So that is actually a tricky question. Have you let your license lapse? Or do you still have a current RN/PN license?
If you have kept at least one state license current, then you do not need to retake the NCLEX. If, however you let your RN/PN license expire then the answer might be yes. Might be is the operative word.
It depends on the state that you want to work in. Each state board of nursing has passed regulating laws as to how long ago you must have worked in nursing or passed the NCLEX in order to “apply by endorsement”. Essentially most boards require that you have practiced x number of hours in at least the last four year as an RN/PN, otherwise they might require you to take the NCLEX again. However, some boards do allow you to complete a refresher course or practicum instead of reexamination.
Example 1: The Georgia Board of Nursing requires that you must have practiced 500 documented hours in the last four years to reinstate a RN/PN license. If you don’t than they don’t make you retest – they require you to do a reentry program in order to be issued a license but just retaking the NCLEX is not an option.
Example 2: The Virginia Board of Nursing requires that you must file a reinstatement application and pay a reinstatement fee. While you do not have to retake the NCLEX you do have to provide proof of completion of at least one of the learning activities or courses available here: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/admincode/title18/agency90/chapter19/section160/
The best thing to do is to go to the board of nursing website for the state you want to be licensed in and look for their “application by endorsement” if you have already passed the NCLEX. Laws are dynamic and might change so that would be the most current information. Here is a website where all their contact information is listed. https://www.ncsbn.org/contactbon.htm
If you do decide to retake the NCLEX to get your license reinstated – you are up against a challenge. I think you can become successful at passing the NCLEX. You have an advantage that you have life experience, have passed before, and have worked as a nurse. A disadvantage is that you likely completed your RN/PN program at least 5 years ago if not more. Unfortunately, the NCLEX is revised every 3 years. Your educational program prepared you for the NCLEX-RN/PN of the past, not the one of the present. So you will have to study extra hard to get your nursing knowledge to the current state.
Continue efforts to review all content. Most successful test takers take multiple practice exams and review many many questions prior to their exam. Two great ways to do this are through EasyNCLEX’s test service http://www.easynclex.com/purchase.html where you can do online practice tests that simulate the NCLEX and have rationales. This can get you use to the computerized testing environment, which is important versus just doing book questions.
Also, EasyNCLEX has a question a day that they can email to you. This provides an easy way to make sure you are doing as much as you can everyday to prepare and not just cramming.http://www.easynclex.com/nclex_questions.html
Good luck, make a study plan over the next few months and be consistent!