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How to Study to Retake Your NCLEX-RN

Finding out that you did not pass the NCLEX-RN can feel like a crushing experience.  But, like many lessons along the way, sometimes we learn the most when success doesn’t come easily. So, perhaps after drowning your sorrows in a pint of your favorite ice cream, take look at the experience for what it’s worth and make your plan to study to retake your NCLEX-RN.

Know your time frame

Just like when you started studying before your first try at the NCLEX, it’s best to know how much time you have before your test so that you can adequately prepare. The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) requires that test-takers wait at least 45 days but you are free to wait longer if you want. Be sure to check with your state board of nursing for any other regulations regarding retakes.

Review your Candidate Performance Report

When you don’t pass the NCLEX, the NCSBN sends you a personalized Candidate Performance Report. This report breaks down the test content areas and tells you if you were above the passing standard, near the passing standard, or below the passing standard for that content area.  This can be priceless information for you as you study to retake the exam. You can use this information to help you focus on the areas where you had trouble on the test.  One important thing to remember is that the NCLEX-RN isn’t graded it parts, so you still have to reach the passing standard for the whole test.  At least by using your Candidate Performance Report, you can spend more time on the topics where you need the most improvement and breathe a bit easier over the areas where you performed well.

Know your needs and make a plan

Perhaps you went it alone last time in the area of test prep? Maybe you took a class that wasn’t suited to your style of learning? Do you need one-on-one help or do you need the help of a supportive group of learners to keep you on track? Take note of what is working for you and what you need.  Reflect on the path you took before and use this opportunity as a do-over. Make a plan to meet your test preparation needs and take action. Seek out classes, books, tutors, or whatever other resources you need and make the study time a priority.

Practice NCLEX-style questions

As you already know, these questions are designed to test your ability to apply and analyze complex information.  The more you practice, the more you will be able to identify key words and question structures that will help you answer successfully.

Embrace your experience

Hey…you have done this before!  You know where the testing center is.  You know how long it takes you to get there and where to park.  You know if they keep the room too cold.  You know what the room set-up is and how the computers work.  Embrace that knowledge to calm your test day jitters.  Use your familiarity with the testing process to minimize any distractions that may have impacted your earlier success. Bring a sweater or leave 15 minutes earlier for the testing center–whatever you need to do. Just knowing what to expect can go a long way toward boosting your confidence the second time around.
Not passing the NCLEX-RN is bound to be a very tough experience but the good news is that you get another chance (and more if you need) to be successful. Some of the best nurses in practice today report having failed the exam at least once.  Do not let this one struggle define you or make you question your desire to be a nurse. You can do it. Best of luck!

About Stephanie

Stephanie is a contributor to the NCLEX-RN Blog at Magoosh. She has been a registered nurse for 13 years. She earned her AAS in Nursing from community college before enrolling as an online student at Grand Canyon University, where she completed both her BSN and MSN with an emphasis in Nursing Education. Student success is her top priority and she is committed to working with her students to see them thrive. When she isn’t teaching the nurses of tomorrow, Stephanie enjoys traveling with her family to warm, sunny places.

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