Failed The NCLEX? You Might Read This Guide to Succeed.

Need more help? Failed the NCLEX before? If you live in Illinois, I am extending a special NCLEX offer. Take a look!

You might be reading this because you’ve failed the NCLEX. (If you haven’t, skip down to get to the study tips).

There’s nothing quite like the moment you find out and read it on the screen or in your mail. It’s shocking.

Then it gets heartbreaking. You spent all that time reviewing and studying for the NCLEX.

You won’t be able to help the self-doubt and negativity from dominating your thinking for a while.

But you need to know this:

Your nursing journey is not over until you give up. You can recover from this!

You can become a nurse – just a little bit later than you were planning. There’s a clear path to where you’re wanting to be.

I know it sounds far off right now, but I’m telling you there are clear steps to get there.

Here’s what this guide will show you:

  1. I’ll first prove to you that you’re far from being alone in this situation.
  2. I will also prove that you CAN pass the NCLEX and bounce back from this.
  3. At the same time, you need to understand what you’re up against and how the statistics look for you.
  4. Then, I’m going to go back to basics: how to study for the NCLEX correctly (also, what NOT to study).
  5. Next, I’m going to teach you how to tell if the NCLEX study source you’re using is too easy.
  6. Finally, I’ll review some very simple AND actionable ways to eliminate test anxiety.

Why You Shouldn’t Beat Yourself Up About Failing the NCLEX

Before I start telling you what to do and all that, there’s something you HAVE to know.

Failing the NCLEX happens to SO MANY PEOPLE!

Let me show you:

Here are the pass rates released by the NCSBN for 2016.

You can click on that link if you want, but here’s what you need to see:

In 2016, 81.43% of First Time Test Takers taking the NCLEX-RN passed – which means the rest (18.57%) failed. See below:

168,642 candidates took the NCLEX-RN for the first time. 81.43% passed.

168,642 candidates took the NCLEX-RN for the first time. 81.43% passed.

That’s 31,316 people who failed the NCLEX in just a single year.

And if you add the NCLEX-PN (which had similar pass-fail percentages), that’s another 7693 students who failed, for a total of 39,009 students who failed in one year!

How big was your nursing class? 50 students? 39,009 equals more than 780 whole 50-person nursing classes who failed.

If your nursing class was closer to 25 students, that’s over fifteen hundred whole nursing classes who failed the NCLEX that year alone!

Here’s another way to think about it:

About 15% of people failed (100% minus 84.57%). That’s 1 person per every 6 to 7 people.

How big was your nursing class? If it had at least 14 people, about 2 people would have failed. If it was 21 or more, 3 people should have failed. And so on.

So already you’re not alone, despite all the Facebook posts and celebration messages from the people who passed.

Chances are, two or even more of your classmates have failed too – they’re just keeping quiet.

Remember, the people who’ve failed aren’t going to be broadcasting it. There is a silent minority of people like you, even amongst your classmates.

So remember this:

Thousands of people fail the NCLEX every year. Many thousands. You’re far from alone.

Here’s Proof You Can Pass The NCLEX

Thousands and thousands of people have failed, but then passed when they tried again. How do I know?

You guessed it:

Let’s look at the NCSBN Pass Rates again!

31,204 repeat test takers passed the NCLEX in 2016.

31,204 repeat test takers passed the NCLEX in 2016.

Look closely at that screenshot. To sum it up, in 2016, over 30,000 repeat test takers passed the NCLEX. 31,204 to be exact.

That’s a familiar number…it’s close to the number of people who failed (39,009, remember?)!

Here’s what that means:

About 39,000 students failed the NCLEX for the first time in 2016. Yet another 30,000 students passed the NCLEX in 2016 after already failing in the past!

That’s amazing news! That’s a humongous amount of people who turn around and pass after a failed attempt.

So could you end up being one of those 30,000 people who recovered from failing the NCLEX? YES, you can!

But…there is a warning I must give you.

There is a Reason Why You Failed the NCLEX

Over the years of talking to students, I’ve noticed patterns.

There are 5 tell-tale signs of someone who is likely to fail the NCLEX:

  • School Quality: Graduated from a low-performing nursing school (NCLEX pass rate less than 85%)
  • Graduation Date: You graduated from nursing school more than 6 months ago.
  • School Location: You were educated outside of the U.S.
  • Repeat Test Taker: If this is not your first NCLEX attempt.
  • Confidence Level: If you feel you haven’t retained enough information from nursing school.

I have students who come to me after failing repeatedly, and each time they’ve bought different classes, books, etc. 

Here’s what they fail to realize:

Your success on the NCLEX depends A LOT on your nursing school background.

And I mean a LOT.

When people repeatedly fail the NCLEX, I almost ALWAYS notice that they’ve been to a poor-performing nursing school, or they attended school outside the U.S., or it’s been a really long time since school. 

Look at this: nice looking school, right?

Well, take a look at the published pass rates, especially 2017 and 2018. Dismal. 38% of their class of 115 passed: 44 students. Which means the rest, 71 students, failed.

Coincidentally, 71 out of 72 students passed from the community college listed below that school – which was a 99% pass rate. What a difference!

This is one of many, MANY nursing schools with bad NCLEX performance measures.

What all this means is this:

You might have a poor foundation of nursing knowledge to begin with, and you might not have even known it. 

No 5-day NCLEX review is going to make up for a lack of 2 years of quality education, right?

I know this is not what you want to hear, but:

You need to realize that you might need to start from the beginning. Build up your nursing knowledge from the ground up. No shortcuts, no magic products that will make you pass the NCLEX…just hard, consistent, disciplined learning.

You might need to put yourself through nursing school again, but on your own this time. And that’s how you’ll pass the NCLEX.

“It is What it Is…but What Will Be Is Up To Me”

Statistics do not apply to individual outcomes. Just because so many people statistically pass or fail, the only thing that decides whether YOU pass or fail is completely dependent on your actions.

You have a lot of work ahead of you. If you look at the screenshots, you’ll notice that only about 30-40% of repeat test takers actually passed. That’s not a really high number.

But again:

Statistics have no bearings on individual outcomes. What you do now and up until your next attempt will ultimately decide whether
you succeed.

What You Have To Do to Pass the NCLEX The Next Time

I’ll get straight to it: Do Something Different.

As I mention in my About page, I work as a nurse manager. What I don’t mention is that I manage a chemical dependency unit (a detox unit).

Patients come to my unit to safely withdraw from Alcohol, Benzodiazepene, and Opiate addictions.

As you might imagine, we have patients who frequently relapse – in other words, fail.

HOWEVER – recovery is always a possibility, no matter how difficult it seems.

And do you know what we tell our patients they need to do to recover?

Do something different!

Whether it’s going to a higher level of care after their detox, starting some relapse prevention medications, choosing a different support system, or picking new group therapy options, the main thing is not to do the same thing that didn’t help the first time.

You need to use the same principle. Analyze what you did to prepare for the NCLEX the first time.

The 4 Common Pitfalls That Will Ruin Your NCLEX Prep

  1. Did you mainly just study your nursing school notes? Did you maybe even go into too much detail in your studying, like you would in nursing school? Because the NCLEX isn’t like that.
  2. Did you study in a passive way versus an active way?
  3. Did you control your study environment?
  4. Did you practice NCLEX questions that were free, too easy, outdated, unorganized, or from an unreputable source?

These are common pitfalls that make up the main reason students fail the NCLEX. Let’s review each in more detail.

1. Why ONLY Studying Notes from Nursing School Is a Bad Idea

Have you noticed that nursing school can be kind of…random?

Teachers and instructors will kind of just choose chapters and subjects to test you on, and sometimes things that aren’t even in the book!

Not only that:

How well did your school cover the strategies that the NCLEX tests you on? Unless they had you use an NCLEX simulator of some kind, like the one that Platinum Tests offers, there’s really no way to know.

(Pro tip: You can find out more about my best-reviewed NCLEX products here. Platinum Tests in particular is the only company that I know of that has a true Computerized Adaptive Test system). This link is also posted at the end of this article if you want to go back to it.

Well, the NCLEX is not random. They tell you specifically what they’ll test you on, and then they do it.

When you’re studying some obscure subject that your nursing school thought it was important to test you on, and the NCLEX doesn’t ask about that stuff, you’re wasting your time.

Plus, consider this:

Your textbooks and school material go into a lot of detail. Too much detail. I’ve never once seen an NCLEX question asking about pharmacokinetics, mechanisms of actions, and detailed pathophysiology of diseases.

Yet, that’s what you’re tested on and what you study in nursing school. Not that that’s bad. It’s good and essential to know that.

But the NCLEX is not there to test your knowledge on science and biology.

To steal the words from Marlene Hurst’s review, the NCLEX really just wants to know that they can safely send you out to work in a hospital and you won’t kill anyone

It’s a licensure test. And what are licenses for? Licenses are to protect the public.

For example, think of a driver’s license: what is it for? To protect the public from people in cars who haven’t learned to drive!

The NCLEX is like the driving test of nursing.

Driving instructors don’t care if you know how the fuel injectors in the car works. They just want to make sure you can drive it without killing people on the road.


Knowing that, you can see why relying on your nursing school material could have been study overkill.

Using an NCLEX Review resource that is specifically purposed to teach NCLEX will better target the specific concepts and skills you need.

Better yet, if you would like to continue to self-study, please read my post about how to study for the NCLEX using the NCLEX Test Plan as your guide so you don’t get overwhelmed.  This link is also posted at the end of this article if you want to go back to it.

2. Changing How You Study can Make All The Difference

What do you imagine when you hear the word “studying?”

I know what came to my mind: somebody sitting in front of a desk with their face buried in a book.

Yes, that’s studying…but it’s the WRONG way to study. That’s passive studying.

There’s a better way. It’s called ACTIVE studying.

How Retrieval Practice can Turn the Tables

One of the best ways to actively study is by using active recall, or retrieval practice.

Both of those mean the same thing. Instead of just “soaking in” information, active recall forces you to bring up answers and concepts from your own memory.

In fact, here’s a study that says retrieval practice works better than making detailed concept maps (which nursing school loves to make you do).

Here are ways to actively study using retrieval practice:

  • Reading from a book…then teaching the subject to someone else who knows nothing about it in your own words, and making sure they understand.
  • Reading an outline…then re-writing the outline in your own words, avoiding looking at the original as much as possible.
  • Writing down notes…then coming back to them later…then quizzing yourself to remember them without looking at them.
  • Revisiting your notes…then covering up the right half the page with a piece of paper, then reading the left half out loud,
    then completing the right side from memory.
  • Watching a video…then pausing it every time something important is coming up and trying to predict what they’ll say using an educated guess.
  • Practicing NCLEX Questions…and making sure they are at the application level of examination to force you to make inferences and remember key concepts.
  • Listening to a lecture…and raising your hand first every time the teacher asks a question. Even if you don’t know the answer, try your best guess. Whether it’s right or wrong, you’ll learn more because you were actively involved, you got a little bit of adrenaline, and you just did retrieval practice.
  • The SIMPLEST way to use retrieval practice is to simply look away from your materials, and teach yourself the concept in your head. Step by step, example by example. Do it until you know without a doubt that you understand the concept.

But that’s not the only study strategy you need to know.

This is the Ace Student’s Secret Key To Success

You know those students who barely study, yet ace exams?

Those students who always seem to know the right answers during the lectures, who are just annoying because it looks so damn easy for them?

I have a confession:

I was one of those students. In high school, I aced all the to advanced classes.

In nursing school, I skipped most of the lectures for Anatomy and Physiology and just read the book.

Even now, in college level courses, I’m cutting corners big time.

The reason I’m telling you this is to show you that I know what I’m talking about when it comes to studying.

You know the cliche, “work smart, not hard?” That’s exactly what I’m getting at here.

Just because it looks easy, though, doesn’t mean I “just do it” like magic.

There’s a very important process that I use, and I’ll try to break it down for you.

Scaffolding Will Supercharge Your Learning

Have you ever seen scaffolding in real life? It’s a structure of smaller parts, basically, connected to each other from various angles or on top of one another to make strong support system:

Group of men climbing on scaffolding

To learn properly, you need to structure your learning the same way.

This is so important:

When you learn, you absolutely must connect what you’re hearing or reading to what you’ve previously learned.

You have to make time to do this. If you read or hear something new, and you’re not 110 percent sure you understand, then STOP.

Go back to the last paragraph, go back a slide, stop the teacher, or rewind the video.

Learn it until you are absolutely sure you can connect the concept to what you already knew.

A lot of students don’t do this!

Think of a time during a lecture where you reached a point where you didn’t quite connect with the concept the teacher just told you.

But, instead of speaking up, you (and other students) let it pass and the teacher moved on.

What happened for the rest of the lecture? You were lost!

Some of the rest of the lecture was wasted, because while you can partially keep up, you were still missing part of the puzzle piece.

In that situation, you stopped scaffolding correctly.

Self-studying is the same way: one thing built on top of another, connecting to each other until you have a full understanding.

So if you miss even one part of the scaffolding, you undermine your full understanding.

A lot of students will make this mistake when self-studying:

They’ll read something, and they don’t fully understand or connect with it. But instead of STOPPING, going back, and making connections, they keep reading, hoping it’ll come clear later. That does not happen!

Suddenly, you’re halfway through a chapter of your textbook and you feel like you understand nothing.


That’s because you lost your scaffolding the first page in and didn’t even realize it.

Now, here’s another important concept:

Combining Scaffolding with Retrieval Practice Double Supercharges Your Learning

Remember how I said you have to know the material 110 percent before moving on? But how do you know you know it 110%? Using retrieval practice!

As you learn, or scaffold, new things, you can do retrieval practice on-the-go.

To do it really quickly: pause, look away from the textbook, or whatever you’re learning from. Now, teach yourself the information in your head.

If you can walk through it and understand step by step without reading or referencing anything, you’re good to move on!


Ask yourself now: Do I really remember what retrieval practice is?

Look away from the screen. In your head, walk through how retrieval practice works and examples of using it. Or say it out loud. Or jot it down somewhere in your own words. Or teach it to someone near you.

If you can’t do it, but you keep reading this article anyways, then you’re not scaffolding the right way. Go back, read, and understand retrieval practice before reading on.

Get the process now?

Okay, continuing on: let’s combine scaffolding with retrieval practice. 

STOP RIGHT NOW AGAIN. Do you even understand scaffolding 110%?

Because just now, I mentioned combining scaffolding with retrieval practice. If you don’t understand scaffolding, you won’t be able to understand what I’m about to say.

So look away, and see if you can walk yourself through what scaffolding is (and situations where people fail to do it) in your head. Once you’re done, continue.

Congratulate yourself. You just combined scaffolding with retrieval practice!

You first learned about retrieval practice. You then moved on to learning about scaffolding.

But you also had to connect (or scaffold) the two together into a combined concept: using both together. Before you could do that, though, you HAD to use retrieval practice twice to make sure you understood both concepts 110%.

After you finish learning an advanced concept, it’s good stop right at the end, and retrieval practice the whole thing once over again.


Walk yourself through what retrieval practice means, and examples of how to do it.

Then walk yourself through scaffolding and what that means.

Finally, review how you would combine scaffolding with retrieval practice.

That was one last set of nails to keep your what you learned cemented in your memory.

You can make it even better using the other retrieval practice methods I gave you examples of in that section.

I hope you were able to keep up! But if you couldn’t, just stop, go back, take your time with it. It’s as easy as that.

By doing this, you can avoid rote memorization, which is the worst way to learn things.

It might all seem very weird and unnatural, but once you get used to it, you will avoid wasting your time learning without understanding and
you’ll do it faster and faster.

The whole point of this process is to learn things right the first time.

That’s how those annoyingly “smart” students do it. They don’t waste time because they do it right the first time.

3. Successful Students Optimize Their Study Environment by Doing This

Remember the ace student again?

There’s another thing they do.

They know where and when they learn best, and they make it happen.

Note that I said “where” and “when.” Both are important.

But how do you find your ideal study environment? How do you know when you have the sweet spot?

It’s easy: your sweet spot is wherever and whenever you can keep your focused 100% for one hour of quality study.

One hour. Of quality study. One hour? That’s it? Yes.

There is such a thing as overstudying.

If you’re doing real, quality studying (with scaffolding and retrieval practice), one hour is pushing most people’s limit without a break.

In fact, if you find that you’re getting too scattered to focus even in less than an hour, just take a break.

You never want to do poor quality studying.

Remember, if you do it right the first time, you’ll save time in the end.

Now you just need to do some trial and error.

Think of a location you used to study. Were you able to do it without getting distracted for a full hour?

Whether it involves turning off your phone, disconnecting from the internet, holing up at the library, staying away from your study group, or locking yourself in a room, if you can’t focus for a full hour, you need to change your environment.

Man sitting on floor in an empty room on a laptop.

Know also that people have different levels of focus. Some people can sit in a busy Starbucks and focus for an hour. Good for them – that’s their
sweet spot.

If you’re bad at focusing, though, you’ll need to do more than them to control your environment.

Once you’ve found somewhere, sometime, or some condition where you were able to focus for a whole hour, REPEAT it.

That’s how you optimize your study environment. Find your sweet spot, then repeat until you have everything completely understood.

However, simply studying won’t get you completely past the NCLEX. There’s one more step.

4. Using The Right NCLEX Practice Questions Will Help You Learn Judgement

We’re going to move away from general study practices now and focus on the NCLEX again.

When it comes to NCLEX resources, you get what you pay for.

So if you pay nothing, what do you get? Pretty much nothing.

Here’s why:

You will never find a complete, well-packaged NCLEX practice bank for free.

Free material is usually offered to people to upsell them. They want to get you in the door with a sample, then sell you their complete product.

The exception to this is free material that is outdated, but that’s not very good either.

There are also websites that publish free NCLEX materials and make money from ad revenue.

However, the quality of their content is questionable. Most I’ve seen have way too many “easy” NCLEX questions.

The Problem with A Lot of NCLEX Resources You’ve Probably Used

Remember Bloom’s Taxonomy? Basically, it says that there are increasingly more difficult levels of testing understanding.

Vanderbilt University has a good description of bloom’s taxonomy here.

To sum it up, though, the levels are:

  1. Remember
  2. Understand
  3. Apply
  4. Analyze
  5. Evaluate
  6. Create

Studying for the NCLEX requires you to be learning at the application level or above.

Just take a look at page 2 of the 2016 NCLEX Test Plan for proof…

Bloom’s taxonomy for the cognitive domain is used as a basis for writing and coding items for the examination (Bloom, et al., 1956; Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). Since the practice of nursing requires application of knowledge, skills and abilities, the majority of items are written at the application or higher levels of cognitive ability, which requires more complex thought processing.

Knowing that, let’s return to my original point.

How many free NCLEX Practice Questions out there are going to be fully application level or above? Zero.

Even some less reputable paid resources don’t go as far to do this. So be careful what you buy and use for your NCLEX study.

To help demonstrate, here are examples of what NCLEX questions would look like in each category of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

  • Remember:

    Which of these is the normal range for a given patient’s White Blood Cell levels (in units of x 10^9/L)?

    1. 3.5 to 5.0

    2. 4.5 to 11.0

    3. 8.5 to 11.0

    4. 5.0 to 12.0

    5. .05 to 2.0


    This one is purely asking you to retrieve information (either facts or basic concepts).

    Yet, I’ve actually seen questions like these on some poorly written NCLEX prep sources.

    The correct answer is “2,” but you could have googled that easily.

  • Understand:

    A patient presenting with new-onset congestive heart failure who is placed on a fluid restriction asks you “what does this have to do with my heart condition?” What is your best response?

    1. “The reduced fluid intake will help improve your breathing.”
    2. “The reduced fluid intake will help lower your blood pressure.”
    3. “The lower the amount of fluid you have in your system, the lower your daily weight will be.”
    4. “The fluid restriction assists the diuretics to lower the amount of fluid in your system.”
    5. “The less fluid you have in your system, the easier it is for your heart to pump it.”


    This one is a lot harder than the first one, but not hard enough!

    You can still find the right answer after reading a Wikipedia article about Congestive Heart Failure.

    The correct answer is “5.”

    Answers “1,” “2,” and “3” describe specific measures of outcomes, but don’t actually describe the rationale behind fluid restrictions. Answer “4” merely repeats the effects of fluid restriction but does not describe the rationale.

    Only “5” pinpoints the main problem that it helps solve and properly describes how fluid restrictions help with CHF.

  • Apply:

    A patient that police brought into the emergency room today for alcohol intoxication for the third time in the last month has the following lab results. Which one would signal that this patient requires immediate intervention?

    1. Sodium: 130 mEq/L
    2. WBC: 3.5 x10^9/mcL
    3. Potassium: 2.3 mEq/dl
    4. Albumin: 3.2 g/dL
    5. Blood Alcohol Level: 350 mg/dL


    This question requires more thought. Simply knowing and understanding any one thing isn’t enough.

    You have to decide which of these lab results would be the biggest safety concern. You not only have to understand them, you have to compare them.

    The correct answer is “3” because a low potassium is the most life-threatening imbalance listed. The rest are all abnormal, but not as significant.

    The biggest distractor is “5” because of the high level, but the question tells you that the patient is there for repeated alcohol abuse, and therefore will have built a tolerance to alcohol.

    A level of 350 mg/dL is not uncommon for these types of patients.

  • Analyze:

    As you administer morning medications to one of your patients, he tells you that he is having palpitations that gradually worsened since yesterday. You know that this patient started taking furosemide 3 days ago to reduce leg swelling. What is your best immediate response?

    1. Raise the head of the patient’s bed
    2. Notify the healthcare provider about the patient’s complaint
    3. Obtain the EKG machine
    4. Obtain a copy of his latest Comprehensive Metabolic Panel.
    5. Hold this administration of furosemide.


    This question takes it one step up. You have to connect multiple dots to arrive at the correct answer, which is “5.”

    You have to know and understand that furosemide is a potassium-wasting medication.

    You also have to know that palpitations can be a sign of low potassium. You then ALSO have to choose the best first action. Even though all of the other answers are correct, you have to choose the highest priority intervention.

    In order to not cause additional harm to the patient, you have to hold the next dose of this medication that could potentially be threatening the patient’s safety.

    Remember the purpose of the NCLEX. They want to make sure you know how to keep the public safe. The first step in keeping them safe is by not harming patients further.

Do you see the difference in difficulty and critical thinking to answer the Apply and Analyze questions? NCLEX questions are at this level.

All too often, I see questions like the first and second one that merely test for knowledge and understanding.

This question is a screenshot off of my review of Brilliant Nurse (a paid NCLEX Review site). What level of Bloom’s Taxonomy is it?

Here’s a cheater’s way of making sure an NCLEX question is good enough:

  • If you can Google it to find the answer right away, it’s a “Remember” question.
  • If you can Google it and have to read an article to know the answer, it’s an “Understand” question.
  • If you can’t Google it to find the answer at all, you’ve got a good NCLEX question!

Hopefully those examples will help you learn to judge NCLEX practice materials so you can avoid the pitfall of practicing questions that are too easy.

What About Test Anxiety? 

You get to 75 questions, and the test’s not over. You’re nervous.

You get to 100. Still not over. Now you’re in panic mode.

You feel like you’re reading through tunnel vision. You feel like your brain is pressing in on itself. There’s a little running dialogue in the back of your mind telling you things you don’t want to hear.

That’s test anxiety. Have you had this problem?

Here’s what you need to know. Breathing techniques are great. Anxiety reduction techniques are great.

…But The BEST Cure for Test Anxiety?


I’m talking about thorough, slow, methodical preparation using some of the methods I told you about in this article.

Only you know how much preparation you need.

How anxious are you when you get ready to do something you KNOW you’re good at, or you’ve been really well-prepared for?

Not very anxious, right?

That’s how well you need to prepare for this.

The more anxious you are, the more it might be an indication that deep down you know you’re not ready yet.

Remember: here are some indicators that might mean you need to be even more prepared.

    • Graduation Date: Graduated from nursing school more than 6 months ago.
    • School Location: Educated outside of the U.S.
    • School Quality: Graduated from a low-performing nursing school (NCLEX pass rate less than 85%)
    • Repeat Test Taker: If this is not your first NCLEX attempt.
    • Confidence Level: If you feel you haven’t retained enough information from nursing school.

Remember: slow, methodical, preparation.

Depending on your situation, you might need to completely rebuild your education from the ground up – almost like re-doing nursing school on your own.

Can you do that with a question bank and a 3-5 day course, like a lot of students try to do?

It’s doubtful.

Unfortunately there are just no shortcuts around the NCLEX.

So that is my last piece of advice. Give yourself the time, and make a long term commitment to rebuild your nursing foundation.

I’ll post links at the end of this article that can help you on that journey.

Summary: Here are the Must-Haves for a Solid NCLEX Prep

Whether you choose to do your own NCLEX Review or seek professional help, here are the most important things you have to know and do.

  • There is Hope If You’ve Failed. This is for those of you who’ve failed the nclex. I’ve shown you how many people fail, how many people bounce back and pass, and the indicators that caused you to fail.
  • Learn the Right Things. The NCLEX wants to make sure you’re safe to practice nursing in public. No more, no less. Knowing this will guide your study choices and prevent you from overlearning.
  • Use Smart Study Skills. Scaffolding and Retrieval Practice are two advanced learning strategies that you should use for the rest of your life.
  • Control Your Study Environment. You can do all of the above right, but if you can’t create a focused study environment, you’ll fail.
  • Study NCLEX At Application Level or Higher If you don’t, you’re not studying for the NCLEX, because that’s how the NCLEX tests you.
  • Conquer NCLEX Anxiety through Preparation. If you don’t try to shortcut the studying process, and prepare as thoroughly as you should, that will be the best way to reduce anxiety. 

I really hope these guidelines elevate your understanding and equip you with the skills to prepare for your next pass at the NCLEX!

The End!

I hope this is helpful to you. PLEASE – if you have any suggestions on more ways to recover from failing the NCLEX, share in the comments.

Please also share your personal experience with failing (or passing) the NCLEX. I would love to hear it.

Also, if you feel you need more guidance, this article about leveraging the NCLEX Test Plan to prepare for the NCLEX on your own will really help.

Please also read my recommendations for the best NCLEX prep programs and best NCLEX books.

Until next time!


Need more help? Failed the NCLEX before? If you live in Illinois, I am extending a special NCLEX offer. Take a look!


  • Hi I am L
    L.p.n. student I failed my exam please I need your help email your phone and how mush your reviews.

    • Kevin Pan says:

      Hello Raj, I don’t offer reviews myself. This website is a place for students to find and rate other reviews.

      I’d suggest looking through here. There you will find a list of existing NCLEX review companies that could help you.

  • olivia Roche says:

    I need your help I am canadian license I am international nurse I need your help how to apply for my RN licensure in texas please.

    • Kevin Pan says:

      Sorry Olivia,
      I won’t be able to help you with your licensure process! I would type in ‘texas board of nursing’ into your search engine and start your research there. Each state has a board of nursing that gives you their requirements.

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  • Tam says:

    Hi I am a repeat L.P.N test taker .I failed 2 times just wondering do I need a review class or just do question, question?????.

  • Mary L Thomas says:

    Failed first MCLEX-RN at 110 questions. Second time, 185 questions, passed in one area, “nearly passing” in all the others. I do have test anxiety. I know I panicked when the computer kept going because I had studied every day for hours, for months before the second try. I used Hurst and Uworld. I think I need test-taking strategies and test anxiety reduction methods. Any suggestions?

    • Olgs says:

      I’m having the same issue as Mary.. Any suggestion

      • Kevin Pan says:

        For test anxiety, I would recommend looking up some simple breathing techniques. It’s going to be very likely that when you get over 75 questions, you’ll start to worry. That’s okay. That’s normal.

        But you can’t allow it to affect your performance. So, breathe until you are ready to answer the next question. It’s better to take time and relax before even looking at a question than to rush through questions while you’re in an anxious state (you know you can’t think straight when you’re panicky!).

        While you’re breathing, reinforce yourself with simple, realistic, positive thoughts. “I can still pass. It’s not too late. Just need to think clearly. I can still pass. It’s not too late. Just need to think clearly.” That would be a good one to use.

        I’ll update the post with this and some useful breathing techniques. Great question, sorry I didn’t get back to you guys sooner!

    • Kevin Pan says:

      Read my response to Olgs. Sorry it took so long to get back. Are you still studying?

  • Jody says:

    Hi I am an Int’l nurse now studying for my re-exam for the NCLEX-RN and I am happy to come across you website. I have gotten some new look on my failure and what I can do to improve my chance at being successful at the NCLEX on my second attempted. I thank you for the reviews option since was about to purchase Remar and saw that no one has given a review on it. I will now use the original one that I had intentional taught of buying along with the Platinum simulator exercise.

    • Kevin Pan says:

      I’m glad to hear it was useful to you! Yes, I don’t have much experience with Remar at all. I hope you the best, and let us know how your NCLEX Review goes with the one you chose!

  • Lala says:

    Hi! Just glad I got the chance to check out your website. I failed my NCLEX year 2008 and now, 10 yrs after I am decided to re-take again. So much has changed but I am determined to make it this time.

    You made it look like its easy to focus ourselves to study the way you gave those retrieval technique and scaffolding idea. It was really great. And yes, I am one of the guilty few of doing self review and coming across something I don’t quite understand but going ahead hoping will get it later. It was totally not a good idea along.

    I’m in the process of completing the requirements. Juggling work and family. We all know the kind of stress and work we do in our profession plus going home with a toddler is somewhat draining.

    Wish me luck!

    • Kevin Pan says:

      Best of luck to you, Lala!

      I’m so glad my techniques seemed helpful to you – I wasn’t sure if they would be too in-depth and long-winded for most people.

      Yes, it’s a lot of stress but believe me it’s worth it once you have your brand new, exciting career.

      I really really hope you succeed. Keep it up!

    • LC says:

      Lala- Did you retake?

  • Melissa says:

    Hi repeat test taker here, failed my NCLEX-RN with 260 questions. Used ATI, Saunders and Uworld. I think I overstudied after reading this article. I have not gotten my CPR yet so I am unsure which topics I am not doing well in. Looking for advice for my next go around since I want to do something different! Considering Hurst? I don’t want to leave anything to chance this go around. Feeling better after reading this and the comments so thank you! Just trying to find a direction to go in and feeling overwhelmed with the options.

  • Autumn Haag says:

    I am wondering what other materials you suggest studying from, the program I graduated from strictly uses Kaplan Test Prep. I am a LPN who has now failed my RN boards twice. First time I got all 265 questions, this last time 80. I was genuinely surprised that I had failed, it was a hard blow needless to say, and now I am struggling. My husband went online of course to try and help and find answers and he found this website and told me to read. Now I am wondering what other study materials you recommend, because at this point I am willing to pay and study whatever. This is got be one of the lowest moments.

  • Ruthy says:

    I failed my nclex in Sept and I haven’t gotten around to taken it again since. So much has happened since then. Its been a year since I’ve graduated nursing school and I honestly feel so lost I don’t even know how or where to even begin to start planning again to study or take the nclex again. Any advice?

  • Duyen says:

    Hello Kevin,

    I am so glad I found your blog. I failed my Nclex exam for the 3rd time and I am having a hard time coming back from it. I’ve wasted a lot of time and money and I feel like I am letting my self and everyone that is supporting me down. I want this so bad! I am changing my study habits, and getting another source of Nclex prep. Can you tell me what you think about Uworld? I’ve been studying with Kaplan for the past tests and I do not like the rationales. Thank you, any other tips would be great too!

  • Zandra says:

    Hmm it appears like your site ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say,
    I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as
    well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still new
    to everything. Do you have any helpful hints for beginner blog writers?
    I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  • Tiffany Ewasiuk says:

    Hello Kevin! I took the NCLEX 6 years ago and failed … Recently I decided to start studying again to finally achieve my goal of becoming an RN. What is your advice for studyimg? Thank you!

  • Willy says:

    It’s actually a cool and helpful piece of info. I’m
    satisfied that you just shared this useful information with us.
    Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

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  • Gaurav says:

    Hello Kevin

    How long would you recommend to wait before giving the retake. 45 days are mandatory but would you suggest. I m international student and gave 1st attempt and computer closed on 95 questions and i failed.

  • Kate says:

    Hi Kevin I graduated from nursing school in 2013… and didn’t take my NCLEX. Long story short I would like to study and pass. I have ATI books from a couple years ago. Where and how should start?. I’d really appreciate the guidance!!

  • Yosufla says:

    OMG ! Thank you so much for your detailed and professional explanation. I am repeted NCLEX RN rest taker for the last one year , i was using u world and my self assessment was 74 %high chance of passing but I failed before a week again. I don’t know why and the exact my weakness . Pls kindly requesting you what do you advice me and I would be happy if u gaive me some tips about it. I am international graduate nurse.

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