Failed NCLEX 1st attempt, PASSED 2nd attempt

Preparing to take the NCLEX can be a scary thing; the thought of failing is even scarier! I failed my first attempt, but I survived!! Now I'm an RN after my 2nd attempt! It was very hard to take ownership of my failure, but I had a pretty good idea of what went wrong. I was determined to persevere and conquer the NCLEX on my 2nd attempt. Even after failing, I was confident I would still make an excellent nurse. I convinced myself not to allow it to define my abilities as a nurse. Nursing Students NCLEX Article


Failed NCLEX 1st attempt, PASSED 2nd attempt

Here's my story & tips about my NCLEX experience... maybe it will be helpful to someone out there to be better prepared for the NCLEX itself and know that if you've failed you're not alone.

My Story

I took NCLEX for the 1st time about 1 1/2 yrs after graduating. I failed the 1st attempt... I was devastated, but I sort of expected it because I made the mistake of waiting too long to study for it after graduating.

Why'd I wait so long? I could go on and on! But to keep it brief here's some of the obstacles I faced. I was 9 months pregnant when I graduated and was having back pain and typical pregnancy issues, so I didn't want to take NCLEX while pregnant I wanted to be mentally prepared & comfortable. I THOUGHT I'd be able to study after the baby was born because my 1st two kids were so easy, but my 3rd one was a HANDFUL and I hardly slept the 1st few months. On top of having a new baby, I had emergency surgery (ruptured appendix), fractured my toe, had an urgent root canal, all while taking care of 3 kids. My husband works a lot so he was gone a lot, and all within 1 1/2yrs.

How long should you wait to take the NCLEX?

NO MATTER what... LIFE may get in the way of studying, so my advice is take it AS SOON AS POSSIBLE after graduating, but make sure you get in some good studying (see "2nd attempt")! There was so much content that I had forgotten, just because I wasn't using it every day the way we did in nursing school. So many things that I thought had been burned into my brain were gone! The more I studied, the more I realized I had forgotten!

My NCLEX 1st attempt

On my 1st attempt, all I did was study my notes, used my books to relearn content I had forgotten, and did some NCLEX style questions from different sources. I took my exam not feeling prepared... I ran out of time to study and I knew I had not covered enough material, but I wanted to try taking it anyway just in case because I was always pretty good at passing exams.

The actual exam:

I felt like the exam found my weaknesses IMMEDIATELY. I hardly got any SATA's, lots of risk factor, proper foods, priority, delegation, several EKG, and only a couple of other alternative style questions. Towards the end, I pretty much knew I was failing because I just really didn't know the content of the questions being asked.

Pearson Pop-up

I read somewhere that the Pop-up was no longer valid... I tried anyway, and honestly, trying to figure out if it was still working, how to do it, etc.. I was just getting even more stressed out, so I decided to forget about doing the Pearson Vue Trick.

My NCLEX test results

I just kept myself VERY busy for the next 48hrs. The quick results came in literally 48hrs after the time of my exam appt. I FAILED. I cried. I got over it. I applied again immediately.

Don't get me wrong, it was hard to get over... It was a blow to my ego and was embarrassing having to tell all my family that I didn't pass. Of course, they understood, but still.

Studying NCLEX on 2nd attempt

If you don't know the content, you can't really answer critical thinking questions very well. You MUST know your CONTENT. Here's what I recommend studying and how I used it.

Plan to study for a MINIMUM of 3-4weeks... I suggest 4-8weeks, any less and the information doesn't get a chance to burn into your brain, any more and you might start to forget what you studied the 1st week. This is just my personal suggestion! During nursing school I was the type that didn't need a lot of study time before exams, but...

***THIS IS NOT A NURSING SCHOOL EXAM... The wording of questions might be similar, BUT this exam is SMART and is NOT going to give you the OBVIOUS answers for most of the questions!

You HAVE to STUDY. I'm talking about nursing skills, labs, risk factors, signs & symptoms, pharm, etc.

EVERYONE wonders what to study. For this exam, you HAVE to know what you're doing as a nurse. Think about it, you are in a career of SAVING LIVES... so when you study, try thinking of the things that will help keep your patient SAFE and ALIVE. Think about the things that will HARM your patient the fastest, too.

To help me review content, I learn best by being challenged/quizzing myself, so I used the NCLEX RN Mastery app on my cell phone. Erase all of your social media apps. When you're bored, use this app! I promise the social world will still be there after the exam, almost as if you were never gone!

To help memorize things, I bought a dry erase board and lots of dry erase markers. I would write the same thing over and over, such as Risk factors, s/s, pneumonics, etc.. and I would take a picture on my cell phone of what I wrote/drew, so that way I could later scroll through my phone and do some quick reviewing while I was out and about, or during commercials, etc. And then a few days later, I would try writing it again without looking at my phone. I'm a visual learner, so pretty colors & pictures are more helpful than reading text after text.

For a general understanding of concepts

I loved He's not SUPER accurate, and miss-spells a lot of words, but he explains things in a way that's very easy to understand, and he's silly so studying doesn't feel SO serious & boring. Since I needed help with content, I only paid for the month to month Nursing School info, I didn't use their NCLEX study so I don't know how helpful it may or may not be.

After reviewing content, I would do NCLEX style questions over that topic on my phone, and on my computer.

For NCLEX prep:

A MUST! Hurst review was amazing for having a study plan & reviewing pertinent, MUST KNOW content for the actual NCLEX. I honestly wish I would have done it right after graduating!! My mom was the one that ended up giving me the money to take it, and I only had about 3wks to do it before my ATT expired. I didn't get through all of the videos, but I honestly think if I would have finished it all and had about 1 more week to study, I probably would have passed NCLEX with 75 questions (I had a little over 100 on the 2nd attempt).


From my experience, most of the question banks out there are not built to help you prepare for the REAL NCLEX style questions. They absolutely WILL help you review nursing material to gain that basic nursing knowledge, they just don't really train your brain to think the way NCLEX wants you to think.

Hurst review & quizzes helped train my mind to think the way NCLEX wants you to think as a new nurse.

Sometimes, I would do questions on a different site, and it wouldn't make sense compared to what the HURST review said.

***STICK TO THE HURST REVIEW when in doubt!

So why don't I just tell you to do the Hurst review alone? Well, it wasn't exactly thorough enough for me, since there was so much I had forgotten since nursing school.

It doesn't really cover actual nursing skills such as administering injections, or starting IV's etc. For the NCLEX, you want to know this kind of stuff step by step, the OFFICIAL way. Forget about shortcuts & stuff you learned from other nurses in clinicals. For NCLEX, everything must be the legit way with no shortcuts.

On testing day:

I've always been a crammer, I do better under pressure. The 1st time, I crammed so much and was exhausted and sleepy right when I started the exam. I seriously felt like my brain was already shutting off by question #5!!

The 2nd time, I had more sleep and didn't try to cram so much at the last minute. I noticed a huge difference! My brain was actually absorbing what I was reading and I was able to break down the questions and possible answers much easier during the test.

Bring water, a snack, and make sure you eat a healthy meal about an hour before you go. Bring Tylenol if you tend to get headaches or have chronic pain, you COULD be there for a while. I was there for about 2hrs for each exam. My second exam started late because the testing center was packed.

I feel like I just wrote a book!! I'm going to cut it off here... hopefully everything makes sense and if you have questions just ask me & I'll do my best to help you out!

Good luck!

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Congrats! Thanks for the info.

By the way, you're not expected to know everything for NCLEX. You don't need super detailed knowledge of patho. Hurst covers enough of the "how/why" in my opinion. From other posts, I've read that the questions are similar to the level of difficulty of Davis' book. As far as pharm, there was a lot of meds that I don't even remember covering in nursing school, just try to have a general knowledge of the main meds & classifications, there's no way to memorize them all. I didn't, and I still passed with lots of med questions on my 2nd attempt.

I want to clarify that I did learn some amazing tips from my preceptors/nursing staff during clinicals. When I say forget about any shortcuts that nurses taught you, I mean just for the exam. If your preceptors showed you some legit tips that are still within the scope of practice & safe for your patients, but aren't exactly the official step by step way, then by all means do what works best for you. For the exam though, always default to the official way.

The CDC is a great website for finding information for infection control. Here's the link for a .pdf file that has some instructions for catheter insertions.