How Many Times Can You Take the NCLEX-RN Exam? — Pacific College (2023)

If you are an aspiring nurse who recently graduated, the next step towards your nursing career is passing the NCLEX exam. But in case you do not pass the exam on your first try, how many times can you take the NCLEX exam? What happens if you fail NCLEX three times? You can find all the answers to these questions below. Read this article to learn more about the NCLEX-RN exam, including registration, preparing for it, and its retake policy.

What Is the NCLEX-RN Exam?

NCLEX-RN stands for National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses. It is an exam for the licensing of registered nurses. To obtain their license, registered nurses have to pass the NCLEX-RN. The exam is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and tests nurse competencies for entry-level nursing. When you pass the NCLEX exam, you prove that you are competent and qualified to start working in a healthcare facility; therefore, you obtain your license and become a licensed registered nurse.

The NCLEX-RN examination is delivered by computerized adaptive testing (CAT). CAT is a testing technique that includes computer technology and measurement theory. This technique offers each candidate a unique and personalized exam created as they answer questions. This method is used in order to increase exam efficiency.

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Who Can Take the NCLEX-RN Exam?

Not everyone can sit for the NCLEX-RN examination. In general, you need to have an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing. However, to be able to take the exam, you need to contact the nursing regulatory body (NRB) where you want to be licensed and ask for their eligibility requirements. Since every NRB has its own requirements, whether you are eligible to take the test will be determined by the nursing regulatory body where you want to practice.

How Do You Sign Up for the Exam?

If you want to register for the NCLEX-RN exam, there are some steps you need to go through. Starting from obtaining eligibility to scheduling the exam, read on to learn more about each step of the process.

Applying for your registration/licensure

The first step includes applying for your registration. You do that by submitting an application to the nursing regulatory body where you want to be licensed. As mentioned before, this step is necessary in order to obtain eligibility to sit for your exam.

Registering with Pearson VUE

Next, register for the NCLEX with Pearson VUE (the testing vendor). You need to use one of the three registration methods: registering online via the Pearson VUE website, registering by phone via Pearson VUE Candidate Services, or registering online using a third-party payment. You need to provide a program code and an email address to register.

Making payments

When registering for the NCLEX exam, you need to pay a registration fee using a valid VISA, MasterCard, or American Express credit, debit, or prepaid card. You need to provide the name shown on the card, your card number, and the expiration date. The price depends on where you take the exam ($200 in the U.S., $360 in Canada, $200 in Australia). If you want to make any changes to your registration, you need to pay additional fees. No refunds are allowed.

Receiving an ATT email

After being declared eligible by your nursing regulatory body (NRB) and registering with Pearson VUE, you will get an ATT (authorization to test) email containing your authorization number, candidate identification number, and expiration date. This email will be sent to the email address you provided when registering and is needed to schedule the exam. The expiration date of an ATT is approximately 90 days after you receive it. If you do not test within those days, you will need to reregister and make another exam payment. If, for any reason, you do not get an ATT email, contact your NRB to find out why.

Finding a testing center and scheduling an exam appointment

Lastly, after receiving your ATT email, you need to locate a testing center and schedule your test appointment. You can schedule your exam appointment online or by calling Pearson VUE Candidate Services on the phone. If this is your first time taking the test, you will be offered an exam appointment within 30 days of your request.

How Can I Prepare for the NCLEX-RN Exam?

How Many Times Can You Take the NCLEX-RN Exam? — Pacific College (1)

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Below we present some simple and practical tips on preparing for your NCLEX-RN exam.

Check NCLEX resources

The NCSBN recommends checking the NCLEX resources you can find online, like the NCLEX tutorial and test plans, to better prepare for the exam. In the tutorial, you can find instructions on answering the different types of NCLEX questions, including multiple-choice items, multiple response items, fill-in-the-blank items, chart items, ordered response items, and graphic items. Meanwhile, test plans contain exam content examples, exam administration, and item writing exercises.

Get familiar with CAT

In addition, understanding the scoring method that NCLEX uses is another way of preparing for your exam. You can learn more about the computerized adaptive test (CAT) and its pass/fail rules online.

Make a study plan

A study plan can motivate and help you study. You can schedule which days you'll be studying and what part you'll include each day. Having a plan makes learning more manageable and more effective.

Practice online

Practicing the exam online can be pretty helpful. Answering practice questions on computerized tests online, gives you the chance to look up the questions you didn't answer correctly and learn the correct answer.


Take breaks

Taking breaks is as important as preparing for the exam. If you overdo studying, the chances are that you won't be able to process information. Occasionally, you need to take your mind off the exam and do things you enjoy.

Prepare for exam day

Preparing for exam day, first of all, includes getting enough sleep the night before. As a result, you will be rested, more confident, and ready for your exam. After that, you need to make sure you arrive on time and have everything you need with you.

What Is the Pass Rate of the Exam?

According to the NCSBN, the 2021 NCLEX-RN pass rate for the U.S. educated, first-time test takers was 86.57% for all levels, including diploma, baccalaureate, and associate degree. Furthermore, nurses with an associate degree had a pass rate of 80.45%, those with a baccalaureate 86.96%, and those with a diploma 80.61%.

On the other hand, the pass rate for the U.S. nurses who repeated the NCLEX-RN exam was 46.38%.

Are You Limited to Retake the NCLEX-RN Exam?

If you happen not to pass the exam, you can retake it after 45 days. And if you are wondering how often you can take the NCLEX, the NCSBN retake policy allows for a retake eight times a year, ensuring 45 exam-free days between each test.

To retake your exam, you first need to reach out to your NRB, register with Pearson VUE, pay the necessary fee, wait for your ATT, and finally, schedule your exam. A Candidate Performance Report (CPR) will be sent to you serving as a guide to preparing you to retake the exam.


The NCLEX-RN exam is only one step towards your nursing career, but passing it will enable you to practice as a licensed nurse. The pressure in on! However, if for any reason, you do not pass it on your first, or second, or fifth time, there is no need to worry, you can try again!

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