 4: Strategize.

Move on. Just move on. There is only one way to go… forward.

In moving forward, you need to learn the art of strategizing. Think about what works for you and what doesn’t. Ask yourself, “Am I ready to retake the exam?” “Is this what I really want?” “How am I going to improve my test-taking strategies?” “What areas am I weak?” “What areas am I strong?”

When you decide not to retake the NCLEX-RN exam within one year (or more) after you took the first NCLEX-RN exam and for certain reasons, find out from your chosen state’s BON their policy on NCLEX-RN retake. You might want to also transfer to a different state when you take again the NCLEX-RN exam. States vary in their retake policy and retake fees.

When you finally decide to retake the examination in the same state BON or maybe in another state BON, contact your chosen state BON and ask about their retake policy. Complete the requirements and pay for the retake fee. Wait for another “authorization to test” or the ATT and schedule your retake with Pearson VUE.

Take note, there are some states that may not allow you retake the NCLEX-RN examination and other states like New Mexico will advise you to have a pre-application self-assessment first.

Do not give up after the first failure. Try and try again until you achieve that long sought USRN license. Remember, you begin with picking up the pieces, know the facts and figures, look back and ask, “What went wrong?” Strategize and just start over again.

We, at Archer Review, are ready to help! Reach out and ask!

At Archer Review,we have developed an extensive Nclex Question bank with 2400 questions,extensive rationales for both correct and incorrect options,videos within some rationales to reinforce your knowledge via.audio-visual means,peer statistics to compare yourself with and assess your readiness.About 97% of nurses scoring more than peer average on successive tests of unused questions or scoring 52% to 54% cumulative on Archer Q-bank,have passed!. We can personally review your weaknesses and suggest strategies to improve.

Archer Apps are highly rated on App store and Playstore – access ARCHER NCLEX app here

And Guess What?? Archer Q-bank does not break your bank 🙂 Archer provides you all the above extensive features at just $25 for 3 months or $49 for 6 months or $79 entire year because “we care” and last thing we want you to have is additional financial stress!

Access some free Archer Resources here on ARCHER PLAYLIST on YouTube as well .

Best Wishes!


NCSBN. (2016). NCLEX and other Exams. Retrieved from ncsbn.org:https://www.ncsbn.org/1224.htm