Taking the NCLEX After 20 Years: 10 Things to Know - Nurse Money Talk (2024)

Not everyone who finishes nursing school takes the NCLEX exam straight away.

For some, life gets in the way in the form of illness, inability to pursue nursing at that time, or other reasons.

Luckily, there doesn’t seem to be a limit to how many years after nursing school you’re ineligible to take the NCLEX.

Still, if you’ve been out of nursing school for 20 years, you’ll need to do some extra preparation to bring your knowledge and skills up to date to pass the NCLEX exam.

tips for Taking the NCLEX After 20 Years

To be successful in taking the NCLEX after 20 years, you should take refresher courses and attend seminars and workshops so you can get up to speed on things that have changed in nursing practice.


NCLEX Prep Academy

The only NCLEX prep you’ll need. Check out the nclex prep course that helps graduate nurses pass their state board.

What does it cover?

  • Test Taking Tips
  • Nursing Cheatsheets
  • NCLEX Topics Covered
  • Video Lessons
  • Practice Questions
  • Mobile App

Just to name a few.

Start FREE Trial

1. Take an NCLEX Review Course

Nursing knowledge evolves, and evidence-based practice changes.

Since you’ve been out of touch with current trends for a long time, you will need to take a review course to help you study for the exam.

A good review course (like this one I recommend) will present information in a structured way to ensure you won’t feel lost and overwhelmed by the volume of the material.

To help you out, this is the NCLEX prep course I recommend. That prep course will do three things.

The first is that it will help you identify where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Secondly, it will show you where you have knowledge gaps due to changes in practice over the years.

Lastly, it will give you the confidence you’ll need by helping you bring your knowledge up to date.

2. Take an RN Refresher Course

Taking the NCLEX After 20 Years: 10 Things to Know - Nurse Money Talk (2)

  • Save

You should do a refresher course in addition to the NCLEX review course.

Refresher courses are an excellent way to brush up on your skills and ensure your practice is current.

It usually contains a didactic and a practical component.

The timeframe needed to complete the course is at most six months, but it will provide helpful updates for a nurse who has been out of the field and now wants to return.

3. Join Continuing Education Programs

One way to upskill yourself is to take on some of the available online continuing education programs.

Most licensed nurses (depending on their state) are required to complete mandatory continuing education courses to maintain their licensure.

But even if you don’t have your license yet, officially, nothing is stopping you from enrolling in some of these to brush up your knowledge and skills.

4. Join a Professional Organization like the American Nurses Association

Consider joining the American Nurses Association and your state nursing association for professional support and growth.

It can be a springboard for your nursing career by providing education and career development.

For someone who has been out of the nursing circles for a time, the association provides career networking opportunities that can prove invaluable as a way of letting people know you and growing your professional reputation.

5. Volunteer at Free Clinics and Public Health Department

If you feel you need more opportunities to work with real patients, there is no better way than to volunteer your services at clinics and public health services.

You will not be allowed to work as a nurse at these facilities.

However, working as a nursing assistant or another auxiliary position will give you experience that will be important to help you regain your confidence and get used to working with patients again.


Besides volunteering, you could get a non-nursing healthcare job.

That would give you some experience and get you a feel for working in a hospital. Check out the job board to start looking.

6. Attend Seminars and Workshops

Attending seminars and workshops will enhance your nursing knowledge and provide opportunities to get to know other registered nurses in your state.

Many of these are offered online, so it’s an easy way to sharpen your skills.

Of course, there are also opportunities to attend in person, if that is what you prefer.

7. Get a Refresher Course in Technology

Taking the NCLEX After 20 Years: 10 Things to Know - Nurse Money Talk (3)

  • Save

New technology may be the biggest stumbling block in returning to the nursing profession full-time.

Twenty years ago, most charting and nursing communication were done on paper, but now it’s done electronically.

Recently graduated students are used to using devices and software because that is how they’re taught.

Furthermore, patient treatment devices have changed over the past 20 years, so make sure you don’t forget to upskill in this area.

8. Master Different Formats of How NCLEX Questions Are Asked

How NCLEX was presented 20 years ago is not the same as it is now.

The NCLEX review course mentioned above will introduce you to the different types of questions you can expect to see on the exam.

Make sure you take as many practice tests as possible to get used to the way questions are asked by the Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) system.

Check out this article to learn how the NCLEX is scored. You can also check out this article to learn what score you need to pass the NCLEX.

9. Before Registering for NCLEX, You Need Proper Credentials From the State Regulatory Body

Before booking your NCLEX date, reach out to your state regulatory body to determine if your credentials are in order.

There is no time limit on when you should take your NCLEX after finishing nursing school, but some state boards may find your 20-year-old nursing qualification too old.

They may want you to pass a nursing refresher course before attempting your NCLEX to ensure you have all the skills and knowledge to return to the profession.

10. Take the NCLEX

Once you have completed some of the above ideas, you now need to actually study for and take the NCLEX.

I know it might seem daunting, but remember that even if you fail the NCLEX, it’s not the end of the world. There are options available to you.

The goal is to hopefully not have you wait or be delayed another 20 years.

NCLEX Prep Academy

Check out the comprehensive NCLEX prep review that I recommend. Don’t bother with other NCLEX preps that overpromise and underdeliver. Did I mention they have a 99.86% NCLEX pass rate?

Start FREE Trial

Key Takeaways

It’s not easy to take and pass the NCLEX 20 years after graduating from a nursing program, but it’s not impossible.

As long as you’re prepared to put in the work to bring your skills up to today’s standards and network to gain valuable contacts within the profession, there’s no reason why you would not succeed.

Related Articles

  • Should I Take the NCLEX in the Morning?
  • What Are Considered Lower Level Questions on the NCLEX?
  • How Many Hours a Day Should I Study For the NCLEX?
  • This is How the NCLEX Scores SATA Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

Some states put time limits on when you have to take and pass the NCLEX after graduating from nursing school.

Depending on your jurisdiction, some state boards of nursing may require you to take a refresher course if you wait 10 years to take the NCLEX. Contact your BON to be sure.

Depending on your jurisdiction, some state boards of nursing may require you to take a refresher course if you wait 7 years to take the NCLEX. Contact your BON to be sure.

Taking the NCLEX After 20 Years: 10 Things to Know - Nurse Money Talk (2024)


Can I still take the NCLEX after 20 years? ›

Luckily, there doesn't seem to be a limit to how many years after nursing school you're ineligible to take the NCLEX. Still, if you've been out of nursing school for 20 years, you'll need to do some extra preparation to bring your knowledge and skills up to date to pass the NCLEX exam.

Can I take the NCLEX 10 years after nursing school? ›

I spoke to a supervisor at the California Board of Registered Nurses licensing division. She stated that there is no time limit on when you finished your nursing education to make you eligible (or ineligible) to take the NCLEX and you should go ahead and apply.

How long can you take NCLEX after graduation? ›

Typically, you can take the exam 45 days after graduation [1]. However, the date varies state by state. The first step is to complete the two-step registration process on NCSBN. Once approved, you'll have 365 days to take the NCLEX.

Do you have to pay $200 to retake NCLEX? ›

The registration fee for NCLEX retesting is $200 with Pearson VUE, and there's a $75 reapplication fee. Before paying any registration fees, though, contact your local nursing board and determine your state guidelines and requirements for retesting.

Is there a lifetime limit on NCLEX? ›

According to the policies of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), which oversees administration of the NCLEX examinations, you may take an exam no more than eight times in one year, but the organization does not cap the lifetime number of retakes allowed.

Can the NCLEX stop before 75? ›

2. The test shuts off before you answer the minimum number of questions. The NCLEX-RN has a minimum of 75 questions and a maximum of 145, and you have five hours to complete the exam.

Can you skip nursing school and just take NCLEX? ›

No, you can't take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) until you complete a nursing degree. The type of degree needed depends on the nursing license you wish to obtain. In general, you'll need to pass a diploma program or get an associate's (ADN) or a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN).

What states have unlimited NCLEX attempts? ›

Pennsylvania: Unlimited attempts. Ohio: Unlimited attempts. New York: Unlimited attempts. Canada: 3 attempts maximum.

Do you have to take NCLEX again for BSN? ›

Once you successfully pass this exam, you do not need to take it again, even if you finish a BSN program years later.

Which state is best for NCLEX? ›

1. New Hampshire. New Hampshire boasts the highest NCLEX pass rate average in the U.S., over 14% higher than the national average. In 2022, five of the state's eight bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs reported first-time pass rates above 90%, including a 100% rate for Plymouth State University.

How long is too long to study for NCLEX? ›

Recommended study times may vary depending upon the level of preparation needed and can range anywhere from four to twelve weeks or more. Although this article provides a guide to studying NCLEX in one month, it is highly recommended you allocate more than just four weeks to prepare for your exam.

How hard is the NCLEX exam? ›

NCLEX Pass Rates

The second-attempt pass rate for domestically-educated students taking the test was 45.56%. These results demonstrate that it is a pretty difficult test. The questions are designed to test your critical thinking, knowledge of the nursing process, and assessment skills.

Is the NCLEX changing in 2023? ›

The Next Generation NCLEX (NGN) launched in April 2023 and is an enhanced version of its predecessor, the NCLEX. As a nursing student preparing to take this exam, you should be aware of what's changed on the new NCLEX.

Do you only need 50% on NCLEX? ›

The NCLEX is scored using dichotomous scoring, so you can either pass or fail the exam. Currently, to pass the NCLEX-RN, the standard is 0.00 logits–or answer questions correctly at least 50% of the time.

Do you have to pay for NCLEX again if you fail? ›

NCLEX Retake Steps

Contact the NRB and notify them the plan to retake the exam. The NRB will inform candidate of any fees or materials that are required to be made eligible to test again. Reregister with Pearson VUE and pay the fee.

Which state has the hardest Nclex exam? ›

None. There is no “easy” state to take the NCLEX. The NCLEX is a national exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Because it's national, the NCLEX will be the same regardless of what state you choose to take it in.

What is the easiest state to apply for NCLEX for foreign nurses? ›

Texas is one of the well-known states especially for foreign-educated nurses. The Texas BON accepts NCLEX applications from foreign-educated nurses who do not have a US SSN for the NCLEX; however, those who do must disclose their SSN status.

Can you pass NCLEX with maximum questions? ›

While it's possible to pass the NCLEX after answering all 135, it's also possible to pass the test with a minimum of 70 questions or any number in between. Keep in mind NCLEX has a time limit of five hours.

What does it mean if I had all 145 questions on NCLEX? ›

Does 145 questions on NCLEX mean you failed? No, if you answer all 145 questions on the NCLEX, that does not mean you fail. In fact, if you answered 145 questions and each question was progressively more challenging, then that is a good sign that you passed.

Is getting 145 questions on NCLEX bad? ›

Nope! And it does not mean you failed. Even at 75 questions can have a failed result.

What are considered hard questions on NCLEX? ›

Each category of questions requires an increasing level of critical thinking skills. Analysis, synthesis and evaluation questions would be considered higher-level NCLEX questions. Synthesis questions are based on creating or proposing solutions, such as a plan of care.

Is nursing school harder than NCLEX? ›

Unlike nursing school exams, which test for knowledge, the NCLEX tests your ability to apply and analyze situations using the nursing knowledge you gained in school. Logic and critical thinking, rather than rote memorization, are emphasized in this test—making it much more difficult and comprehensive.

Can you challenge NCLEX without degree? ›

You cannot challenge the NCLEX exam without going to nursing school. If you're in an RN program, some states may let you challenge the NCLEX-PN part ways through RN school to become an LPN.

Does LPN need to take NCLEX? ›

The NCLEX exam is a standardized test that assesses the knowledge, skills, and abilities of prospective LPNs, and taking it is essential to becoming licensed to practice as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) in the United States. So aspiring LPNs must pass the NCLEX to obtain their nursing license.

What state has the lowest NCLEX pass rate? ›

2 and Dec. 9, 2022. Last year, 63.88 percent of registered nursing students passed the NCLEX, down from 64.79 percent in 2021 and 68.92 percent in 2020. Florida has had the lowest NCLEX pass rates in the country since 2017, according to The Tampa Bay Times.

What state is the fastest to process NCLEX? ›

If you are looking for the best state for NCLEX or easiest state to pass NCLEX, here are the top 5:
  • #1 Connecticut. ...
  • #2 Montana. ...
  • #3 New York. ...
  • #4 Northern Mariana Islands. ...
  • #5 South Dakota.
Jan 20, 2022

Can I take NCLEX if I graduated 5 years ago? ›

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.

What is the national NCLEX pass rate? ›

NCLEX Pass Rates by State
47 more rows
Apr 1, 2023

Can you fail at 75 questions on NCLEX? ›

To pass the NCLEX RN or PN, test takers must correctly answer at least 85 questions (the minimum amount). Unfortunately, that means you can also fail the exam within those 85 questions or items.

Is the NCLEX different for RN and BSN? ›

After earning their degree, BSN graduates are required to pass the same NCLEX-RN test taken by ADN candidates. As a result of the additional education, BSN-RNs are otherwise better positioned for certain nursing specialties, career advancement opportunities, and better pay.

What state has the happiest nurses? ›

Top Happiest 5 states for nurses in the US
  • #5 Colorado. Quality of life ranking: #10. Average RN salary: $69,990.00. ...
  • #4 Alaska. Quality of life ranking: #19. Average RN salary: $88,510.00. ...
  • #3 Oregon. Quality of life ranking: #18. ...
  • #2 Wisconsin. Quality of life ranking: #3. ...
  • #1 Minnesota. Quality of life ranking: #2.

What is the highest paying state for RN? ›

In the United States overall, the average registered nurse salary is $82,750 and the median (50th percentile) is $77,600. California, with RN salaries averaging $124,000, is the highest-paying state for nurses as of May 2021 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

What is most tested on NCLEX? ›

NCLEX-RN Exam Question Categories
  • Safe and Effective Care Environment.
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance.
  • Psychosocial Integrity.
  • Physiological Integrity.

How many questions should I do a day for NCLEX? ›

We recommend that you complete about 2,800 practice questions before your exam. If you are giving yourself a month to study, that means that you would be doing about 100 NCLEX practice questions per day.

What is the passing score for the NCLEX 2023? ›

The 2023 passing standard for the NCLEX-RN is 0.00 logits and -0.18 logits for the NCLEX-PN.

What topics should I study for NCLEX? ›

Most Important NCLEX Study Topics
  • Assessment and Diagnosis. Assessment and diagnosis are the foundation of your nursing practice. ...
  • Triage and Prioritization. ...
  • First Response. ...
  • Pharmacology. ...
  • Aging. ...
  • Scope of Practice and Delegating Care. ...
  • General Care Management. ...
  • Travel Nursing and More.
Mar 8, 2021

What is the hardest part of the NCLEX? ›

Let's look at the 16 most common challenges NCLEX candidates face and ways you can overcome them.
  1. Second-Guessing Your Abilities. ...
  2. Changing Answers Repeatedly. ...
  3. Reading Questions Too Fast. ...
  4. Cramming Before the Test. ...
  5. Not Using the Right Study Tools. ...
  6. Not Getting Enough Rest Before the Test. ...
  7. Reading Too Much into a Question.

How to easily pass the NCLEX? ›

How to Pass the NCLEX-RN: 7 Key Tips
  1. Know The NCLEX Content. ...
  2. Make A Study Plan. ...
  3. Familiarize Yourself with Question Types. ...
  4. Remember to Use the Nursing Process. ...
  5. Utilize Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. ...
  6. Rest the Day Before the NCLEX Exam. ...
  7. Be Early and Stay Calm on the Day of Your NCLEX Exam.
Mar 17, 2023

How do you answer NCLEX questions you don't know? ›

8 Steps of NCLEX Question Analysis
  1. Read the whole question. ...
  2. Ask yourself first. ...
  3. Think about the types. ...
  4. Focus on each question answer. ...
  5. Decide if the answers are wrong, right, and possible. ...
  6. Rank your correct and possible options. ...
  7. Reread the question after choosing “finalists” ...
  8. Make a decision and don't look back.
May 3, 2022

What month is the new NCLEX format 2023? ›

Next Gen NCLEX changes

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) launched the Next Generation NCLEX on April 1, 2023.

How many next gen questions will be on the NCLEX? ›

Length of exam

Currently, the NCLEX-RN requires a minimum of 60 questions with a maximum of 145 questions. The Next Generation NCLEX will require a few more questions: a minimum of 70 questions and a maximum of 135.

What percentage of people never pass NCLEX? ›

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) reports 13.43% of NCLEX-RN candidates fail the exam on their first attempt. The number of unsuccessful test-takers is low compared to the more than 86% who pass the exam on their first try.

Is 90% chance of passing NCLEX good? ›

Depending on the time of year tested and the year, the NCLEX pass rates for first- time, US-educated test takers are usually between 80-90% +/1. So ATI says they predict that 59.9% of students will pass the NCLEX (with a 90-100% probability) when usually around 90% pass.

Is NCLEX cut off at 75 good or bad? ›

8. You answered the least number of questions possible, which is 75. As mentioned in #2, the NCLEX progresses variably, depending on whether you answer a question correctly or incorrectly. If your questions continually got more complex and the test shut off at 75, this is another good sign you passed the NCLEX.

Can employers see if you failed NCLEX? ›

Can Employers See If I Failed The NCLEX-RN? Employers may request a copy of your nursing license or verify that your nursing license is active and unencumbered through the state Board of Nursing. However, they do not have access to NCLEX-RN results.

How long after graduation can you take the NCLEX in New York? ›

The earliest date on which you can take the NCLEX-RN® exam varies depending on your state, but the majority of students test approximately 45 days after the date of their graduation.

How many years after nursing school can I take the NCLEX Pennsylvania? ›

Candidates must take the NCLEX® for the first time within one year of completing their nursing education programs.

How long after failing NCLEX can you register? ›

Is it possible to retake the exam several times? Even though the vast majority of students pass the exam on their first attempt, those who do not pass are allowed to retake it 45 days after the original test date. Retesting is allowed up to eight times per year for candidates.

When should I start studying for NCLEX after graduation? ›

Starting to study at least six months before taking the NCLEX is a great way to pace your studies so you don't experience burnout.

Which state has the hardest NCLEX exam? ›

None. There is no “easy” state to take the NCLEX. The NCLEX is a national exam administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Because it's national, the NCLEX will be the same regardless of what state you choose to take it in.

What state is the easiest to become a nurse? ›

Easiest states to become a nurse – Length of licensing process
  • Maine: 1-2 weeks.
  • Maryland: 2-3 days.
  • Missouri: 2 weeks.
  • Nevada: 1-2 weeks.
  • North Carolina: 1-2 weeks.
  • North Dakota: 1-2 weeks.
  • Texas: 2 weeks.
  • Vermont: 3-5 business days.

Is there an age limit for nurses in the US? ›

There are currently no age limits on enrolment in American nursing schools, although there are limits enforced in the military nurse corps.

How do I study for NCLEX-RN after failing? ›

How to Pass the NCLEX RN After Failing
  1. Step 1: Determine Why You Didn't Pass. ...
  2. Step 2: Familiarize Yourself with the Exam. ...
  3. Step 3: Schedule Study Time. ...
  4. Step 4: Take Test Preparation Courses. ...
  5. Step 5: Find a Study Partner or Study Group.
Apr 17, 2023

Is it bad to get all 145 questions on NCLEX? ›

Nope! And it does not mean you failed. Even at 75 questions can have a failed result.

What are the three pass fail rules for NCLEX? ›

There are three pass/fail rules for the NCLEX examinations: the Run-Out-Of-Time rule, the Maximum-Length Exam Rule and the 95-Percent Confidence Interval Rule.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Fr. Dewey Fisher

Last Updated:

Views: 5869

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (42 voted)

Reviews: 81% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Fr. Dewey Fisher

Birthday: 1993-03-26

Address: 917 Hyun Views, Rogahnmouth, KY 91013-8827

Phone: +5938540192553

Job: Administration Developer

Hobby: Embroidery, Horseback riding, Juggling, Urban exploration, Skiing, Cycling, Handball

Introduction: My name is Fr. Dewey Fisher, I am a powerful, open, faithful, combative, spotless, faithful, fair person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.