I Failed My NCLEX Exam Now What?

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Alright, your results were not what you were expecting! Let me start by saying it’s a common thing for many candidates before they succeed in their next attempt. What are the next logical steps to pass the NCLEX exam on your next try? 

Start with the Candidate Performance Report (CPR). Analyze the content areas of the exam that require more effort. Focus on case studies and improving your clinical judgment skills. Study for the exam using a proper guide.  

In this article, I will help you discover ways to deal with this small setback and come back harder and smarter for your next NCLEX exam.  

Not Passing the NCLEX Exam — What’s the Next Step?

In case you’re still worrying, please understand there are things you can do to score well in your next attempt. So let’s start with some stats. The NCLEX exams have a pass rate in the range of 60 percent to 80 percent. 

So yes, it’s normal for candidates to not pass on their first attempt. I discuss the reasons why the NCLEX exam can be tough in this article. Feel free to check it, and these statistics will make sense.  

Okay, you did not pass the NCLEX exam! What’s the next step? Here is what you need to do:

Check the Candidate Performance Results (CPR) Report

This is a special report handed to attendees that did not pass the exam. Here is what a sample document looks like. Inside the file is a gold mine of information that you can use to improve your performance in the next NCLEX exam.

You already know there are five major content categories from which the CAT system chooses its questions.

On the final page of the report, there is the verdict from the NCLEX board based on their assessment of your CAT exam. Take some notes on the parts that require improvements.

On your next attempt, you must increase the time you spend studying for all the content categories that have the verdict of: “Near passing standard” and “Below passing standard.” 

A gentle note and a disclaimer, this doesn’t mean you should ignore other parts of the syllabus because they read “Above passing standard.” The NCLEX exam can be unpredictable due to how the CAT system works, so go fully prepared.

Some Technical Stuff You Must Know

The NCLEX board stipulates that there must be at least 45 days of gap between each examination you take. 

And when you can take your next exam is determined by the Nursing Regulatory Body (NRB) and National Council for State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). 

So speak with officials from the NRB before you sit in again for the NCLEX exam. 

Can you challenge the NCLEX board decision?     

It depends! I understand if you felt you gave your best performance in the exams, but the results were not satisfactory. Yet, not all regulating bodies (NRB) allow candidates to review their individual questions and challenge the board on their decision. 

If you strongly believe there was some error when the CAT system was assessing your paper, you can talk with the NRB to check whether they offer this kind of review from your side.

Or perhaps if you feel like there were some administrative problems you encountered within the exam format that led to your poor performance, you can contact the NCSBN within two weeks of your examination. 

Just my two cents: as a student that was once fixated on a good performance, I would say challenging the board and its experts on accuracy and decision making are not the way to go. The chances of you getting a favorable outcome are slim! 

This is because the NCLEX thoroughly evaluates your exam not once but twice, and the passing standard the board uses is carefully constructed with tons of exam data. 

So what you can do to get a pass is this:

You Must Practice and Prep for the Next Exam

If you think about it, it’s the most logical and pragmatic step toward passing the exam. But here are some stats you must know before you appear again for the exam. 

Candidates that reappear for the NCLEX usually don’t fare well as compared to first-time attendees. Here is the latest official report from 2022, and the pass rate hovers near 40 percent.     

I don’t mean to discourage you even before you start your exam preparations. But numbers are the closest thing we have to truth. And can motivate you to perform to your fullest. So let’s start with the preparations!

Use a study guide to prepare for the NCLEX exam 

I have my takes on how you can easily pass the NCLEX exam. I invite you to check these three articles on the subject. I talk about the questions, content plans, and the easiest way you can meet the requirements to score a pass. 

Simply put, creating a study guide that takes advantage of the exam format and passing criteria and working hard on it. You might also need to work on the clinical judgment skills that are essential for scoring on the case studies.

These minimum 18 questions that make up the case studies can be easy or difficult depending on your aptitude for clinical investigation. But thankfully, they will be based on the syllabus of the exam.  

And go through the content materials of the respective educational program you undertook before appearing for the NCLEX exam for the first time. It all helps.    

Wrapping Up 

The NCLEX exams are challenging! Based on the exam data, one in five candidates doesn’t pass the exam. But there are ways you can boost your performance and ace the NCLEX exam on your next try. 

Understand the syllabus and work on a study guide. Focus on content sections that you did not meet the passing standards. If you need to check your performance using mock tests, try our practice test for the NCLEX exam. 

I’m also inviting you to look at our comprehensive study guide for the NCLEX exam, which has a pass rate of over 97 percent and uses realistic simulated exams to train you for the actual exam.