12 Bad Signs You Failed the NCLEX

You’ve spent weeks, maybe even months, preparing for the NCLEX. The hours spent studying, the late nights, the practice questions – it’s all led up to this moment.

After finishing the exam, you’re met with a wave of relief quickly replaced by a new stressor: waiting for the results. It’s a nerve-wracking time, no doubt, and you might find yourself wondering, “What are the signs you failed the NCLEX?

Before you let anxiety consume you, remember this:

The NCLEX is a challenging exam designed to test your ability to provide safe and effective nursing care, and it’s normal to question your performance.

But speculating about potential failure based on perceived signs isn’t always helpful or accurate.

Plus keep in mind that everyone’s test experience differs, and these signs may not necessarily mean you failed. You’ve done a lot of preparation to become a registered nurse or an LPN/LVN, so trust in your expertise.


A single test does not define your abilities as a nursing professional!

In this article, we’ll explore the possible signs that you might have failed the NCLEX, and more importantly, we’ll talk about what to do next and how to move forward no matter what your results are.

But first, let’s understand how this computerized adaptive test system assesses your performance.

Computer Adaptive Testing Rules

The NCLEX is a computerized adaptive test (CAT), which means the difficulty of the questions you receive is based on your performance.

The CAT utilizes the 95% confidence interval rule, ensuring that the test accurately gauges your nursing knowledge and abilities. To pass the NCLEX, you must demonstrate a consistent level of competency throughout the exam.

The maximum-length exam rule is another aspect of the CAT system, which ends the test when a certain number of questions have been answered or when the time limit has been reached.

12 Bad Signs You Failed the NCLEX

1. Low Confidence Level during NCLEX

Your confidence level during the NCLEX can be indicative of your performance. If you experience test anxiety or find yourself second-guessing your answers frequently, this can be a sign of failure.

2. Computer Adaptive Test Behavior

The NCLEX uses a computer adaptive test (CAT) format which adjusts the difficulty of questions based on your performance. If you consistently receive easier questions and the difficulty does not increase, it may be a sign that you are not performing well.

3. The Pearson Vue Trick (PVT) Shows the “Bad Pop-Up”

The Pearson Vue Trick is an unofficial method of predicting NCLEX results. After completing the exam, try to re-register for the test. If you receive the “bad pop-up” message, which is where the system accepts your payment for a re-registration, it might be an indication that you have failed the exam.

4. 95% Confidence Interval Rule

The computer assesses your performance throughout the NCLEX with a 95% confidence interval rule. If the test ends and you have not yet reached a point where your performance is deemed passable or failing at this confidence level, this could be a sign you failed the NCLEX.

5. Difficulty Level Change

Notice any drastic changes in the difficulty level of questions towards the end of the exam. If the questions become significantly easier, this could be a sign that you are not meeting the required performance level and may have failed the NCLEX.

6. Excessive Guessing

Frequently guessing answers during the NCLEX can reflect a lack of knowledge or unfamiliarity with the tested material. Constantly guessing answers may be a sign that you failed the NCLEX.

7. Running Out of Time

Running out of time during the NCLEX or not pacing yourself properly can lead to poor performance. Time management issues may be a sign that you struggled during the exam and possibly failed the NCLEX.

8. Easy or Unrelated Last Question

The last question on your NCLEX can provide insight into your performance. If the last question is relatively easy or unrelated to the core content areas, this may be a sign that you did not perform well and may have failed the exam.

9. Minimal Number of Questions Reached

The NCLEX has a minimum number of questions (85 questions for the Next Gen NCLEX) that must be answered before the exam can end. If you answered the minimum number of questions and the exam ended, this ‘may’ indicate that you failed the NCLEX.

10. Flunked an NCLEX Predictor Test

If you performed poorly on an NCLEX predictor test before taking the actual exam, this may be indicative of a potential failure. Use the feedback from these predictor tests to focus your studies on weak areas and improve your chances of passing the NCLEX.

11. Pearson Vue Quick Results Indicate Failure

Awaiting the official results from Pearson Vue can be nerve-wracking. If you receive a notification indicating a failing score on the Quick Results, though unofficial, this pretty much confirms that you failed the NCLEX.

12. Your Name Is Not on Your State’s BON Website

Finally, if you cannot find your name listed on your state’s Board of Nursing (BON) website following the exam, this ‘may’ be a sign that you did not pass the NCLEX. Just don’t check the site too soon; give it some time before considering this sign.

Official Results

We know that waiting for your NCLEX results can be an emotional rollercoaster, but understand that only the official results will provide you with an accurate outcome.

There are two primary ways to receive the official outcome of your NCLEX: Quick Results and Official Results from your State’s Board of Nursing (BON).

Quick Results

As the name suggests, Quick Results are a faster way for you to access your NCLEX outcome. Generally available within 48 hours, you can obtain these results through the testing service, Pearson VUE, for $7.95.

Keep in mind that while these results are quite reliable, they are considered unofficial. Your final licensure will ultimately depend on the official results provided by your Nursing Regulatory Body (NRB).

Official Results from State’s BON

After taking the NCLEX, the State Board of Nursing will usually release the official results within a few weeks- usually approx. 6 weeks.

If you are lucky to be in California, you might even see your name on the BRN’s site even quicker than the Quick Results’ 48 hours turnaround time- that is if you passed.

Upon reviewing your performance, the BON will determine if you have passed or failed the examination and then send you the appropriate documentation.

What if You Actually Failed the NCLEX?

How Many Times Can You Take the NCLEX

Bear in mind that retake policies vary depending on your jurisdiction, so review the guidelines specific to your location. Typically, you’ll need to wait at least 45 days before retaking the exam, and there may be a limit on the total number of attempts allowed.

Here are the NCLEX retake policies for different US States:

How many times can you take the NCLEX in Georgia?

In Georgia, you can retake the exam every 45 days. According to Chapter 410-2 of the Georgia BON Rules, you’re given 3 years from your graduation date to pass the exam. If you don’t pass within three years, you need to graduate from an approved nursing program again before retaking the NCLEX.

How many times can you take the NCLEX in Texas?

In Texas, you can take the NCLEX exam every 45 days within 4 years of completing your nursing education. According to Rule §217.2 of the Texas BON Rules & Regulations, if you don’t pass in four years, you must complete a board-approved nursing education program before you are permitted to retake the NCLEX.

How many times can you take the NCLEX in New York?

In New York, you can take the NCLEX exam unlimited times, but you need to wait 45 days between each attempt. You can take the test up to eight times a year.

How many times can you take the NCLEX in California?

In California, you’re allowed to take the NCLEX exam unlimited times- as often as you wish, but you need to wait 45 days between each attempt. You can take the test up to eight times a year.

How many times can you take the NCLEX in Illinois?

In Illinois, you can retake the NCLEX exam up to eight times a year, but with a 45-day gap between each attempt. However, you must pass within 3 years of graduating from nursing school.

How many times can you take the NCLEX in Pennsylvania?

In Pennsylvania, there isn’t a limit on how many times you can take the NCLEX. You can apply to retake the NCLEX whenever you wish, as long as it’s atleast 45 days after the exam.

How many times can you take the NCLEX in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, there’s no limit on how many times you can take the NCLEX. You can retake it every 45 days without restrictions or mandatory refresher courses.

How many times can you take the NCLEX in Virginia?

In Virginia, there’s no limit on how many times you can take the NCLEX. You can retake it every 45 days, with no restrictions or mandatory refresher courses. You only need to file the required board application and reapplication fee.

How many times can you take the NCLEX in Arizona?

In Arizona, there’s no limit on NCLEX attempts, but a 45-day wait is required between tests. However, if over 2 years have passed since completing your nursing program’s clinical portion, you must pass a nurse refresher course. A temporary license is provided for this refresher course’s clinical section.

Failing the NCLEX may feel discouraging, but it’s not the end of your nursing career. We’ve met many successful nurses who didn’t pass on their first attempt. You can always retake the NCLEX and continue pursuing your goal of becoming a nurse.

Preparing for Another Attempt

After a failed NCLEX attempt, it’s crucial to develop a targeted study plan and address any areas where you struggled during the exam.

Consider evaluating your previous NCLEX-prep materials, identifying patterns and weaknesses, and focusing on improving those areas before your next attempt.

You may also benefit from enrolling in an NCLEX prep course or seeking additional support through tutoring or mentorship from experienced nurses.

Read: The 5 Absolute Best NCLEX Prep Books

Read: 10 Best NCLEX Prep Courses, According to Nurses

Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your next attempt:

  • Review the NCLEX-RN/PN exam content outline.
  • Establish a consistent study schedule.
  • Use a variety of study materials, such as flashcards, practice exams, and online resources.
  • Seek advice and guidance from experienced nurses or nursing students who have successfully passed the exam.
  • Leverage support from friends, family, and colleagues to help you stay motivated.

Resume and Career Impact

While it’s natural to feel concerned about the impact of a failed NCLEX attempt on your resume and career, understand that many nurses face this challenge and ultimately succeed.

When discussing your NCLEX experience with potential employers, focus on your commitment to growth and improvement, and the steps you’ve taken to ensure success on your next attempt.

Employers value resilience and adaptability, so don’t be afraid to showcase these qualities in your conversations.

Keep in mind that a strong nursing portfolio, robust clinical skills, and eagerness to learn can help offset any concerns that potential employers may have about your initial NCLEX performance.

By highlighting your strengths, you can demonstrate your dedication to providing excellent patient care and contributing to a positive work environment.

NCLEX Pass & Failure Rates

NCLEX First-Time Pass Rates (2019-2022)

In 2022, the national NCLEX-RN & PN first-time pass rate was 79.9% and 79.93%, respectively. The average in the last 4 years has been 84.28% and 82.06%, respectively.

As you can see, the majority of candidates do pass. These rates fluctuate every year based on different factors, including the difficulty of the test and the test-taker’s preparation.

NCLEX First-Time Pass Rates By State

Chances of Failing on the First Attempt

While the overall pass rate for the NCLEX is relatively high, there is still a chance that you may fail on your first attempt.

Failing on the first attempt is not an uncommon occurrence, and you’re in the company of many successful nurses who didn’t pass on their initial try.

Let’s look at the numbers to shed light on this:

NCLEX First-Time Failure Rates (2019-2022)- Percentages

NCLEX First-Time Failure Rates (2019-2022)- No. of Candidates

202132, 4239,457
202023, 8267,726
Source: NCSBN

In 2019, about 11.82% of NCLEX-RN candidates, translating to approximately 20,258 individuals, did not pass on their first attempt.

In the following years, these numbers increased slightly, with a 13.43% failure rate in 2020 (around 23,826 candidates), 17.52% in 2021 (approximately 32,423 candidates), and 20.1% in 2022 (about 37,789 candidates).

The trend for the NCLEX-PN is similar, with failure rates of 14.37% in 2019 (around 6,931 candidates), 16.92% in 2020 (about 7,726 candidates), 20.4% in 2021 (around 9,457 candidates), and 20.07% in 2022 (approximately 9,560 candidates).

What do these figures mean for you? Simply put, if you didn’t pass on your first attempt, you’re part of a significant group of aspiring nurses who faced the same hurdle.

The increasing rates underscore the difficulty of the NCLEX, but they also reflect the persistence and resilience of candidates like you who continue on their path to becoming a nurse.

Remember, your worth as a healthcare professional isn’t defined by a single test attempt. If you didn’t pass this time, it’s not an endpoint but a stepping stone in your journey.

You can take the NCLEX again, and many do successfully on their subsequent tries. The key is not to lose sight of your goal and keep striving forward, armed with the experience and lessons learned from your first attempt.

Common Causes of NCLEX Failure

Some common mistakes/barriers that lead to NCLEX failure include:

1. Lack of Preparation and Understanding of the Exam Format

Not fully understanding the format, which includes multiple-choice, multiple-response, fill-in-the-blank, and hotspot items, can throw test-takers off.

Also, insufficient study and preparation could leave gaps in your understanding of crucial nursing concepts, impacting your ability to answer questions correctly.

2. Overconfidence Leading to Inadequate Study Habits

Confidence is good, but overconfidence can be a pitfall. If you underestimate the NCLEX and don’t commit to a consistent, comprehensive study routine, you may find yourself unprepared on exam day.

It’s important to respect the difficulty level of the NCLEX and allocate sufficient time and resources for thorough preparation.

3. Test Anxiety Limiting Mental Focus and Concentration

It’s natural to feel anxious before a major exam like the NCLEX. However, if this anxiety becomes overwhelming, it can hinder your ability to focus, comprehend questions, and recall information.

Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and positive visualization can help manage test anxiety.

4. Ineffective Test-Taking Strategies and Time Management

The NCLEX requires strategic thinking and efficient time management. If you struggle with pacing yourself through the questions or if you second-guess your answers frequently, it could impact your test performance.

Learning effective test-taking strategies, such as eliminating incorrect answers and making educated guesses when unsure, can improve your chances of passing.

5. Insufficient Understanding of Nursing Concepts and Terminology

The NCLEX tests your understanding of a wide range of nursing concepts and your ability to apply this knowledge in various scenarios.

If you struggle with medical terminology or certain nursing concepts, it could affect your ability to understand and answer the questions correctly. Using study materials that focus on these areas can help reinforce your understanding.

To Wrap Up on Signs You Failed the NCLEX

Failing the NCLEX is not an insurmountable obstacle.

Many nurses pass the NCLEX on their second or third attempt after refining their study habits and addressing any barriers to success.

By remaining confident, knowledgeable, and proactive in your efforts to prepare for your next attempt, you can increase your chances of passing and continue on your path to becoming a qualified nurse.

Frequently Asked Questions

This feeling usually stems from the adaptive nature of the test and the pressure to pass. The NCLEX is designed to gauge your competency, so as you answer questions correctly, it will present you with more challenging questions. This can leave you feeling uncertain and worried about your performance. Remember to stay confident and trust in your preparation.

It’s difficult to determine whether you’ve failed the NCLEX based on the exam experience alone. However, there are a few signs that may indicate you failed the NCLEX, such as not reaching the minimum 85 questions required to determine your competency. Ultimately, you should wait for your official results from your state’s nursing board.

The number of questions in your NCLEX exam doesn’t necessarily determine whether you’ve passed or failed. It’s possible to pass or fail within the minimum 85 questions or to continue answering questions up to the maximum of 150. The key factor in determining your results is your ability to demonstrate competency by consistently answering questions correctly.

An early shut-off of the NCLEX could mean either passing or failing. The computerized adaptive testing (CAT) system may determine your competency within the minimum number of questions, regardless of whether you’ve passed or failed. Do not assume that an early shut-off automatically means failure.

The average wait time to receive NCLEX results varies depending on your testing location and the state’s nursing board processing times. Generally, you can expect to receive your official results within six weeks of taking the exam. However, unofficial results may be available within 48 hours through the Quick Results Service for a $7.95 fee.

By maintaining a positive mindset, trusting in your preparation, and focusing on your overall goals as a nurse. If you do receive a failing result, cut yourself some slack and remember that the NCLEX is a difficult exam. You can always retake it and learn from your previous experience.

While it’s challenging to pinpoint specific factors that contribute to failing the NCLEX, insufficient preparation, test anxiety, and lack of confidence are often cited as common reasons.

As mentioned earlier, the wait time for receiving NCLEX results generally falls within six weeks. Unofficial results may be available within 48 hours through the Quick Results Service.

Reaching all 145 questions on the NCLEX doesn’t necessarily mean you failed. The CAT system may continue to present questions until it can confidently determine your competency. Do not let the number of questions dictate your perception of your performance.

There’s no exact statistic on the odds of passing the NCLEX with 145 questions. Passing or failing is determined by your ability to demonstrate competency, and the number of questions itself doesn’t directly impact your likelihood of passing.

No, getting 145 questions on the NCLEX does not automatically mean you failed. Individual performance, rather than the number of questions, determines the outcome. Do not make assumptions; await your official results.

The “bad email” refers to receiving an email from your state’s nursing board notifying you of a failing NCLEX result.

The NCLEX utilizes three pass-fail rules: the 95% Confidence Interval Rule, the Maximum Length Exam Rule, and the Run-out-of-Time (R.O.O.T.) Rule. These rules determine whether a candidate has successfully demonstrated competency and achieved a passing result.

Related Readings:

How to Know If You Passed the NCLEX Right Away: 7 Good Signs

Next Generation NCLEX (NGN): Everything You Should Know

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