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What’s the Worst That Could Happen If You Fail the NCLEX?

So we all learned how to treat patients with high anxiety while we were in psych class. Ask them “what’s the worst thing that will happen” if their anxiety or fears were to manifest into reality. Sometimes reality is not as bad as it seems. Typically, then the patient can see how they could deal with that, and part of their anxiety, their fear of the unknown, subsides.

So be a kind nurse to yourself and ask, “What’s the worst thing that will happen if I fail the NCLEX?”. The answer is simple: you will retake it and be better prepared next time, but you will have to pay fotr it again. I know that you may want to pass NOW and it may throw a wrench in your plans to work or move, but that is not the end of the world. It may be the edge, but not the end.

If you don’t pass for some reason you will get a candidate report that shows your weaknesses and strengths. This can help guide your studying for the next try. Typically boards of nursing require that you wait 45-90 days in between exams. Check with your board to find out its rules.

Your school’s program will find out. Schools receive passing rates so they can report them to incoming graduates and to the higher education powers. So remember that your school wants you to pass – it makes them look good too. If you feel weak going into the exam, see what resources they might have available to help strengthen you. And if you don’t pass an exam, see what resources they might have available to help you the second time. Nursing schools are invested in their graduates’ success, and no, a nursing school can not prevent your graduation if you fail the NCLEX.

Your friends might find out, that is really up to you. The reality of not passing is that the national first-time NCLEX-RN pass rate for US-educated nurses in the first quarter of 2021 was 84.83%. Meaning that over 15% of people do not pass the NCLEX on the first shot so you would not be alone. However, the pass rate for repeat test-takers was only 43% so you would need to ensure you utilize study materials and educational resources (NCSBN, 2021).

If you do have to retake it, please seek out testing preparation to help you be successful. Students I have mentored have used services, one-on-one tutoring, and professors to help them develop a testing plan. Less than half of the people that retake the exam pass – so it is really important to go into it prepared the second time.

So I hope that you're among the students that pass. If you're reading this blog, chances are that you will be.