So You Failed the NCLEX: 4 Experts Teach You Your Next Step

I’m glad you found this page! Please check out my updated guide for students who failed the NCLEX. It has tons more specific, useful information about what to do next.

Have you tried and failed the NCLEX recently? It’s hard to figure out what to do next. It’s hard to even think about. Don’t give up! Here is some personal advice from 4 NCLEX professionals who understand what you are going through.

“I Failed the NCLEX. Now What?”

Sharonda Hankerson

Sharonda Hankerson,

Founder of A Holistic Approach to Beating the NCLEX:

First off, the word “fail” sounds super negative. How about we say “this was just not your time” to pass your nursing boards. I recommend these 10 vital steps to get you over the hill and on to passing the NCLEX:

  1. Think positive! Your time will come, so go ahead and get used to thinking of yourself as an RN/LPN.
  2. Think about what stressors or obstacles if any, you may anticipate facing. For example, child care issue, illness, relationship problems, financial burdens, etc. . . . How are you going to overcome them?
  3. Have a plan (Road Map to Success) and seek help (study with another friend/nursing student or take a NCLEX review course).
  4. Find your reason “WHY.” You will need this key information when you get discouraged and ready to call it quits.
  5. Use the power of Visualization: See yourself working in your favorite healthcare setting (Peds, OB, Med-Surg, OR, etc).
  6. Review your Candidate Performance Report
  7. Recognize your strengths and your weakness
  8. Consider how you previously studied and make changes
  9. Passing the NCLEX especially after a not successful result will take increasing your critical thinking skills, nursing knowledge, test taking tips and ways to decrease test anxiety (thru meditation and deep breathing exercises).
  10. Most importantly: “BELIEVE” in yourself

“Think positive! Your time will come, so go ahead and get used to thinking of yourself as an RN/LPN.” – Sharonda Hankerson, founder of ASET Consulting and NCLEX Coach at Brilliant Nurse. Post Tweet

Ben O'Connor

Ben O’Connor, RN, BSN

Co-founder of the NCLEX Mastery Mobile App:

First of all, I know and have worked with a lot of GREAT nurses that failed the NCLEX at least once (and a lot of bad nurses that passed the first time). The NCLEX does not measure your ability to be a great nurse, just your ability to take tests.

So why do people fail the NCLEX? There are a number of reasons, but one of the most important reasons is test anxiety and stress. I recommend anxiety reduction activities such as meditation. Remind yourself that in 10 years, you will be a great nurse and look back on this and laugh.

Many people focus on the information you are tested on, but this is a poor strategy because you have been learning this stuff for years! Instead, just focus on practice questions to learn strategies needed for this style of questions. It is important to practice every spare moment you get, such as with a phone app like NCLEX Mastery.

“The NCLEX doesn’t measure your ability to be a great nurse, just your ability to take tests.” – Ben O’Connor, RN, BSN Post Tweet

Jerald La Rose, iSuperLearn

Dr. Jerald la Rose,

Founder of iSuperLearn‘s NCLEX Review:

Consider it a minor bump along your chosen career path and treat it as a wake up call. Take a few days off {no studying!} to deal with the disappointment. Go to lunch and talk about it with a few friends. Work up a sweat and even punch a bag if you have to. It is important to get any negativity out of your system as one test can NEVER define you!!

Next, it is time to get serious and learn from the experience.

Review your Candidate Performance Report. What you are looking to do is drastically improve in those areas in which you were deficient.

If you have a review program, start with those deficient areas.

Commit to doing at least 2 hours of studying each day for the next 60 days and watch the magic that happens. It does not have to be a solid single block of 2 hours. 15 to 30 minutes study sessions may prove more effective.

Read your study notes just before you go to bed. This should not take you more than 15 minutes. Don’t try to memorize these notes. Just read them slowly and carefully. Upon awaking read the same notes again. This is a proven super learning technique to imprint the information in your memory.

Keep your focus and hold fast to becoming a medical professional. Never give up on your dreams or on yourself.

Schedule the NCLEX when you feel that you are ready but do not procrastinate for longer than 6 months.

Best wishes for your continued success.


“Keep your focus and hold fast to becoming a medical professional. Never give up on your dreams or on yourself.” – Dr. Jerald la Rose, iSuperLearn Post Tweet

Sarah Ann Lewis, NCLEX Tutor at Myguru

Sara Ann Lewis ARNP, LMHC

NCLEX Tutor at MyGuru Tutoring:

First, I want you to know that you are not alone. The NCLEX exam is a very difficult test and the way you are tested in nursing school doesn’t necessarily prepare you for the kind of critical thinking needed to be successful on the NCLEX. Many students do not pass the first time through and for a variety of reasons.

I like to talk with students and explore many different areas, including how you did in nursing school, where you think your weaknesses are, what areas of nursing you did the best and worst in, what their post exam letter said about their performance on the exam, etc. I also like to explore any learning difficulties you may have, along with self-confidence, test anxiety and your ability to be detail oriented.

Then I suggest you take an NCLEX exam I provide that you have never seen before to get an idea of where your scoring is, as well as to identify where there may be holes in your learning. I recommend focusing on learning techniques to answer the various kinds of NCLEX questions, which I do with my students when I work with them individually, and the different ways questions are asked. In working on actual NCLEX questions together with my student, as they read them out loud, I am able to get a feel for where you need to study more and where you can improve your confidence.

Once a student has failed the NCLEX, confidence in their own abilities decreases. It takes someone outside your regular circle of family and friends to push you and help you to realize you really are knowledgeable.



“It takes someone outside your regular circle of family and friends to push you and help you to realize you really are knowledgeable.” – Sara Ann Lewis ARNP, LMHC, MyGuru NCLEX Tutoring Post Tweet

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  • Meg Cross says:

    I certainly agree Ben! anxiety and stress really contributes on the outcome when taking NCLEX. In addition, the result really does not define what kind of Nurse you will be. It is ONLY a test! Although we give importance to it because of the standard process in the society, your career and what you can provide to your patients still depend on your attitude, commitment, ownership, respect, integrity and excellence!

  • Jonathan says:

    Here are 2 mobile apps to review practice NCLEX questions

    The links to the mobile app are below: For Apple For Android

  • Jeanine Badal says:

    I did fail the exam and I am about to choose a review course.I know I will do better this time.Thanks for all the support.

  • Kettlecorn60 says:

    While I can surely appreciate all the encouraging advice here, no one truly knows the gut wrenching pain and heartache that results from repeated failed attempts at conquering this test! I am an adult learner, successfully raised three intelligent college grads and this is my second degree. I passed my ACCELERATED nursing program LAST summer(!!), (while working over 20 hours/week) and I am the ONLY person still waiting to pass my NCLEX and find a job! Although I did succeed in school, (just shy of a 3.5 GPA), nothing makes me feel like a failure as much as this. I am starting to question my reasons for starting on this journey over a decade ago, and even considering a new career path.

    Yes, I have taken review coursES, tried a recent online review, before the last test, and nothing has proved helpful yet! All of my prior classmates are younger and have moved on. Since I am one of only a few adult, second career learners, I have been “on my own”. I cannot fathom going through another heart wrenching waiting period now and then giving it all I have left inside of me to study again, only to anticipate failing, once again. I have begun to doubt anything I do and confidence has plummeted! My own grown girls (3 successful grads) and husband don’t really have a clue where I’m at, which doesn’t help matters! I haven’t quit yet, but am very close! Open to suggestions for help!
    P.S. My resources are very limited since I am the only one working…

    • Kevin Pan says:

      Thank you for sharing this with us. I’m so so sorry to hear about the terrible experience you’ve been having – it does sound very difficult. I do really wish I could help!

      I’ll forward this comment to some instructors and resources I’ve kept in contact with – and see I can come up with any ideas to help, that won’t break your already-strained bank. I’m glad you haven’t quit yet, and you’re doing the right thing – reaching out for help!

      As a concerned person, my only other piece of advice is to communicate with your family members – let them know what is happening. Think about what barriers are preventing you from talking to them about this – it’s not healthy going through this stressful situation alone if you have the opportunity to use support from your close ones.

    • Tammy says:

      Dear Kettlecorn 60:

      I completely understand where your coming from and I truly feel your pain.You are not alone my friend. When i read your situation I felt like the same thoughts and frustrations were being pulled from my very own brain. I to am an older graduate and a late career changer. I’m the last one in my nursing class that has not passed this wretched nclex exam. I have taken this test 4 times now with failed results. I have spent a ton of money on reviews (hurst, kaplan, ATI and ncsbn) and my time to try and pass this test with failed results. I believe i’m a strong person but this test has started to beat me down quite a bit. I also considered going back to college but i’m 55,000 in debt with nursing, i don’t want to add to it. Here I am with no absolution or solution. I tried everything trust me. I wish you all the best in your future. If any one has any suggestions I’m open to anything within cost and reason too. Im going back in 45 days to retake this nclex. I don’t want to give up but if i don’t pass this next time. I’m done….

      Thank you

      • Jackie says:

        You sure are not alone. I have taken it twice more than a decade ago for my RN and have never gone back. I stayed with my LPN license and everyone around me has children I have seen grow who have even gone into this career and passed, yet I have not. So you are not alone. I am not considering taking it again and found this page. Let’s see how it goes.

        • tammy says:

          Sorry to hear that Jackie, like i said i better pass this next time or I’m done. To be honest, I wished i would have pursued LPN or Lab Technician instead of RN. At least I could have done a LPN to RN bridge program instead of straight RN program, like you I would still be working as a nurse regardless of the outcome of the RN Nclex. My RN degree is useless without the license. It’s all frustrating and embarrassing at this point.
          Thanks for the response

      • mon says:

        I just want to say I am so glad I found this page. I just found out today I didn’t pass for the 4th time. I don’t know what to think I am so confused and mad. This is what i have ever wanted is to become a nurse. I can’t pass this test its for my LPN.

  • Barbara says:

    My daughter just took and failed NCLEX her first time. She had 265 questions, did the Saunders review. Now she will try Hurst. She has testing anxiety. But now knows what to expect.

  • shaun says:

    Hi, I took the RN NCLEX 24 Jun 2014, I failed at 130 questions. I saw mostly select all, priority questions, and delegationquestions up to question 45, at 46 up to around 60 I had a mixture of hard and easier questions and became nervous. I am not the best test taker so I usually review with the better test takers before an exam and if they have the same info as me, I felt more confident taking exams, the results were usually A’s and B’s. The board took long to send out my ATT so id din’t test with my classmates, that alone freaked me out, now I am like why? makes no sense to me now but I did it to myself, I should looked at it as more time to review. I did Hurst and ATI, ATI was part of our school program, I did Hurst on my own. I will say for me both Hurst and ATI are very accurate with the testing style of questions and information you learn. SO once I got to question 76 and my NCLEX screen didn’t time out I freaked out and felt that since my other classmates said they timed out at 75 I should have the same results. I should have taken a break and relaxed my mind, I really believe that the questions I had on my exam were all material I saw in school and on the review from Hurst and ATI. I am still feeling down but everyday that goes by I am getting back into attack mode, my challenge is just the NCLEX, I know what it is like and I am not afraid of it. I will do another 45 day review with Hurst and ATI, and I will pass. I am not focused on timing out at 75 like everyone says they do, if I have to go to 265, then 265 it will be. So many people lie about their NCLEX results, I was so caught up with timing out at 75 that I got my nerves all wired up because I wanted bragging rights, forget all that stuff. I am in this sinking boat because I let other people fool me and I knew better. My school has a 95 percent 1st time pass rate so this made me feel like I won’t be a good nurse, however after a couple days of talking to some of the best nurses I know they told me they also failed the 1st time, I work with Army Nurses and several of them told me the same thing, they failed their first time, so don’t believe the hype of timing out at 75 and everyone in the world passed 1st time is a big fat lie. I think I need a couple more days to fully accept this failure and snap back into attack mode, I survived 2 yrs of Baghdad and saw my life flash before my eyes day after day, I am healthy my family is healthy and I have a job and good friends so NCLEX doesn’t own me or you, it knocked us down but we are fighters we never quit, we step back assess the situation and refocus and we get back in the game . Good luck to everyone out there, God has a plan for all of us. Never give up!!!

  • Tricia says:

    I took my nclex exam august 26th for the first time and i wasnt successful. I am feeling very discouraged. I’m not giving up and for right now i’m giving myself a mental break before i start studying again.

  • Liza says:

    I also failed the nclex earlier this month. I been trying to study the areas I was weak in. It takes a lot of courage to schedule the exam once again but to go back to study for it once more. A student who recently graduated from my nursing program told my cohort that you might not get for dream job or pass the nclex on the first shot but remember that you will become a nurse in the end. Keep going and don’t wave your white flag yet.

  • zhel says:

    I just got my results yesterday and failed the first time. I’m a foreign educated nurse, graduated 5 years ago. It’s hard to refresh everything I’ve learned in all areas of nursing within 3 months of studying time I spent, juggling a full-time house mom duties and taking care of a toddler. I probably rushed taking NCLEX sooner, forced it and wished for some luck. I know what I sure know and the test did hit me with questions I missed focusing on during my studying period. Life sucks sometimes. I’m now trying to collect myself, getting the courage to get up on my feet and get the confidence so I can get it the second time around. I took Hurst review and will probably do their remedial course. They did help me know the core content. They can’t provide everything as what they said, I also have to work on my own. A lot harder this time.

  • mano says:

    Hi just found out I didn’t pass my nclex pn it was my question 1st time taking it. I feel so bad and very disappointed in my self. Can’t see to do it all over again. Need some encouragement please thanks

  • smith says:

    i took my nclex feb 9th with 265 questions, and still didn’t pass. i felt very ashamed , embarrassed to share this info with any one , yet i had to answer 4 job interviews the following day, to say sorry i cant ,I FAILED MY NCLEX …. this was the worst feeling i had in my entire life, i never had severe test anxiety, but the day of nclex i was a nerve wreck , my palms sweating , tachycardia, shortness of breath, wanted to throw up the entire time i was there. one more thing that affected me is English is my 3rd language , when my anxiety kicked in i couldn’t think of a single word in English, it all was in my native tongue, i would read the question 4 times but yet cant make any sense in my head.
    i’m kinda lost of where to go from now , i know my content was good maybe not great , but i’m holding hope after 265 maybe i didn’t fail miserably i just needed little more to show i can pas this test
    if anyone has any help please, help me

  • buckeyegirl says:

    I recently just took the exam on Monday and got 265 questions to later found out that I did not pass. It is a horrible feeling and a feeling of disappointment. But I am writing today to ask what new approaches people took the second time around. I have previously used the Saunders book, taken a review course and some kaplan questions. I am now trying Mosby’s flashcards and an alternative format book. Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated!!!

  • bella naija says:

    I have not seen my results but I thought I should condition my mind to failing the test. I felt so horrible after taking it and I still do now but I am trying to recoup

  • Agnes says:

    My name Agnes I graduate June 2016 lvn 2 times I failed my nclex pn the last exam I had last March 15 2018 am crying a lot every time I take practice test on the computer my heart beats fast its tell me am I reading the correct reviewer coz I am so sad 😭

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