Nursing is one of the most desirable professions in the United States. So many students, for many reasons, are trying to become a nurse, but the road to becoming a nurse is not easy.

The main bump in your path will be nursing school, where so many students fail every semester. Here are my thoughts on why so many nursing students fail out of nursing school.

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Why Do Nursing Students Fail?

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Not being fully invested in the course work, not dedicating enough time to studying, being extremely stressed, or not using the proper study methods can contribute to a nursing student’s inability to pass their courses. Ultimately leading to them failing out of their nursing program.

Let’s look at these reasons individually to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes other nursing students are making.

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Reasons Why Students Don’t Pass Their Nursing Program (And How To Avoid Flunking Out!)

Every student who has failed nursing school has a reason for doing so. Still, it’s usually an inability to set enough time aside each week to study or failing to utilize effective study techniques.

Often, it’s a compilation of many different things, and there’s almost always a ton of stress involved in it.

Below, I’ve broken down into detail why students fail nursing school and how to avoid those mistakes. Let’s begin with not having enough time.

1. Not Enough Time

One of the main reasons nursing students fail is not realizing how much work it takes to become a nurse and make it through nursing school.

How to Fix this:

A good way to go about this is setting time aside every day for studying. You’ll want to do about 1-3 hours of daily studying, and make sure you don’t try to cram the night before an exam!

Cramming doesn’t work and can lead to failing your exams. Plus, cramming usually doesn’t help you retain the information, and you have to remember your ultimate goal is to pass the NCLEX exam.

If You’re a Student that Works:

Most programs advise not working more than 20 hours per week because between clinicals, lectures, and studying, you’re looking at a full-time job (just with school alone!).

Make sure you budget plenty of time and reduce the number of responsibilities you have from the beginning of nursing school onward. It will pay off in the end, I promise!

Related: 5 Best Jobs for a Student in Nursing School

2. Not Studying the Right Way

There have been scientific studies done to determine the best ways to study, and studies also show that 84% of students don’t study the right way!

How to Fix this:

A major reason nursing students don’t pass their program is improper studying techniques for their personality and learning style.

Figure Out Your Learning Styles

I’ve gone over this before in the article I wrote about how to study in nursing school. Check out that article for more information.

The main point is that some students learn better from hearing (auditory), seeing (visual), or doing (kinesthetic), and to be more efficient with studying in nursing school, you need to figure out how you best study.

Do Practice Tests

A few methods that many nursing students have utilized is doing practice exams.

Doing practice questions is a great way to prepare yourself for a nursing exam, especially since most of the questions have a few correct answers to each question (the key is to determine which answer is the most correct).

Figuring out which is “the most correct answer” is difficult without some practice!

Minimize Highlighting

It’s important not to get too highlighter-happy, either. Many students have difficulty finding the important points of a paragraph, so they highlight the whole paragraph.

You don’t need to do all that! Just make sure you pick out the key points in the section. Often, these will be in the first and last paragraph!

Use Flash Cards

Many students don’t want to take the time to write out flashcards, leading to them doing poorly on exams. But, like every other part of nursing school, it takes sacrifice and doing things we don’t want to do from time to time.

Flashcards (when done right) work for a good reason, and those who utilize them often do well on their exams.

Flashcard apps are a common study method that is used by nursing students. Flashcards are great for memorization, especially when you write them out and color code them.

However, not everyone wants to spend time writing out the information (and that’s okay, although it’s more effective to study this way).

There are apps and websites, such as, which allow you to type your flashcards out and then use the app or website to study the flashcards.

They even have different ways to study, such as matching games and custom quizzes!

Plus, if you’re one of those that don’t want to type out your flashcards, you can search Quizlet’s public database to see if there are public flashcards made by other students that are not set on private.

3. Not Relaxing!

Nursing school is extremely stressful, and many nursing students fail out of their program because they don’t take time to relax and unwind. Stress can cause you to retain information poorly, and it puts a strain on the mind and body.

How to Fix this:

Mindfulness and meditation are both excellent methods of relaxing that don’t require a prescription! Studies have shown that they improve sleep and stress levels, which helps you study more efficiently and retain information.

While some stress is good and can be used to motivate you, too much of a good thing is, well, not a good thing! The more stressed you are, the worse you’re going to do on your exams, so try to unwind and have a little fun with your study sessions.

Find Nursing Programs

Search our school database to find schools and get information on the right programs for you. (Don’t worry, it’s fast and free!)

Keep Yourself From Failing

Failing a test or two during nursing school is perfectly normal, but it’s important not to let it get out of hand and cause you to fail the entire thing.

What methods do you use to study, and how did you pass nursing school? If you failed your program, what do you think led to it? Let us know in the comments below.

If you’re looking at starting nursing school, look through our website to find the best nursing program to suit your unique lifestyle!

Have You Read These Articles?

Even though nursing school is difficult most students will pass nursing school.

You might be able to retake the class or file an appeal to get reinstated in the program. Rest assured, you do have some options.

While most students will pass nursing school, plenty will still fail it. This happens for many reasons, such as health or family issues.

Nursing school is difficult and will be hard to pass. Most students pass their nursing program, so you can too.

According to the National League of Nursing, the dropout rate for nursing programs in the United States is around 20%.

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