When to Take the NCLEX After Graduation (2024)

When to Take the NCLEX After Graduation (1)

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When to Take the NCLEX After Graduation (2)

Table of Contents

  • When to Take the NCLEX After Graduation
  • When Do Most Graduates Take the NCLEX?
  • First, Assess Yourself
  • Learn How the NCLEX Works
  • How to Register to Take the NCLEX
  • Just Tell Me When to Take the NCLEX
  • More NCLEX Resources

When to Take the NCLEX After Graduation

When to Take the NCLEX After Graduation (3)

Alright, so you’ve graduated nursing school and are trying to figure out when to take the NCLEX after graduation.Unfortunately, there isn’t an answer to this question that is right for everyone. However, there are certain things to consider as you make this important decision.

You don’t want to take it too early if you’re not ready, but you don’t want to wait too long. The longer you wait, the more you forget.

You also want to take this seriously. Don’t just test to see if you’ll pass, then only study and take it again if you have to.

It’s not that simple. Or affordable.

Taking your nursing boards is expensive. There are fees from both your state board of nursing and Pearson Vue (the people who administer the NCLEX) to consider, in addition to any lost wages from not being able to start work as a nurse right away. Plus, you must wait a minimum of 45 days to retake the exam. That’s 45 days of lost wages.

If you earn an average RN salary, you’ll be missing out in $12,825 in lost wages. Not to mention what you’d pay for a review course and fees to re-register on top of it.

So, let’s dive deeper into figuring out when to take the NCLEX after graduation.

When Do Most Graduates Take the NCLEX?

Let me tell you about my post-grad timeline. I graduated May 8th, 2010 and I tested June 15, 2010 (5.5 weeks later). I took an NCLEX review course, an assessment afterwards to see where I needed more content review, and took 25-50 practice questions 6 out of 7 days a week until June 13th. Then, I did nothing nursing related on June 14th. Finally, I tested on June 15th and passed in 75 questions in about 1.5 hours.

Reminder: I’m not a great test-taker. I attribute this success to diligent and purposeful studying and planning.

I thought it’d be helpful to hear from other nurses about their post-graduation timeline. I asked nurses on Twitter, with almost 800 nurses responding. Results showed that 79% tested between 2-8 weeks after graduation, and 98% of voters would have either tested earlier or at the same time if they had to do it all over again.

Bottom line: Test as soon as you’re ready, don’t wait.

First, Assess Yourself

It is critical when studying for this exam is to first identify the areas in which you need focus. I recommend taking an NCLEX simulation exam. By doing this, you get the feel for the exam and computerized adaptive testing (more on that later), as well as identifying those specific topics to focus in on.

Bonus if you can find one that has:

  • An adaptive question algorithm – so it’s set up is like the NCLEX and not just a bunch of multiple-choice questions
  • Multiple practice attempts – you’ll want to re-test again after you think you’re ready to double check
  • Rationales for the questions to review later
  • Alternate format questions

Come up with a study plan, and write it out on your calendar. I wrote out the number of practice questions and a specific amount of time I was going to review content each day and then gave myself a day off each week.

For example, plan to study for two 20-minute focused blocks of time with breaks in between, followed by 25 practice questions, another break, then another 20 focused minutes.If you break things up into manageable chunks, it makes the tasks more conquerable.

Learn How the NCLEX Works

The NCLEX is not like your normal nursing school test. It is a computerized adaptive test. Here’s a great video explaining the NCLEX as a computer adaptive test.

Essentially, you’re first given a question of medium-difficulty. The next question you get depends on how you answered the previous question. If you answered it correctly, you’ll get a harder question. You’ll then get harder questions until you get one wrong. If you answered it incorrectly, you’ll get easier questions until you get one right… then you’ll get harder ones. This continues until you either pass or fail. Check out this 1:21 minute video that describes the confidence interval well.

Big important 2023 update: There has been a massive NCLEX update as of April 1, 2023 called NCLEX Next Generation. To learn more about those updates, click here.

How to Register to Take the NCLEX

Once you’re ready, you can’t just go to your nearest testing center and test. There are quite a few steps you must take before being able to actually take boards.

(And if you want a little mini course that walks you through all of these steps, click here!)

First, you’ve got to apply with your state board of nursing (BON) to take the exam.

Lets go through an example. We’ll pretend I want to be licensed as an RN in Indiana. I would go to the website of the Indiana State Board of Nursing and I would apply for licensure by examination.

The BON will do the typical background check to ensure it’s appropriate to give you a nursing license (should you pass boards), and check your transcripts to make sure you did indeed graduate from an accredited nursing program. There are also fees that come along with applying for licensure, which vary from state to state. This process can be quick or slow, but it depends on your state and if your school takes their sweet time getting your transcripts sent in.

Keep in mind, if you’ve got things on your record like a DUI/DWI, it’ll take longer for this to occur. This doesn’t mean you won’t get cleared necessarily, but it just takes longer if there are things that show up on the background check.

In addition to this, you’ve got to register with Pearson Vue (the people who administer the NCLEX). There is (you guessed it) another fee to register with them. The fee is currently $200.

Once these two steps have been completed, you must wait.


When you’re cleared, you receive your Authorization To Test (or more commonly referred to as an “ATT”). Only after you have an ATT can you schedule yourself to sit for boards. Pearson Vue will provide a list of locations near you with dates and times. Some will be as soon the next day, to a few months away. The catch is, ATT’s expire after 90 days (12 weeks). You MUST have an active ATT on the day you go take your exam. They will not make any exceptions and extend the date on someone’s ATT.

So, if you were hoping to test later than 12 weeks post-graduation, you’re not going to want to submit paperwork to get your ATT right after graduation.

There is a really good explanation of this here, on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) website… you know, the people who write the NCLEX.

To review:

  • TheNational Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) writes the NCLEX
  • Pearson Vue administers the NCLEX
  • Your respective State Board of Nursing is who grants your nursing license. They will only do this when they see that you’re appropriate to give a license to after a background check, transcripts show you’ve graduated from an accredited nursing school, and you’ve passed the NCLEX
  • It takes time to get your ATT, so plan accordingly both practically and mentally

Remember, you will start this process and while it’s happening you should continue to study and prepare. It’s not a process where you apply for your ATT and once you get that, then you study. You should be studying throughout this entire time.

Just Tell Me When to Take the NCLEX

Sooooo…. I wish I could just tell you a definitive answer, but I can’t. There are so many variables… from each state BON’s timeline to each school to get transcripts out, to your own individual and unique study needs.

If you’re the typical nursing school graduate, you will test between 2-8 weeks (0.5 – 2 months) after graduation. This is well within the 90 days/12-week windows of an ATT. This would mean you could wait a few weeks post-graduation to begin your paperwork to obtain your ATT and once you receive this, you could schedule yourself pretty soon thereafter.

I waited about 2 weeks after graduation before submitting my paperwork just in case they flew through it and I wasn’t ready to test within the dates on my ATT. I didn’t want to risk needing to re-initiate that process and pay more fees. Once I received it, I scheduled myself to test about 2 weeks later. Honestly, the scariest part was scheduling it because I knew once I did, there was no turning back!


One thing that both the NCSBN and Pearson Vue recommend doing is not waiting until the end of your ATT to look for an available testing date because they fill up quickly.

To get your mind around where you’ll test, you can view available locations ahead of time.

My Recommendations on When to Take the NCLEX After Graduation

  1. Before you graduate, familiarize yourself with your State Board of Nursing (where you want to practice, not where you went to school) website and the process. Take note of how long it’ll take you to get everything together and what they’re asking for. Remember, this is your responsibility, not your school’s. I thought my school would take care of this for me (for some reason), but they did not.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the Pearson Vue process as well
  3. Pick your NCLEX review plan
  4. Once you graduate, take an NCLEX simulation exam and see where you stand, and if you’ll need more or less time to study
  5. Create an NCLEX study plan customized to your needs. Include things like NCLEX question banks.
  6. Apply to your state BON and Pearson Vue when appropriate (considering how long you want to study and if you’ve got anything that may delay your ATT… like things that may come up on your background check – again, if you’re like most, you’ll wait 1-2 weeks post-graduation to begin this process while simultaneously studying)
  7. Stick to your study plan
  8. Test when you’re ready – don’t delay!

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When to Take the NCLEX After Graduation (4)

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More NCLEX Resources

When to Take the NCLEX After Graduation (2024)


When to Take the NCLEX After Graduation? ›

In most states, the earliest you can take the exam is approximately 45 days after your graduation date. It's important to note that this does vary state by state, so check with your nursing regulatory body (NRB) to find out if your state requires a longer waiting period.

How long does it take to be able to take NCLEX after graduation? ›

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.

Is there a time limit to take the NCLEX? ›

You will have up to 5 hours to complete either the NCLEX RN or the NCLEX PN. The total time limit of 5 hours includes the times for the introductory screen and any breaks. The only NCLEX prep you'll need. Check out the nclex prep course that helps graduate nurses pass their state board.

How far in advance should I study for NCLEX? ›

Build a Study Plan Early and Stick to It

The smartest thing you can do is to start preparing for the NCLEX 6–12 months before exam day.

How long do you have to wait to take the NCLEX if you fail the first time? ›

Per NCSBN policy, you need to wait a minimum of 45 days between each exam if you fail the NCLEX®? This length of time is determined by the BON/RB and will be reflected in the new ATT's validity dates.

Is it better to take the NCLEX right after graduation? ›

After graduation, plan on taking the NCLEX within 1-2 months. Don't wait any longer because you will start to forget the material. Right after graduation, the nursing concepts are still fresh on your mind and chances are you just got done taking exit exams (which primed you for NCLEX).

What happens if a graduate nurse fails the NCLEX? ›

Failing the NCLEX means you will not be issued a nursing license. Nursing school graduates in every state must pass the NCLEX-RN before being issued a license to practice as a registered nurse.

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.

How many times can you fail NCLEX? ›

If they fail, they'll need to wait 45 days before retesting. After failing three times, though, they'll need to complete a board-approved remediation program before the next retake. test-takers have six attempts to pass in total.

What happens if you don't pass NCLEX in 3 years? ›

If you have not passed the NCLEX by the three-year anniversary of your graduation, you will have to attend a nursing education program before you may take the exam again.

Is 2 months enough to study for NCLEX? ›

To pass the NCLEX, students should plan to spend a minimum of 1-2 months studying.

Is 3 weeks enough to study for NCLEX? ›

It is commonly recommended that you spend at least six weeks studying for the NCLEX. However, you can take a couple of practice quizzes and tests to evaluate how prepared you are. If you feel prepared and do well on the practice tests, then two weeks may be enough time to study and refresh your knowledge.

Is 1 month enough 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 many questions out of 75 do you need to pass the NCLEX? ›

Run-Out-Of-Time Rule

A test-taker must have answered the minimum number of required test questions to be eligible to pass. For examinees taking the NCLEX-RN, at least 75 questions must be answered. A minimum of 85 questions must be completed on the NCLEX-PN exam.

What are considered hard questions on NCLEX? ›

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.

How many questions do you have to miss to fail the NCLEX? ›

Failing the test can result in not answering the minimum amount of 70 questions within the allotted time. You can answer the first 69 questions correctly, but you will automatically fail the exam if you don't reach number 70.

How many hours a day should I study for the NCLEX? ›

How long should I study each day? The amount of time that you choose to schedule in your NCLEX study plan can be highly subjective from person to person — but on average, it is recommended that a nursing student aims to study at least 3-5 hours a day (excluding days off) while they prepare for the exam.

Can you study too much for NCLEX? ›

You can study too much, as much as 100 questions per day, or you can cram on the day before the test, staying up all hours. Neither is bound to be successful. Instead, create a structured study plan for the weeks up to the test date.

Can I start working after passing NCLEX? ›

After you graduate and find out you passed NCLEX-RN, you are free to begin work as a registered nurse. While you can apply for jobs and go to work without any other training, some new nurses enjoy the benefits of a Nurse Residency Program.

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.

Can you fail the NCLEX-RN with 76 questions? ›

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 75 questions on NCLEX good? ›

Yes, you can pass the NCLEX-RN by answering only 75 questions. Keep in mind, the number of questions you answer may be a sign you passed, but it is not a definite sign. If your questions got progressively more challenging until the test stopped, this is one of the good signs you passed NCLEX in 2023.

Which state is easiest for NCLEX? ›

1. New Hampshire
  • NCLEX Pass Rate Average (2017-2021): 94.58%
  • RN-Associate Degree NCLEX Pass Rate (2021): 92.8%
  • RN-Bachelor Degree NCLEX Pass Rate (2021): 93.8%
  • Total Number of Candidates (2021): 767.
Apr 25, 2023

Is 90% chance of passing NCLEX good? ›

Specifically, nurse educators viewed students with predicted probabilities of passing the NCLEX-RN/NCLEX-PN greater than 90% as “on track” and therefore “low risk.” Nurse educators further categorized students with predicted probabilities of passing NCLEX-RN/NCLEX-PN between 80% and 89.9% as having “moderate need of ...

What state has the lowest NCLEX pass rate? ›

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 is the passing score for the NCLEX? ›

A candidate that asks, how many questions do you need to pass NCLEX, will not receive a definite answer. Candidates must answer at least 75 questions in the five available hours or fail the test. The maximum number of questions in both exams is 145. Therefore, test-takers typically answer between 75 and 145.

What is the national NCLEX pass rate? ›

Falling Pass Rates

Pass rates continued to decline in 2022, with an average pass rate of 80.9% opens in a new tab or windowfor all first-time U.S.-educated candidates, and a rate of 66.6% for all candidates, based on a dataset that excludes the fourth quarter of the year.

Which state has unlimited NCLEX? ›

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

Can I take NCLEX 10 years after graduation? ›

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.

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.

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 I pass NCLEX with 145 questions? ›

While you can fail the NCLEX PN or NCLEX RN exam in 145 questions, it's unlikely. Most students are more prepared than they think, hence why most students pass the NCLEX exams.

Is NCLEX harder than UWorld? ›

UWorld found that about 90% of users who took the NCLEX report that the Questions on UWorld were either at the same difficulty level as the NCLEX or harder.

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.

Is 6 weeks enough to pass the NCLEX? ›

The NCSBN published a study that showed that the optimal time to prep for NCLEX is about 45 days . . . so if you've got a good content base - you should be fine with a 6 week NCLEX study plan.

How long does the average NCLEX take? ›

You will have 5 hours to finish the NCLEX (both RN & PN), which translates to an average of 2 minutes and 5 seconds to complete each question if you end up going all the way to question 145. As you are testing, remember that each NCLEX question is as important as the next.

Are you smart if you pass NCLEX in 75 questions? ›

Finishing the NCLEX as 75 questions means that the Computerized Adaptive Testing was confident in assessing your knowledge and critical thinking abilities. 75 NCLEX questions is not a direct indication of pass or fail. It means you were either doing really well or really poorly.

Does the last question on NCLEX matter? ›

If the last question is below the level of difficulty needed to pass, the candidate fails. If the last question is above the level of difficulty needed to pass, the candidate passes.

Does the NCLEX shut off at 75 if you fail? ›

The NCLEX only shuts off at 75 if you did well or very very poorly. If you did really poorly you would have felt like you were struggling with every question.

What level are priority questions on NCLEX? ›

What are NCLEX Priority Questions? Priority questions are designed to test your conceptual comprehension. They are generally written at the analysis level, meaning you'll need to analyze the choices and apply your knowledge in order to answer the question correctly.

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.

Can you pass the NCLEX with 50% of questions right? ›

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 the first 15 questions of the NCLEX count? ›

The first fifteen questions are pretest items and are not used to score the exam and determine if a test-taker has passed the NCLEX-RN. Not all candidates will answer the maximum number of questions. However, everyone who takes the exam must complete a minimum of 75 questions.

What happens if you finish NCLEX in 75 questions? ›

When the NCLEX-RN shuts off at 75 questions, it means you either did very well or very poorly—enough so that the CAT model is 95% confident in your success or failure after only one-third of the possible 265 exam questions. Further, in a 75-question test only 60 questions are counted toward your passing score.

What happens if you get all the questions on the NCLEX? ›

If you answered the minimum number of questions, then the computer will score you based on your final ability estimate. You'll fail the exam if you didn't answer the minimum number of questions.

Can I take NCLEX after 3 years? ›

If you have not passed the NCLEX by the three-year anniversary of your graduation, you will have to attend a nursing education program before you may take the exam again.

Can you take 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.

How soon after graduation can you take the NCLEX in Florida? ›

It has not been more than three months since you have graduated from an approved program. You have been authorized by the Board to practice as a graduate nurse or graduate practical nurse and have received a “Graduate Nurse” or “Graduate Practical Nurse” letter. You have been authorized to test by the examination ...

Do you take NCLEX after BSN? ›

RN vs BSN: Education Requirements

Despite the two different categories of education level for a registered nurse, both are required to pass the NCLEX exam in order to become a licensed nurse.

Can I take the NCLEX after 4 years? ›

test-takers must pass the exam within four years of graduation. The last application must be made at least 120 days before they become ineligible to take the exam.

How many people fail the NCLEX? ›

According to the NCSBN, the national first time NCLEX-RN pass rate for US educated nurses in 2020 was 86.5% and the PN pass rate for the same period of time was 83%. The pass rate for repeat RN test-takers was only 42.9% and for PN 35.6%.

Can you work as a nurse before passing NCLEX? ›

In the United States, you cannot work as a nurse if you fail the NCLEX. This is because you cannot work as a nurse without a nursing license, and you cannot receive a nursing license without passing NCLEX. Therefore, you cannot work as a nurse without passing NCLEX.

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.

What can you do with a BSN if you don't pass the NCLEX? ›

17 jobs if you have a nursing degree but no license
  • Health educator.
  • Medical transcriptionist.
  • Home health aide.
  • Nursing assistant.
  • Medical assistant.
  • Health coach.
  • Research assistant.
  • Medical records specialist.
Sep 30, 2022

Does having a BSN make you an RN? ›

A BSN, which stands for Bachelor of Science in Nursing, is an undergraduate-level degree for registered nurses (RNs) that introduces nurses to topics such as patient care technology, research, health promotion, safety and quality within the healthcare system.

Does BSN or RN go first? ›

In terms of right or wrong, there is no difference between RN BSN and BSN RN. You can list your license first, then add the education level, or you can start by the education level, and then add the license. They are both acceptable ways to list your credentials.


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