How I Failed the NCLEX and Why I am Grateful for the Experience

Written by RnAcademyPhil on . Posted in Excellent Nursing, NCLEX

My Road to Nursing has not been an easy one.  The first time I took the NCLEX I failed.

In hindsight there are a few things I would definitely do differently if I lived my life over again.

This is a post regarding a 180 degree turn in how I study, my thoughts on nursing and how I view the seriousness and importance of my profession.

Also, why spending $40,000 for nursing school means
nothing when taking the NCLEX.     Read How I Failed the NCLEX

After I graduated with my BSN in Dec. 2009, I was ready to be making the big nursing bucks.    Unfortunately, one very large obstacle loomed in the distance.  The NCLEX.   My thoughts after graduation were

I just spent 40,000 on Nursing school, why do I need to study for the NCLEX?

I did not study for the NCLEX at all.  The year previous I attended the Hurst review.  I thought, (stupidly, I might add) with all the experiences I’ve had, getting my BSN and already having taken the Hurst review, I was ready to slaughter the NCLEX.

I sure was mistaken, I sat down for the test and anxiety set in, I didn’t know 90% of the questions.  The test shut off on question 125 after asking me some low level questions, for example “List the steps to start an IV” or “What is the most important thing about hand-washing”.

I walked out of the test KNOWING I failed, and sure enough, 2 days later I was stricken with the real bummer news.  The sad news set me for a whirlwind.

This experience threw me into a pretty depressing spiral.  Forty grand was spent on nursing school and it felt as though it was for nothing.   While my nursing school buddies were already starting their jobs, I was left jobless,  wondering if I was going to pass the test the next time I was eligible to take it.

A vow was made after failing the NCLEX, the next time I was to take it, I was going to slaughter the test and drag it back to my cave . I religiously went into studying for the NCLEX.   I signed up for the Hurst review (again) and then took the study guide home and memorized it whole.    I’d then have my then girlfriend, (now wife) test me randomly on any questions in the book.  Every day I would practice approximately 150 NCLEX questions.   That April when I was to take the test again, I was ready.

When I sat down for the test, I was still anxious, but excited to be finished with the test.   Going through the questions I stayed in the higher level questions, quite confident I was going to pass.  The test shut off around 75 questions and I was overjoyed.

2 days later, after looking at the AZ State Board of nursing site 30+ times, my nursing license showed up.  I cannot express how much more it meant to me passing the test that time around.

Having taken the NCLEX 2 times has taught me the importance of being very intentional about everything I do in nursing.  We are given such a special calling in our field… to take care of the sick and dying.  I cannot and will not be mediocre.  My goal is to strive for excellence in all that I do, and I now know that excellence in nursing is obtainable.

If you are in the middle of studying for the NCLEX, shoot me an email, I’d love to encourage you and give you some study tips that I learned on my own personal journey.   Thank you for reading.

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RnAcademyPhil

I’m Phil Schafer BSN RN. I am a 29 year old Emergency Room nurse and a DNP Student at University of South Alabama. My path to become a nurse has definitely not been easy. My failures on my path to become a nurse has instilled within me a passion to unceasingly promote nursing excellence, from the job interview to the Emergency room to the admitting patient floors. I am passionate about building a community of like-minded nurses. Follow RNAcademy Phil on Twitter

Comments (65)

  • Maria

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    Congratulations!!, I am studying and preparing for the NCLEX and I am wavering between Kaplan, Ready to Pass, or Hurst. Did you feel totally prepared with Hurst? I am leaning to register for Ready to Pass and Hurst.

    Reply

  • Katt

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    Hi! I’m so incredibly glad I came across your post. I actually did the same thing, took the NCLEX knowing I knew nothing about the content. My school didn’t cost as much as yours, but I sure was the slacker in the group. I took it just to take it, because my parents expected it, other students… and I honestly didn’t care if I passed it or not, because I really didn’t want to be a nurse at the time. I have to say that studying now is COMPLETELY different when I “tried” to study the 1st time. I actually want to know the information, I try to understand what I get wrong in questions etc. I agree with you in not wanting to be a mediocre nurse. I’m glad I didn’t pass the first time when I barely knew anything, I would have died on the job. But this time around I’m so eager to hopefully be able to teach patients what I’m learning, to actually understand as much as I can what’s going on with them and to finally work as a nurse and be helpful to another human. So I’m really grateful to have read your post. I take NCLEX this week :X. Of course I feel like I know a ton of information and then at the same time I feel that I know nothing :/. But again, thank you for your post :).

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hey Katt,
      Thank you for your reply. You are set to be an excellent nurse. Even though you didn’t pass the first time, your desire to return and pass the second time will pay you dividends in the future. Nothing comes easy for us “first-time NCLEX failures” :).. Hang in there! There will come a time where you will look back on this and appreciate the hard work that you have put in to become a Nurse. I know I have.

      Reply

  • Nelise

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    Hi Phil I need your help please

    Reply

  • Anna

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    Hi!

    Just wondering if you could provide me with some helpful hints in studying for NCLEX. I just started today and only did 75 questions…I have a hard time keeping concentration! Any info. would be great! Thank you!

    Sincerely, Anna

    Reply

  • Kristin

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    Hey Phil
    Thanks for the tips. I just took the NCLEX for the first time today, answering all 265 questions and the last ones being lower level questions. Even without results I’m positive I failed, you remember that feeling. Do you have any future tips for picking up the pieces and hitting the books again? I took the Hurst and studied for nine days prior to taking and also completed over 3,000 questions during my last semester of nursing school to prepare, anxiety and probably a lack of knowledge got the best of me! Just need advice

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hey Kristen,
      Did you pass!?! If you didn’t, it is back to the drawing board. Focus on memorizing and learning the information. Remember, the NCLEX only wants to make sure your not going to Kill anybody. Memorize contact/isolation precautions, study each body system specifically. I hope to help people pass the NCLEX. I will be getting a class started to help people with this. Hang in there!

      -Phil

      Reply

      • nadige

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        Hi thank u for the advice I took my test last friday and I failed I was feeling very depressed but I am over it I am ready to get down to business any hints

        Reply

        • RnAcademyPhil

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          Good luck Nadige, do not give up. This is the most important time.. Make studying your life. Good Luck and let me know when you pass!

          Reply

  • Vanessa

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    Thanks For sharing your experience, I’d love to hear some tips from you, my friend and I recently failed our nclex and really could use some tips and pick me ups :)

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hi Vanessa,
      Its sad to say, but I know exactly how you and your friend are feeling/felt. I apologize for it taking me so long for me to reply. Have you been studying and have you taken the test again? Please let me know.

      -Phil

      Reply

  • Moe

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    hi there, my name is Moe, and i am a recent graduate from a 2 year college. Like you, i am looking forward to making the big bucks. Sadly i feel that i am not ready for the NCLEX because i took the HESI and i scored poorly. Currently i am signed up with Kaplan and i also have the saunders CD questions pluse nclex 4000. I really dont know what area to focus on but i will start with the important ones Respiratory, Cardiac and GI. if you could give me some tips that might help me pass the nclex, i would appreciate you and for ever owe you a debt. you can email me back at Mohsenmused@gmail.com or call me at 313-208-4408 with all love and respect, MOE

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hey Moe,
      Just following up with you, How did you do on the NCLEX? Hope all is well!

      -Phil

      Reply

  • Kate

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    Hi RNAcademyPhil! My name is Kate and I just graduated with my BSN last month, took Hurst review last week, and registered to take the NCLEX by the end of this month! Time is going by so fast and I’m starting to get really nervous for the exam- yet I feel like I lack motivation to study! Help! And thank for you this helpful article! I also see that you work in the ER…that’s where I’d like to work too! :)

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hi Kate, Sorry it has taken me so long to reply back to you.. You probably have taken the test by now.. How did you do?!?! Please let me know!! Thank you :)..

      Reply

  • Susana

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    I just failed my nclex. Please help me realize that I’m worthy of becoming a R.N. :-(

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hi Susana, You are worthy!! Did you work hard and finish school? The NCLEX does not determine whether you are going to be a good nurse or not. Your desire to be a nurse, your devotion to truly caring for people and the passion and focus you put forth determines how excellent a nurse you are going to be :).. Hang in there!

      Reply

  • Julie Mitchell

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    My name is Julie. Great story! Gives me hope… I took boards today and failed after 76 questions :( Please if you could email me with some encouragement and tips, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks so much! My email is Decatursoftballx7@yahoo.com

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hi Julie,
      Hang in there girl. Now is the time to go back to the drawing board. Have you taken any NCLEX review? The Saunders book really helped me. When I failed the NCLEX, I made studying my life.. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever felt. Hang in there however. Set a goal, go by each specific system, and learn everything you can about that system. Remember your isolation precautions. Remember, with the NCLEX, they are testing to make sure you do not kill anybody :)..

      Reply

  • Ailsa

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    Id love to get ur study tips

    Reply

  • Anna

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    This is a great story! I just took my boards in VA and found out I passed. Mine shut off at 110, but I noticed I was getting a lot of SATA, and what seemed to be harder, questions. During school I took the HESI tests and wasn’t scoring that well. I think it was a combination of lack of caring, but also, lack of skill on HOW to take the NCLEX test.

    Nclex is not about studying and memorizing random facts. While there will be an array of information., you first have to master the art of answering the questions.

    I read the Kaplan Strategy book, which identified tools and tips of how to answer the questions, after each topic there was a list of nclex questions to solidify your knowledge.

    Now, when you get a question on the NCLEX about a syndrome that you have NO idea – you can at least, use your tools to rule out some answers.

    My other tip, take as many questions as you can. The more you take, the more likely you will remember that random question about tumor lysis syndrome….

    Hope this helps!
    Good luck!

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Thanks for this comment and your help.. You are right, a big part of this test is learning HOW to take the test!

      Reply

    • Iris

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      Hi, Ana.

      How long did it take for you to get the NCLEX results in VA?

      Reply

  • Brian Richards

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    Hey, I am taking NCLEX in a week for the second time… I don’t feel like much has changed since the first time and now. What is some good advice? What should I do? Thanks!

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hey Brian, I found that I needed to change substantially the second time around, because I didn’t pass the first time.. The second time I tested, I made NCLEX studying my life. Making it my life for 3 months eventually paid off. Good luck on your next test.

      Reply

      • Chris

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        Hey, I just took my NCLEX for the second time and cut me off at 75 questions. Im pretty sure I failed because I only had 4 or 5 select all questions and pearson vue allowed me to re register. It’s so frustrating right now because i’ve put in the work to prepare my self again. I’ve used lippincotts Q and A and Saunders to help me prepare for this one. What other resources will help me?

        Reply

        • sheila

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          Chris,
          I too just took my nclex for the second time and got cutoff at 117 questions and pearson vue allowed me to re register as well. I could use any help I can get on passing this darn test, bc nursing is all i have wanted to do and care so much about and I don’t want to give up, buts it hard right now not too.
          any help would be much appreciated.

          Reply

          • RnAcademyPhil

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            Hey Sheila,
            I know exactly how you feel! I felt the same way. You worked so very hard to get through school and then you have this crazy hurdle to get through it. Hang in there, keep trying and do not give up.. NCLEX is often learning how to take the test, not always content specific. If you don’t pass, make studying your life.. Thanks for visiting!

            -Phil

            Reply

  • Victoria

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    Hi! I just found out a week ago that I failed the NCLEX! I’m still bummed about it, but I have been studying a lot more. I thought just taking tests everyday would help, but it definitely didn’t.
    I am now going page by page of the Kaplan book. Im starting to realize that a huge part of me failing was content!
    Please send as much motivation, and empowerment my way! I will sure need it!
    And tips are welcomed as well! Thanks for sharing your story… Definitely helpful! :)

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hey Victoria,
      Hang in there, learn also HOW to take the exam. The NCLEX is written a certain way and sometimes you can eliminate questions by reading the syntax of the question. I will eventually write my own study guide for the NCLEX. I am finding there is still quite a need out there for good instruction. Good luck in your indeavors!

      Sincerely,

      -Phil

      Reply

  • jennessy

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    Hi Brian, I recently took the exam and found out that I didn’t pass. I just feel confused and discouraged, and questioned myself if Im just not good enough that i cant even pass an exam. i don’t know what to do if I should try and take it the second time. thank you :)

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Of course you should try! Make studying your life! Good Luck on retaking the exam.

      Reply

  • Lindsey

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    Hi RnAcademyPhil, I am scheduled to re-take NCLEX in mid-September. After failing the first time, I too went into some type of depression and feeling like nursing school was all for nothing. It took alot of convincing that that was not true. I took the HURST review about a month ago and I have gone through the book twice and plan on going through it as many times as possible before the test date. My first go round, i had lots of EKG questions, but hurst does not cover those. What else other than HURST review book do you recommend studying? Also, I have a 1 year old so studying is pretty difficult to fit it, but I manage because i have no choice. Thanks for your help!

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hey Lindsey,
      Good luck on retaking your NCLEX. I totally understand the depression. Don’t let it get you down. What doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger. Ekg’s are EKG’s, understand how to read the rhythms. Know dysrhythmias, what is shockable, what is not. Know your ACLS drugs, epi, dopamine, atropine and dosages. Know how to identify ST Elevation and what it means. Know your blocks. Good luck on retaking the NCLEX. Please let me know if there is anything else I can help you with. Thank you for visiting the site. Good Luck!

      Reply

  • Lou

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    Hi! im glad i came across this site!!!!!!!
    Looking back, had you rather postponed it the first time to allow yourself more time to study, knowing that you werent prepared?
    I’m asking because I am about to take it for the first time in a few days and I wish I would have taken my studying more seriously. I do not feel prepared at all and I’m debating on whether or not postpone it. My family is encouring me to go ahead and take it and to see what happens. i can always take it again if I need to! What are your thoughts? Thank you!

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      If I could go back to my Pre-Nclex failure, I would tell myself not to be cocky and study your ass off. I was deeply humbled when I failed the NCLEX.. It was a sorrowful experience. Especially because I made such an investment in the cost of my BSN. Like 40 grand! The failure humble me and made me study harder than ever before. Study, study, study and then memorize and then apply! Good Luck.

      Reply

  • Chanita

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    Hi Phil,

    Thanks for sharing your story…. I took the nclex yesterday and I’m almost POSiTiVE I failed it. It shut off after 85 questions.. I’m very depressed because I spent so much time studying and I felt like nOTHING I studied was on the test.. Where do I go from here? I took Kaplan and Hurst review.. I almost feel like there’s no way u can study for nclex either you have it or you don’t :(

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Did you pass!?! Many people say they fail after 85 questions, but often pass. Please let me know! Good Luck :)

      Reply

  • Julius

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    Thank you so much for the uplifting message! You will not believe how many times I have taken the nclex. I took the nclex twice now and both ending at 265 nearly passing but not above the passing. I really have lost hope of conquering the nclex. Your speech reminded me of the two instructors I had in college, both reminding me to be always excellent, not mediocre. Nursing is such an amazing field that does not take mediocre. Lives are important! I will plan to go through my sauders review book and Q & A book! I am planning to go back to the hurst since I still have the book! Failure only makes me wiser!

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hey Julius!
      Good luck in retaking your NCLEX. Don’t give up, the NCLEX basically gives you a license to learn. Like the Hurst lady says, they are just testing to make sure you don’t kill people. They say its approximately 2 weeks of vast nursing knowledge. Memorize that Hurst book and be able to apply the information. Study the extra materials and you will be golden!.

      Reply

  • Nicole Parrish

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    I have taken the NCLEX 2x already and failed both. First time I was shut off at 90 questions and second time I took the whole test all 265 questions both results stated “near passing standard” I took a ReMar review course which was many hours of tutoring and book work along with questions. I am not sure how to prepare any better for the 3rd try, I am currently taking a Kaplan review course to help with test taking skills, my nursing journey has not been a slice of pie.
    I am currently am Lpn and work as one but I know I am more than capable of being an excellent RN it’s just the final hurdle of passing the NCLEX. I have never been a great test taker and know that’s part of the problem, it’s not a content issue.

    Reply

  • Tracy

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    Hi, I recently just took my rn nclex for the second time and failed. I took the Kaplan course and studied with my Saunders book. I did over 1,000 questions. Any advice for my next attempt. I’m super nervous about this.

    Reply

  • anne

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    I just took the NCLEX for the 3rd time. All 3 times I failed at 265 questions. All 3 times I thought I did well. Any advice?

    Reply

  • pam

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    I took my nclex today and failed at 160 questions. I feel that I knew the content but did not focus on prioritization and infection control. I did the NCSBN program for 3 weeks and it helped with content but I wasn’t able to master the “who would you see first” questions because the questions required much critical thinking. I left the testing center completely bummed because I studied so much and focused so much on questions and the material ended up being rarely anything I studied. I don’t know where to go from here and I am so discouraged. Should I do a Hurst and Kaplan review or just focus on prioritization and infection control by doing questions from books?

    Any suggestions on where to start studying again? right now I feel like giving up…

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Infection control is a huge one.. I remember several infection control questions from my last test. What I did was memorize everything I could related to different disease etiologies and what precautions I needed to take when seeing that specific patient. I.E. MRSA requires contact precautions, TB require Droplet precautions. This is root memorization. DO NOT GIVE UP. Being a nurse is soo worth it. It has allowed for a great quality of life.

      Reply

  • Sara

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    I just took my NCLEX for the first time today. It shut off at 250 questions. I failed miserably. I’m feeling so discouraged because I studied my ass off, took a Sylvia Rayfield intensive, and work with a Saunders prep book as well. I just graduated in October and am watching all my classmates pass and post success on Facebook. I’m thinking of paying for the Kaplan review. Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hey Sara,
      I know EXACTLY how you feel, it is a humbling experience. Please do not give up! Make studying your life, do lots of questions for the next 3 months and pound it again! These next few months will determine your success the next time you take the test. Good luck!

      Reply

  • Elvis

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    I pretty much did the same thing my first time taking miles. I did not study and went into it and failed my first time. So I began studying again using Saunders cd with the questions. It definitely helped me learn why the answers I choose were wrong. I retook the test again and went all the way to 265 questions and failed once again. Although it’s very discouraging failing 2 times already I still feel like I can do it! Does anyone have any advise on what I should use to study this time around? I have not done any reviews because I have heard that they donot really help…. Any advice is appreciated! Good luck to everyone!

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      I agree, don’t give up! Thanks for your comment. Don’t give up! Make studying your life.

      Reply

  • Timothy Rogers

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    Hey, I just failed the NCLEX today as a matter of fact, and I am in AZ as well. I have vowed as well to not fail again. Could you give me a few tips? I got 80 questions and felt as if knew none of them. I was studying Kaplan questions only when I felt I needed more content. Thanks

    Reply

  • Lucie

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    Hello,RnAcademy Phil.
    I took my NCLEX last Friday it shuts off @75 I was so sure that I did well come to find out I failed it felt like that I got hit by a truck I’ve been so depress any tip on how to study please, I’ve been doing Saunders questions and Kaplan and I’m gonna go for the Hurst review next month looking foward for your input thank you.

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      When you go for the Hurst review, try to remember everything in it. The added information the she gives you is also very very helpful. Good luck!

      Reply

  • Janet

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    I am going through the same experience right now. I have already paid for my second test and am just waiting for them to allow me to schedule. Is the 45 days just the five work days in the week? or all seven in the week? I have been studying from the program from school but since i studied and failed last time with the same program am feeling a little anxious. But as a student you know I have no money for other programs. I am using programs on my phone and the Lippincott q & a. thanks for the pep talk pray for the best !!

    Reply

  • jennifer

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    I just took my nclex and really messed up. I took my time in the beginning, thinking I’d only get the minimum questions. That came and went, then I realized I was probably getting all the questions and was going to run out of time. Panic set in. I had 45 minutes left and 80 questions to go (should I get the max amount). I began to race the clock, answering 3-4 questions per minute just reading and guessing FAST. I had no idea how i was doing. The computer shut off at 167 questions, with 4 minutes to spare. I am pretty sure I failed. I don’t know what to do.

    Reply

  • Anna

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    Congratulations!!! I’m taking the NCLEX in 2 days after taking the hurst review… And oh man am I nervous!!!!! I’m thinking of rescheduling!

    Reply

  • Natalya

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    For the Hurst review, did you get a book or do it online or live?

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      I’ve done both.. I am going to build my own review as I believe there are some things that can be done better. Thank you for your question. I appreciated the live review better as I was able to speak with other students and get their input

      Reply

  • Mariana

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    I just took the nclex today and failed. I had like 30 questions of SATA. Everything else was mostly prioritizing and delegation. I feel so depressed. My stop at 105.

    Reply

  • Laura

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    So for those of you who have done the Hurst review did you think it helped when taking the exam? I tested at the end of April and have just now recovered from the failure to start dedicating my life to studying again. I have a lot of resources…the first time around i took kaplan and took all 265 questions. In all categories I was near passing level. I just finished Kaplan’s nclex stratigies, practice, and review. I have saunders, lippincotts aletrnitive format questions (I had so many SATA on my first exam), and LaCharity PDA. What I need now is to understand where my content weakness is so I can then apply critical thinking…Im hoping Hurst will do this…thoughts?
    Much appreciation.
    Laura

    Reply

  • Jenny

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    Hey Phil,

    I know you probably get this a lot, but I’m pretty bummed out about failing the NCLEX. I had the same thought process as you. I figured if I’m spending all this money, I’m ready to make the big bucks. With that mentality, I failed big time. I just found out the news and I’m not sure how I’m suppose to start studying for it again. Any tips you have to get back into study mode would be really helpful. Thanks so much.

    Jenny

    Reply

    • RnAcademyPhil

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      Hey Jenny, take a break and then pound the studying hard. Sometimes stress just makes it hard. Make studying your life.

      Reply

  • Elina

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    I took nclex first time and failed… Now hoping to give exam within this September but I am so afraid. SATA questions are so difficult.. I never get right while practicing so do u have any suggestions how to tackle these questions.. I m practicing from Kaplan and Lacharity… Please help me… All the best to all…

    Reply

  • Rmonty

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    I failed my test the first time and am trying to find good study resources to prepare me without spending ALL my money. The cheapest one I can find is the NCSBN review that they offer, a 3 week course is $50. I’m thinking about trying that, have you heard anything about this review? Pro’s, con’s, etc.? Any information on that would be great. Thanks!

    Reply

  • Norma

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    I’m not even close to taking my Nclex but I’m having a hard time in 3rd block of nursing school. I have failed 3 test in a row and I have 3 more to go before the final. I’m having a real hard time staying positive and motivated. Any tips on how to organize my studying skills and stay positive. Thanks!

    Reply

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