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Why Passing the NCLEX® in 75 Questions Doesn’t Matter (YOU are NOT your NCLEX® score)

I talk very little about “passing the NCLEX® in 75 questions” and other “popular” topics related to passing in as few questions as possible.

There’s a simple reason for that . . . . it simply doesn’t matter!

As nurses and nursing students we are driven, successful, and competitive when it comes to education.  After all, getting into nursing school is beyond difficult on its own.

Because of these traits we love to compare ourselves to others and get stuck in the hamster wheel of comparisons to other nurses . . . it’s worthless!

I promise you that after completing orientation and after your first year as a nurse NO ONE will ever ask you how many questions you got on the NCLEX®.

In one study, out of 478 graduates who received tutoring for the NCLEX-RN®, “33 (7%) had failed five times, 321 (68%) had failed three times, 96 (20%) had failed twice, and 28 (5%) were taking the exam for the first time. Thus, 95% of [the] student body in 2010 had failed the exam at least twice” (Atemafac, 2014).

Yes, you read that correctly . . . 95% had failed the NCLEX® AT LEAST twice.

I currently work in a downtown Level I Trauma Center in a 34 bed ICU in a hospital that is larger than 95% of ALL hospitals in the United States . . . and you know what?  There are several nurses on my floor that DID NOT pass the NCLEX® in 75 questions and even some that didn’t pass on their first attempt . . . gasp! OMG! How can we let them work on our floor?

Because the ONLY important thing about the NCLEX-RN® is that you EVENTUALLY pass!

10 Real Life Tips About the NCLEX

So little valuable advice is actually given about taking a holistic and healthy approach to the NCLEX-RN.  Instead, too much emphasis is placed on passing in as few questions as possible and many students feel that unless they pass on their first attempt they are essentially worthless and somehow less of a nurse for it.  Here are ten REAL LIFE tips about the NCLEX that I think will help you develop a healthy relationship to this beast of a test.

  1. It is impossible to know everything you need to know or might be confronted with on the exam . . . you just can’t!
  2. When the test shuts off you ARE going to freak out.
  3. You will spend the 48 hours after the test thinking you failed.
  4. Life is NOT over if you do not pass.
  5. Regardless of how long it takes you or how many attempts you can still reach your goals.
  6. Employers will NOT ask you how many questions it took you to pass.
  7. Failing once doesn’t mean you will fail twice . . . failing twice doesn’t mean you will fail three times (get the picture).
  8. Use your failure as an advantage  . . . you know what to expect.
  9. YOU are not a test result.
  10. The NCLEX® is a necessary evil . . . schools are not teaching right!

Let’s talk a bit more about some of these 10 tips . . . because no one else is . . . and so many nursing students are struggling.  I want to put an end to nursing students feeling so bad about themselves and tying their self-worth to a stupid exam.

NRSNG.com has created an awesome test bank of questions for you!

Try Nursing Practice Questions!

It is Impossible to Know Everything

The NCLEX® is essentially a test with an enormous bank of questions on 1,000,000,000,000 different variables.

Think about it.  

You are testing on 8 ambiguous categories covering birth to death and ANY possible disease, medication, procedure of complication that can occur during the life span.

You are taking an entirely unknown amount of questions for an unknown amount of time.

When it comes down to it you have no idea what you will actually be tested about and you can’t possibly remember every fact and figure you have been presented with during school.  I just opened my old MedSurg book . . . 1846 pages how in the world could I ever learn all that PLUS pharm, peds, ob, fundamentals, community health, mental health, and the ever important therapeutic communication?

Plus . . . get this!

The awesome thing about failing is that you get a Candidate Performace Report that outlines how you did on each section of the test.  Did you know that you NEVER get to know how you did on the test unless you fail?  I would kill to know how I did but this report is only available to those who do not pass.  Use this report to focus your studies for the second time around.


RELATED ARTICLE: Ep185: 3500 Free NCLEX Questions


You ARE Going to Freak Out

When I was in nursing school I worked VERY hard and did well.  I studied daily for two years and practised NCLEX questions every single day.  I did well on predictor exams and was pretty confident going into the exam . . .

BUT . . . 

When the exam screen shut off . . . I had NO IDEA if I had passed or failed . . . I left the testing center and called my wife and said “I have NO idea if I passed or failed horribly”.  That’s really how the test works.  Until you have the final results, don’t stress over the outcome.  You can’t do anything at that point and no matter how you did you will still feel pretty confident you failed.

The test simply shuts off after it is satisfied with the results leaving you with nothing better to do but rush home and attempt the Pearson Vue trick and refresh your browser over and over for a few days.


Life is NOT Over

Sadly,  the emotional impact of failing the NCLEX-RN is usually devastating to the students self worth and confidence.  Here at NRSNG.com we get dozens of emails a day from nursing students, nurses, and nursing instructors.  Without fail EVERY day we get an email from a student who has just failed the NCLEX.

  • This doesn’t mean you aren’t smart
  • This doesn’t mean you won’t make an AMAZING nurse
  • This doesn’t mean you won’t pass next time
  • This doesn’t mean you are worthless

As a charge nurse on my unit I am responsible for 12-15 nurses during any given shift . . . Looking at the assignment board prior to the shift starting I assess whether or not we have a “good” staff or not based solely on the the following 5 criteria ALONE.

How to be a “GOOD Nurse”:

  • Do you know your shit (I mean crap)?
  • Do you care about your patients . . . honestly?
  • Are you hungry to learn more?
  • Do you recognize when you are over your head?
  • Do you ask for help when you ARE over your head?

Notice how I didn’t include on that list “passed the NCLEX® the first time in 75 questions”?


RELATED ARTICLE: 4 No Fail Tips to Get a Spot in the ICU as a New Grad RN


Closing Thoughts

While it is not an enjoyable experience, I like the concept of the NCLEX® and I think that every exam should be computer adaptive as it tests much closer to the skills and knowledge of the test taker.  I think the problem lies more in that schools love to talk about critical thinking but sadly have little idea on how to actually teach critical thinking.

Schools are pushed to improve first time pass rates without analyzing HOW or WHAT teachers are actually teaching . . . instead they throw out more and more practice exams, more hoops to jump through prior to letting students graduate, and further distance themselves from the student!

Struggling students are seen as a liability and removed from programs.  Why aren’t nursing schools evaluating and assisting struggling PROFESSORS?

With the cost of the test running more than $300 and the fact that you are unable to obtain employment without FIRST passing the exam the total cost can be THOUSANDS of dollar due to lost wages, testing fees, and other lost earnings and costs of not passing the NCLEX® this is a HUGE burden on the student . . . what are we doing to help these students?

NRSNG.com is committed to helping nursing students learn the information they need to know . . . we don’t believe in reading from powerpoint slides, we don’t believe that instructors should be allowed into classrooms if they don’t have the students best interest at heart, and we believe that nursing school and the NCLEX® don’t have to be so DAMN freaking hard!

The NCLEX® is not the end all be all in nursing!  It is an essential step to becoming a nurse . . . true . . . but learning HOW to be a nurse is more important . . . our goal is to give you those skills.

Try Nursing Practice Questions!

What are your thoughts?  Do you have tips for other students?  Share them below.


Atemafac, J. (2014). Consequences for Nursing Graduates of Failing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). Walden University ScholarWorks.

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Date Published - Jul 2, 2015
Date Modified - Jul 26, 2017

Jon Haws RN

Written by Jon Haws RN

Jon Haws RN began his nursing career at a Level I Trauma ICU in DFW working as a code team nurse, charge nurse, and preceptor. Frustrated with the nursing education process, Jon started NRSNG in 2014 with a desire to provide tools and confidence to nursing students around the globe. When he's not busting out content for NRSNG, Jon enjoys spending time with his two kids and wife.


  1. Lucas

    If I passed with 75 questions is it something that will benefit my resume?

  2. Sheila Reyes

    I took my nclex RN and it shut down at 93 or so questions and my results are not there. how do I know if this is a pass or fail?

  3. Cetevawwj

    As of March 30 I failed for the 2nd time. finding this website helps me feel better about my ability as a future nurse.. thank you I needed to read that encouragement not to give up.

    • Sandra Haws, MS RDN CNSC

      Sandra Haws, MS RDN CNSC

      I’m very sorry to hear that! Please know we here at NRSNG are rooting for your success and we have your back! Please if ever need anything email us at [email protected].

  4. Diane Endo

    I do want to say I am glad I found this website. It is the only thing that is giving me some hope today. Im going on vacation for a week and then I plan on Studying again. I Guess I need to do more questions and try harder .I want to be a nurse so bad. I plan on using this website and all of its resourses to help me pass. I want to take it within 2 months while info. is still fresh in my mind. I took off 6 months the 2nd time I failed and was very depressed…probably was not the right decision….I need confidence and I need to be strong. I wish I knew what I was doing wrong.

  5. Diane Endo

    I graduated Dec. 2015. I failed the Nclex for the 3rd time doing all 265 q on March 7th, 2017. My feedback is near passing standard and Im sure it is the same for the 3rd time. I have noit recieved results yet. I do have test anxiety and I had longer test time in nursing school. Everyone I talk to said they are nervous when taking the test, so I think my anxiety will always be there., I did hurst review for the 3rd time and looked over ati book also for content. They say Confidence is a must to pass. but its hard after failing 3x. Very sad……

    • Jon Haws

      Jon Haws

      So sorry to hear! Thanks for being here and sharing your story so openly. Please try some of our free resources (podcasts, blogs, cheatsheets). The NRSNG Academy will also be a tremendous help. Don’t beat yourself up and keep on moving forward.

  6. Sandi jane Adamson

    I did the nclex so i could work in America. I remember flying to sydney to do it and making sure i had enough hours between my flight there and return in case it took hours. It shut off at 75 questions. I sat in a park in a daze all day wondering if I had failed, thinking about the questions and convinced id failed! I didnt. I passed. Dont think about the test, just wait and see. All the stress worrying about unknowns is not worth it. Fail? Try again!

  7. Nancy lombardi

    My daughter got a 75 when it closed she thinks she failed for sure. Did she