How Many Times Can You Take the NCLEX? Tips to Help You Pass
A major concern regarding the NCLEX exam is how many times the test can be taken. While the ultimate goal is to avoid having to sit for your boards more than one time, it is still best to prepare for both outcomes and know the facts in case you find yourself having to retake it. Let's take a deeper dive into the parameters surrounding the frequency in which you can sit for your boards and discuss some tips to bypass having to do so!
While it is not the end of the world if you fail your exam, it is important to explore the specific board of nursing rules in the state where you reside, as there may be some variability. According to the NCSBN website, you can take the exam eight times in one year. In general, however, you must wait 45 days after a failed attempt. Some states may have different rules and regulations, so be sure to investigate the board of nursing website where you live. For example, Florida only allows an individual to fail the exam three times, and if failed three times, they will have to go back to school. Similarly, Texas allows students to take the exam every 45 days for four years before having to return to school. On the other hand, some states allow for unlimited attempts. Keep in mind that with each attempt, there is an additional exam fee.
With that being said, it will ultimately come down to what your current state allows for, so be sure to look at the details before you sit for your exam so you know what to anticipate if you end up not passing the first time around. Now that we have covered the basics of how many times you can take it, let's discuss how we can bypass that entirely and focus on tips to help you pass your upcoming NCLEX!
1. Take it seriously
As you probably are already aware, this is a very important exam. It is even more so if you reside in Florida or Texas, given that you will be required to go through schooling all over again if you do not pass within the allotted attempts. With that said, do yourself a favor and treat this exam the same way you have treated nursing school. The more time you dedicate and the more you treat this timeframe with fragility, the higher the likelihood of avoiding any additional retakes.
2. Believe in yourself
While it may sound cliche, the truth is that what you believe can actually impact performance. If you believe that you're capable of passing with flying colors, you're more likely to see it through. If you're constantly doubting yourself, you'll go into the exam with these same negative thoughts, which could impact your score. Try your best to think positively, no matter how stressful this timeframe may be. Surround yourself with uplifting people, mantras, and words of affirmation so that you feel supported rather than defeated. Before you sit down for each study session, get in a good headspace, and you may find it easier to retain information. Additionally, before the exam itself, tell yourself you can do this, reaffirm that you have all the knowledge you need to pass, take a few deep breaths, and remember how capable you are! Positivity goes a long way and is important for exam success.
3. Utilize active studying
Since you have a finite amount of time, you want to do your best to make the most of every minute that you dedicate to your studies. Therefore, be sure that you are not solely reading through textbooks, watching videos, or re-watching lectures. While this can be a helpful tool to use in conjunction with the application, don't get caught in the trap of thinking that you are prepared simply from skimming over previously learned material. Real learning truly comes from testing yourself to see how much you have retained and where you need to go back and brush up on. Truly the best way to actively study is to work through practice questions and see if you're able to take information that you have learned previously and accurately apply it to an NCLEX-style question. To further advance your acquisition of knowledge, read through every rationale for each question so that you can pinpoint exactly why that answer is the best solution over the rest.
Furthermore, write down the rationales for questions that you answered incorrectly so that you can return to it or review that particular material at a later time. Another way you can do this is to go through practice questions with a friend and discuss your reasoning with one another. Doing so can allow for better absorption of information and can make the process more enjoyable, as well! Get creative in your approach if you're finding it hard to stay motivated; just be sure you are engaging in active studying in addition to any passive review.
4. Start with your weakest subjects first
It can be tempting to start off your study sessions with topics that you have a firm grasp of, but doing so may only give a false sense of confidence if you are neglecting areas that require more attention. Your focus tends to be sharper and fresher at the beginning of a study session, so this is an ideal time to dedicate your attention to topics you know that you struggle with more.
5. Practice questions/exams daily
In addition to tip number three, you want to make it a priority to intertwine practice questions and exams throughout each study session you engage in. Whether you have a goal number that you shoot for each day, be sure you are incorporating some in every day to get your mind in shape for your board exam. This is truly one of the best ways to gauge strengths and weaknesses and determine what areas you need to spend more time on. This is also the one study technique that is most similar to what you will face on your NCLEX, so the more the merrier!
6. Don't read into the question
While you are in the midst of taking practice exams or you are on the NCLEX itself, be sure that you are reading what is given and not adding any of your own details. It is an easy trap to get caught in when you overanalyze the situation and make assumptions outside of what is provided. Try to avoid relating it too much to personal experience or asking "what if" as this can lead to choosing an incorrect answer. Pretend that it is a perfect world with everything you could need, and don't get caught spiraling down a rabbit hole. Whatever is there is all the information necessary to get to the correct answer!
7. Prioritize stress management
Let's face it, this is a stressful time of your life. You just completed nursing school (or are potentially still in school if you're reading this as a current student) and are now thrown in the trenches of needing to continue with a rigorous study regimen. It's not ideal nor enticing, but your future self will appreciate your efforts when you have successfully gained your licensure. With that being said, this is a big deal, and because of that, it can come with a lot of added stress. Therefore, it is incredibly important to make time to prioritize your own self-care in this season of your life to be sure you are staying healthy throughout the hustle. Try to avoid studying 24/7 and allow blocks of time or entire days where you unplug and do something for your own entertainment. Finding a balance during the chaos can be extremely beneficial so you do not burn yourself out.
Additionally, if you are someone who deals with test anxiety, take time well in advance to prepare and have appropriate tools in your back pocket to pull out if necessary during your NCLEX-whether that may be closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths, getting up to walk around and use the restroom, or something entirely different. Be sure to explore some options before the big day and anticipate that nerves will be high, even if you don't tend to suffer from test anxiety. It's a big day, and you deserve to be in the best mental shape!
8. Figure out how you best learn/study
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to their ideal learning environment. Maybe you absorb the most information in the afternoon as opposed to the early morning; maybe you need to have music playing in the background or have it completely quiet; you may prefer studying alone or with a group of people; maybe you prefer to study for long stretches instead of smaller chunks throughout the day. Whatever the factors may be, find what is specific to you, analyze what works well and what doesn't, and then incorporate them into your study regimen. Attempting to force tactics that do not align well with your unique learning style can wreak havoc on your productivity and overall ability to retain key information. Do yourself a favor and work smarter instead of harder. If you are not quite sure as to what specific learning habits work best for you, practice some trial and error to see how you respond and go from there! Don't be afraid to switch it up if things aren't working or incorporate a variety of tactics that feel appropriate and align best with your learning style. If you attempt to utilize a style that does not work for you, you will have a much harder time trying to learn the information necessary for your upcoming boards.
Failing the NCLEX is always a major concern for those preparing for the big day. While it's inevitable to avoid thinking about that potentiality, take heart knowing that (1) you can always take it again, and (2) there are several tips and tricks you can implement into your study regimen to aid in avoiding needing to take it more than once.
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