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Retaking the NCLEX: A Complete Guide

The idea of retaking the NCLEX can be really daunting and scary. Fortunately, because you’ve taken the exam once before, you’ll have the power of experience to guide you the second time around.

NCLEX-RN (and NCLEX-PN) is administered to candidates hoping to practice nursing in the US, Canada, and Australia. It is overseen by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). The most recent NCLEX-RN (2022) pass rate for first-time, internationally-educated candidates was 46.64%. For the NCLEX-PN of the same period and for the same type of candidates, the pass rate was similar at 48.65%.

The exam utilizes computerized adaptive testing (CAT), which aims to make the examination as efficient as possible. What this means is that a computer optimizes the test questions presented to a candidate based on their previous answers to previous questions. Some people try to guess if they passed the NCLEX by determining how many questions they were given. 

Let’s walk through the retake policy in this quick guide in the event that you do not pass.

How many times can the NCLEX be retaken?

A candidate who does not pass can retake the exam as early as 45 days after their original test date. In any given year, a candidate has 8 trials. However, a candidate must pass the exam within 3 years of graduation from nursing school. 

If you are needing to retake the NCLEX, note that not all states have the same policies. Each state may have additional rules in addition to those prescribed by the NCSBN. For instance, in Pennsylvania, the “test-free time” is 46 days instead of 45. 

When in doubt, contact NCSBN to make sure you are meeting all the regulations. 

How do you register for retaking the NCLEX?

A candidate who fails to pass the exam will receive an NCLEX Candidate Performance Report (CPR). The CPR gives an assessment of how a candidate did on each part of the test plan’s topic areas. It is a good way to prepare for the retake, since it will give candidates an idea of which areas to focus on more. 

To register, here are the steps: 


Notify your Nursing Regulatory Board (NRB) that you will be retaking the exam. Get a list of the requirements and fees that you will be needing for your retake. 


Register again with Pearson VUE after the appropriate fees have been settled.


Wait for your new Authorization to Test (ATT).


Choose a schedule for your retake. 

How can I better prepare for the exam?

As mentioned earlier, be guided by your CPR. Focus on the topics you struggle with and allot more time to reviewing those. 

Re-familiarize yourself with the style of questions by taking mock exams or answering a few review questions everyday over several weeks. It’s best not to cram, especially if you did this the first time. 

Furthermore, take some time to learn more about yourself, your test-taking habits, and how you manage stress about the exam. Reflect on how you were on your first try and improve on the challenges you are able to identify. 


Needing to do a retake is not at all a sign of your failure as a nurse. There are a lot of factors that go into how you perform on an exam, and the opportunity to retake the NCLEX is one that you should embrace, rather than feel ashamed about. 

Learn and grow from your first experience, and best of luck! 

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