What to Do if You Fail the NCLEX

You took the NCLEX and waited out that agonizing period to get your results. You looked to see what you scored and your stomach dropped. You failed the NCLEX. What happens now?
Getting the news that you failed the NCLEX can be overwhelming and emotional. It’s important to take some time to process your feelings in the immediate aftermath, and then to allow space for the acknowledgment that this is only a setback and does not mean you have lost all hope of being a nurse. Keep in mind that you have successfully completed your nursing program and you still have many opportunities to pass the NCLEX. Here’s what to do next. 

Process Your NCLEX Result

Even just a single day can make a big difference in your ability to process your NCLEX result and tackle the next steps. Give yourself some time to take in your results and reflect. It’s normal to feel discouraged and frustrated at this point, and you have to give yourself some time to sit with those feelings before you can move forward.

Choose a New NCLEX Test Date

Once you’ve taken a day to process your feelings (and maybe scream into a pillow), take some time to educate yourself on the formalities of retesting. You are allowed to take the exam up to eight times per year with a 45-day waiting period in between attempts, so all is not lost. 
The National Council will notify you about your options for retesting. Alternatively, you can visit NCSBN.org to find out details about the re-application process. Your school may also request that they are informed of the failure. Many schools have a process in place to assist you in the retesting efforts. Reaching out to your school early is key.

Review Your NCLEX Study Habits

Once you’ve solidified your new testing date, come up with an action plan to help you ace the NCLEX the second time around. Take a look at how much time you have, and come up with a solid study plan. 
First, reflect back on how you prepared for your first attempt. Failing the NCLEX may indicate that your study habits were not optimal. Identify your areas of opportunity, and be clear about how you will alter your approach for your next attempt. You may have tried to cram too much studying into too short a time, or you might have not studied enough. Make sure you carve out a proper amount of time to study far in advance of your next test date. 
Alternatively, you may need to brush up on concepts in a few specific sections. Identify these at the outset so you can better structure your study plan. Use your NCLEX Candidate Performance Report (CPR) to pinpoint which content areas you need to focus on. 

Create an NCLEX Study Plan

Next, create a study plan and a study calendar. It is important to create a plan that leads to your next test day and to stick to it. Be detailed with the activities included on the calendar and give them timeframes. 
The details of the study plan should focus on a deeper dive into the content that you are not confident in (especially those content areas in which you performed the weakest according to your NCLEX CPR), but should also include review and practice of content you feel is solid. Your plan should thread in test strategies and question practice. 
Your calendar should include at least 5 days of studying per week with 2 rest days. Do not study more than 6 hours a day, and make sure you take a break every 45-60 minutes, except when you take a full-length practice test. 
Here’s an example of one week of a study calendar:

Sunday  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
No prep today! Do something fun. 6 hours of content review. Start with your weakest or most uncomfortable areas.  6 hours of content review. Start with your weakest or most uncomfortable areas. No prep today! Do something fun. 3 hours of content review. 3 hours of test-taking strategy review.  Take a practice test. Spend 2 hours reviewing answers and explanations. Take a practice test. Spend 2 hours reviewing answers and explanations.

You should also consider enrolling in an NCLEX class, which will help you structure and target your prep effectively to get you ready for your NCLEX retest. 
[ RELATED: How to Study for the NCLEX in 30 Days ]

Retake the NCLEX

Walk into your retest with confidence, knowing that you have reevaluated your studying and prepared effectively. You’ll be more experienced with the structure and content of the NCLEX this time through. Don’t dwell on your past failure and focus instead on attacking each question one at a time, employing the strategies and concepts you have worked to master throughout your studying.