In addition to attending and successfully completing recognized nursing schools, nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) exam in order to work as a practicing Registered Nurse. The standard exam is developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), a non-profit entity made up of regulatory bodies from all 50 U.S. states. The NCLEX-RN is administered by Pearson VUE, a secure and globally recognized testing company.

What Is the Pass / Fail Rate of the NCLEX-RN Exam?

The NCLEX-RN exam is challenging even for graduates of top-performing schools. For this reason, many students opt to complete test preparation courses and workbooks to familiarize themselves with exam content as well as formatting structure.

In 2018, the most recent year statistics are available, approximately 12% failed the exam the first time; 88.29% passed. Test takers receive an official pass / fail results from their nursing regulatory body approximately 6 weeks after they have completed the exam. (Some jurisdictions permit the release of non-official results sooner, within 2 weeks.)

What Happens If You Do Not Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam the First Time?

Though the vast majority of candidates pass the exam the first time, those who fail are permitted to retake it after 45 days from their original test date. Candidates may retest as many as 8 times in a year. Candidates must pass NCLEX within three years from when they graduated nursing school. Please note that some states put additional limitations on how many times candidates can re-take the test.

See our 10 tips for preparing for the NCLEX-RN.

Which States/Jurisdictions Limit the Number of Times You Can Re-Take the Exam?

When retaking the exam, candidates must adhere to the regulations set forth in their state when those regulations are more restrictive than the ones set forth by the NCSBN.

  • For instance, in the state of Colorado, candidates are permitted to take the exam three times within three years from the date the first examination was taken. In Louisiana, it is four times within four years.
  • In Florida, Hawaii, and Michigan, candidates who fail the exam three times are required to take and successfully complete state-approved remedial course(s) before they can re-take the exam for the fourth time.
  • In Indiana, candidates who fail the exam three times are required to prepare and present to the board the seriousness of their candidacy before retaking the exam a fourth time. In South Carolina, candidates who fail their exam within the first year must provide evidence to the board of remediation before re-taking it.

Because such requirements are subject to change, candidates are encouraged to contact the Nursing Regulatory Body (NRB) in their state for their policies on NCLEX exam retakes. This listing of states that have their own restrictions on test retaking is not all-encompassing. Moreover, candidates will have to pay additional fees associated with retaking the test.

How Can You Increase Your Chances of Passing the Exam When Retesting?

Candidates who did not pass the exam will receive an individualized NCLEX Candidate Performance Report (CPR), which reviews how they performed on each area of the exam. It is suggested candidates review their CPR so they know which areas they need to study more for in order to pass the exam when retesting. NCLEX-RN practice tests can be very helpful as well.

Nurses holding up hands in confused posture.

The Factors That Bind RNs: Are RNs Nurses If They Don’t Work at the Bedside?Congratulations! You are officially a part of the most trusted profession, with the opportunity to make a difference in people's…

Black ER nurse smiling with arm crossed in ER room.

5 Ways to Improve Your Performance as an ER NurseLike many medical careers, emergency nursing is much different than how it's portrayed on television. With the fast-paced environment of…

Light arrow pointing up surrounded by hands.

5 Leadership Core Competencies That Will Help You Manage NursesBeing a nurse is no easy feat. In addition to dealing with medical procedures, you also interact with many different…

Blurred motion of doctor and nurse pulling stretcher in hospital hallway.

Professional Resuscitation: Help Educate the Next Generation of NursesThe overhead page calls out "Code Blue 3-3-4-7" three consecutive times. The CODE team drops everything and rushes to the…

Advance your career picture.

Advancing Your Nursing Career: 3 Things That You Can Do NowOne competitive edge that nursing has over most professions is the multitude of options it offers for nurses who are…