Passed 2nd Time, Graduated 4 Years Ago

I graduated from nursing school in 2006, took and failed the NCLEX in 2007 with 75 questions, and did not work up the courage to take it again until three years later (this past Friday).


  • Specializes in Med/Surg, International Health, Psych. Has 8 years experience.
Passed 2nd Time, Graduated 4 Years Ago

Not having passed the NCLEX has hung over my head for four years like a dreary cloud. I suffered from bouts of anxiety, low self-esteem, and bewilderment. I graduated Magna Cum Laude and my classmates who I know were not half as smart.

I maxed out the eligibility from my home state's nursing board; its three attempts or three years from the date of application, whichever comes first. After three years and one failed attempt, they sent me a letter indicating that I needed to go back to nursing school in order to be made eligible again. Yeah right! I applied for licensure by NCLEX examination through a neighboring state to endorse later instead. Throughout this whole time, I had become accustomed to having an active ATT in my email inbox. It made me feel like I was still connected to the process of becoming a registered nurse. However, I was always reluctant to set a test date.

I was not just reluctant to take it, I was paralyzed by the fear of failure. It's grip over me was so incredibly powerful. After three years of valid ATTs (the case manager at my current state board of nursing actually extended my ATT no less than four different times), I quit my job last month and decided to sit down and focus on studying. For the first time, I booked a date. I chose a date two days before my ATT was to expire. I was about to chicken out again, but I just could not bring myself to contact my case manager again. Also, I could not afford to forfeit the money I paid.

The first time I took the NCLEX, I was high off of the book and movie "The Secret" and just knew that I had passed the test before even taking it. My confidence was soaring. I visualized it, named and claimed it, and was already a registered nurse in my mind. This time around, I went in there telling myself that I am probably going to fail and it is okay if I do. I will just study some more and try again.

Studying had not been as easy as I had thought it would be. We have a new baby, three-months-old, who I have in my arms 22 out of the 24 hours a day (an extremely high maintenance baby). He likes to breastfeed ALL THE TIME. He does not sleep through the night yet. The plan was for me to pump milk and have my husband take a more active role in care giving. However, his idea of care giving turned out to be him dozing off with the baby nearby. So, off baby and I went together to the library to study. Fortunately, he just nursed and slept on his Boppy while I answered Kaplan's Q Bank questions.

Another thing about spousal cooperation, during this time my husband would succumb to sabotage-like behavior although he is not normally a mean-spirited person at all and he knew our bank account balance and what was riding on this test. I just resigned that this was the devil acting out and ignored him as best I could. Besides, I was battling my own demons trying to stay focused and positive.

I could never study like I had fire underneath my butt, but I got to the library most days. I always had to leave earlier than anticipated because my baby would get tired of napping and nursing and was ready to play. I tried to reach 100 questions per day and study the rationales, but I would most often pass out from exhaustion once the baby finally went to sleep late nights. I did, however, attend all the Kaplan NCLEX Online Live Review classes. Other than that, I did NOT follow the program as instructed.

I did the opposite of what the Kaplan instructor advised. I did not set out to be hard-headed and defiant; after all I had paid my good hard-earned money. I just did not have the time, support, and energy to engage myself as deeply as I would have liked to. The instructor said of those former Kaplan students, who passed the NCLEX, they completed all of the question trainers and 90% of the Q Bank questions.

If you are familiar with Kaplan NCLEX Online Live Review then you know that there is the review book, online classes, lessons on demand (LOD), question trainers (QTs), and a bank of practice questions.

In the end, I never read the book. I never looked at any of the content videos. I think I did watch the Strategy Seminar. I did 62% of my Q Bank questions and always did them in tutor mode (something else she said NOT to do), doing 14 sets of 50 questions (700 total), highest score 76% lowest 54%, average score about 62% and none of the alternate quiz type questions.

I scored 62% on the diagnostic test and 61% of the readiness test. I did QTs 1, 2, 3, 4 and 7. The scores are as follows: QT 1, 63; QT 2, 48; QT 3, 51; QT 4, 64; and QT 7, 51. I did not bother with QT 5 or QT6. Thinking I would save them to study with later after I failed for the second again.

QT 7 was 265 questions. I did it the day before my exam at the library in four hours and scored a 50.92%. I felt so depressed and incredibly panicked afterwards. You are supposed to score at least 65% to be considered ready to pass the NCLEX. I came home and gave my husband this speech about not putting too much pressure on me about this damn exam. Reminding him that we have a new baby and I have not had an adequate amount of time to study, much less sleep, like I need. I was basically setting myself up for failure and trying to get comfortable with it.

My household was very stressed and tense the week of the exam. My test was scheduled for Friday. I needed to pump a certain amount of milk in order to be away from my baby for possibly as long as six hours. He drinks a lot of milk for his age as it is. So, there were times when I felt as though I was starving him in order to pump and store milk in anticipation. My husband was acting up. I was a nervous wreck and even contemplated rescheduling the exam 1-2 days earlier just get my execution over with because the energy surrounding it was driving me crazy.

My baby did not sleep well at all the night before my exam. He wanted to stay up, smile, play and coo. Okay, anxiety levels are through the roof. I woke up, got my daughter off to school, and headed to Pearson Vue for my 8:00AM exam. I arrived around 7:15AM and got some breakfast from a nearby McDonald's. I walked in and got processed at 7:30AM.

Once at my computer, I wrote myself motivational messages on my dry erase board that I frequently read. I felt like I was going to fail, but believed that I had a chance at passing. "You can do this!" "You have a chance." "You can pass this test and go home." Once I reached 75 (where it cut off on me the last time) and advanced to question number 76, I wrote: "You're still in the game."

I had no idea which questions were easy or hard. They were just questions to me. I made use of that dry erase board. For practically every question, I would write 1, 2, 3, 4 and as I eliminated answers I would X out the corresponding number. More often than not, I would get down to two possible answers only to stretch my brain to the furthest neurons to come up with one answer. I guessed a lot.

I had 2-3 medication questions (medications that I never heard of). I had 3-4 SATA, and 3-4 exhibit questions. Other than that, the overwhelming majority of my questions were priority: who would you see first, discharge first, call back first. There was so much priority. There was some infection control that seemed to be the same question rewritten and presented over and over again.

As I was taking the exam, I ceased to be afraid. I had seen questions like this before with Kaplan. "If this is what the NCLEX is, I am going to be all right. I just have to study some more and I will definitely pass it next time, "I told myself. To me, the practice Kaplan questions were harder than the actual NCLEX.

What was hard for me was being presented with diseases, procedures, interventions, and medications that I knew nothing about. It makes you feel so dumb and I work in the medical field. Sitting there so long was hard. I had no idea when my questions would stop. I never ever thought I would go all the way to 265! I took two ten minute breaks and used the entire six hours. In the end I was tired, suffering from restless leg syndrome, breasts engorged, and running out of time. The last 30 questions I speed read to keep from guessing and finished with one minute left on the clock.

I felt as though I had failed and needed to confirm my suspicions as soon as possible. My husband wanted to eat and hang out a bit. "No, just get me home so I can get on the computer please." He kept trying to pep me up: "Honey, you just keep taking it over and over again until you pass it. Okay?" I just felt physically and mentally battered like as if my brain had a nuclear leak. He continued to talk, but I tuned him out the entire ride home. He could have been speaking Chinese for all I knew. I just wanted to get to a computer fast.

Low and behold, the "good PVT pop up" appeared and I continued to check it every hour, and sometimes more frequently than that, to make certain that it was still there between sending out text messaging, being congratulated, dancing, shouting, crying tears of joy, and thanking the Creator. Utter disbelief and relief are the emotions that consumed me. I slowly felt the NCLEX and all the toxic energy I associated with it slowly leaving my body, my spirit. Once my daughter found out that I passed, she asked if she could burn my study material. I realized then that we were all tired and dogged by it all.

Sunday my quick results became available and confirmed the PVT. On Wednesday the BON had posted my license number. I am still in awe. I cannot believe it is over. I am truly emancipated!

Since passing, not only am I finally a registered nurse but there is a renewed sense of purpose and self-assuredness that accompanies it. This experience is challenging me to re-examine earlier decisions like jobs I did not apply to (having convinced myself that I was under-qualified) and dismissing the idea of doctoral study. I feel more daring and open to the new future ahead of me.

I have read the NCLEX postings for years on this site always looking for stories from folks who graduated some time back and failed and eventually succeeded. Those stories were few but provided me with spiritual food for the course.

The knowledge that I would like to impart is this:

When something is meant to be the Universe will rearrange itself to accommodate it!

I wholeheartedly believe that the Universe arranged my exam with questions that I was comfortable answering. I know it may sound weird to many, but I believe wholeheartedly that this was happened. I work in telephone medical triage and case management and all I do is prioritize symptoms and diseases. This was practically my entire exam. So, understand that there is a higher power at work.

Also, work on your fears. I listened to motivational speaker Les Brown on You Tube and read his books as I was studying. "The Secret" cannot hurt either.

If you are looking for study material, I cannot emphasize how invaluable the Kaplan program is. I know it's costly, but it is worth it.

Lastly, I hope my experience of stagnation and fear inspires someone to take the next step towards testing and passing.

1 Article   269 Posts

Share this post


18 Posts

That was so inspiring I am about to take my exam, unlike you I struggle in nursing school but I made it through. I told myself that God didn't put me here if it wasn't meant to be because many people do not finish nursing school. Your post is great motivation and I know if you can do it that I know that I can may self.


7 Posts

Thank you for this post! It's inspiring to all of us out there who are going to be taking our exam for the second time. You were able to pass after such a long absence, which gives me confidence that I can do this! And of course, a BIG:

CONGRATS!!! On a wonderful accomplishment!


1 Article; 130 Posts

Awesome post!!!!!! :D:D:D:D

You write really well by the way!!



303 Posts

Thanks for such an inspiring story. I failed my test back in August, and I have not built the courage up to take it again because I am afraid of failure, but listening to you has encouraged me. Thanks again for your story and good luck in your nursing career!:yeah:


1 Post

I needed this, It is so inspirational!! I also took the Nclex and failed and Just haven't been able to muster up the courage to retake it. I graduated almost 3 yrs ago and I feel like I've forgotten everything. I felt like this post was written for me.

Thanks for the courage and Congrats


1 Article; 269 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg, International Health, Psych. Has 8 years experience.

Hi Shydevil,

You can do this! The first step is to muster up the courage to take it again. Use Kaplan, do not go at prepping alone. It has been too long. Keep in mind that they are not reviewing the material for you--which you already know deep down inside anyway. Instead, they teach you about important strategies on how to answer the question appropriately regardless of the subject. Also, consider the possibility that you may have test/performance anxiety and talk to your PCP about it. Plus, once it is over it will be forever over and you may have a hard time remembering this paralyzing time in your life.

I thank you for digging up this old post and for reminding me how far I have come. Soon you will be singing the same tune. You got this Shydevil!