Let’s get this out of the way first. You can fail the NCLEX and still end up being a great nurse, a phenomenal nurse actually. Don’t beat yourself up about how you didn’t pass. It happens sometimes. Instead, get determined to get prepared properly and take it for the last time and pass. Here are some reasons why you might have failed and a little bit of advice for each reason….
You don’t know enough nursing content. Many students tell me “I’m strong in knowing nursing content”. However, that’s usually not the case. If you don’t know enough, you won’t pass the NCLEX. Period. You don’t need to know all the content, but you need to know a lot. If someone tells you, “it’s not about knowing content, it’s about critical thinking”, that’s a bunch of baloney. It’s both knowing content and critical thinking.
Advice: You probably need to re-do that review course and get a good NCLEX review book to review content that the course didn’t cover. Don’t use too many resources or you’ll get frustrated.
You didn’t practice very many questions to apply the test-taking strategies and nursing content. Some students just read and study content. You’ll want to practice some questions to see how that content is applied.
Advice: Don’t speed through hundreds of questions. Instead, practice 25-50 questions a day. Actually spend the time to review the questions you got wrong. So, instead of memorizing the answers, understand WHY they are the correct answers.
You’re sort of bad at answering practice questions. (This was me, I just didn’t know how to answer questions.) There are a lot of analyzing problems students make. The biggest ones are “reading into the question”, which basically means you start making up a story. The other major analyzing problem is that you are careless. You just read everything too fast and don’t think very much about the data in the question.
Advice: Slow down and pay attention to all the key words and key phrases in the question to see how it relates. It’s OK to interpret the data, but don’t add content to the question. Don’t jump to answers. Actually think about each answer to see if it makes sense. If unsure, pick something “safe” or go with your “gut”. Then move on without changing your answers.
You don’t finish your study plan, and you “hope” you just don’t get asked about that content you didn’t review. The longer you are out of school, the more content you forget. So if you fail and then decide not to review a topic (like Maternity), you are not doing yourself any favors. You’ll need to work extra hard to re-remember that content in case you get asked about it.
Advice: Keep track of your scores for the questions you did. Any topic where you receive <60% of your questions correct means you need to spend more time reviewing that content.
You have bad testing anxiety. Some anxiety is fine. But obviously when it gets too bad, you can’t think. There’s no easy fix for that.
Advice: Learn the content and get confident in your analyzing and test-taking skills. These two factors greatly decrease your anxiety because you’ve put the work in and passing is the only option.