Advice For Taking the NCLEX the Second Time

Staff Writer
Apr 27, 2022

Sometimes you don’t make it on your first try. Find out how to pass the NCLEX the second time around.

Every future nurse wants to pass the NCLEX on the first try, but every so often you have a bad day and don’t make it. If you don’t pass the NCLEX, you have a 45-day waiting period until you can take another crack at the test.

During that time you have the opportunity to get your head in the game, study up on the substance of the test, and prepare yourself for taking the biggest exam of your life a second time.

Related resource: How the NCLEX Works

Forgive yourself

Self-loathing gets you nowhere. There are no bonus points for beating yourself up. It’s understandable to be disappointed if you don’t pass the NCLEX on the first try, and having feelings like regret is valid. However, wallowing in negative emotions too much is not a luxury nursing students have. For that matter, it’s not a luxury nurses have, either.

Forgive yourself and move on. Realize your mistakes, but don’t let them drag you down or have a negative impact on your future studies. Move forward.

Read the report, hit the books

If you do not pass the test, you will receive a Content Performance Report, or CPR. It will tell you the areas where your performance was good and also where you struggled.  The report can be a little difficult to interpret, so it’s often helpful to come back to your school and have a faculty member assist you in figuring out what it is you need to study.  At Joyce, one of our faculty members is a designated NCLEX manager who will be your coach and guide. Don’t be ashamed or afraid to return to the school, we are your partner until you pass NCLEX.

During the waiting period you will want to take a break from studying, but make it a short one.  The best strategy is to review every day and practice NCLEX-style questions again and again. It is far better to set aside some time every day over weeks than to try and cram everything into a few study sessions right before you retest.  Set a schedule and stick to it.

Related resource: NCLEX Stress Management

Focus on your weakness

The NCLEX test plan divides the exam into several different subsections. Some you’ll find interesting and engaging, and some might strike you as more difficult. When returning to the test, it’s important that you study the things you know you’re less good at, even if it’s something you don’t enjoy.

It’s not fun to study things you don’t find engaging, but it’s necessary. Let’s say you really enjoy studying physiology or pharmacology, but are less enthusiastic about or connected to reducing risk potential.

The areas of nursing you don’t necessarily like will still be on the NCLEX. In this hypothetical situation, the thing to do isn’t to go back and study more physiology and pharmacology. Instead, give more attention to the areas you don’t understand or enjoy. If risk potential is the hardest part of the test for you, study it with a vengeance. Strengthen the weakest link, and oil the squeaky wheel.

When you’re studying, draw from your resources. You’re not alone, after all. Nursing students at Joyce have the support of their fellow students and instructors. Ask people to study with you or quiz you, and go to your instructors for advice. Getting perspectives from your peers or teachers can be particularly helpful when you’re trying to shore up your weak points and help you see the test with new eyes when you go in again.

Related resource: Nursing Lab Values to Know


Test anxiety is very real, and walking through the door of an examination room can be a terrifying experience for some students, even if they know the material. Walking into the NCLEX after you’ve haven’t passed once can be discouraging. You’re not a failure, though. Rather, see yourself as experienced.

Your previous shot at the NCLEX isn’t a source of weakness, it’s a source of strength and confidence. You’re an NCLEX veteran now, and you’ve already been through the routine of taking the NCLEX. That should help calm anxiety. Remind yourself that you know what’s coming. Taking the NCLEX a second time means you’re warmed up to do what it takes to pass and become a nurse.

When it comes down to it, your future patients don’t care if you had to take your nursing boards more than once. Just like nursing school is not all about tests and papers, being a nurse is not all about whether you passed NCLEX the first time. The most satisfying moments are when you use your head, hands, and heart to help another person towards wellness. Keep that perspective in mind.

For more NCLEX study strategies and advice, have a look at our NCLEX tips e-book. We also love feedback. Post to our Facebook page with comments.


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