I Failed the TEAS Test … Now What?

failed the teas test

You’ve had your heart set on becoming a nurse for a while now and could just imagine how great it was going to be. You were going to be the ace of the nursing unit and beloved by patients and physicians alike as you high-five your way through the clinic.

Unfortunately, life has a tendency to throw a wrench into plans. And the name of today’s wrench is the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) exam. Here’s the good news: a low TEAS score doesn’t mean you’re completely out of luck. We gathered advice from Rasmussen University Nursing faculty and staff to help you plan out your potential next steps.

What you need to know about retaking the TEAS exam

For many people in this situation, the obvious move is to take the test again with the hopes of improving your score. Here’s what the experts want you to know about this option.

1. You can recover

The TEAS exam is high stakes in that it’s a big component to your admission into a nursing program. But it’s not an all-or-nothing, single opportunity. As long as you’re willing to pay for the assessment, you’re allowed to retake the test.1 That means it’s possible to close the gap on subsequent tries if you put in the necessary work.

Josh Turner, a Senior Director of Admissions at Rasmussen University, says it’s not unheard of for students to fall short on their initial attempt but recover on subsequent tries.

“It’s pretty common to see people move the needle, but it depends on how big the deficit is,” Turner says. “Ten points is doable—and we’ve actually seen students make 15-point improvements, but once you get past that point it’s tougher.”

2. There are a wealth of study materials to help you prepare

Maybe you went into the exam thinking you’d easily have it in the bag only to be caught off-guard. The good news is that you’re not alone.

“A lot of people think they don’t need to study for the TEAS exam and there’s a misconception that they can just show up and take it,” says Georgia Vest, Senior Dean of Nursing at Rasmussen University. This can end up being a rude awakening for some.

But the good news? The remedy to this is at your fingertips. The Rasmussen University Library and Learning Services team recommends several free options for TEAS prep, including:

You may also want to consider paying for test prep exam materials. ATI Testing offers several options that can be a big help—after all, they’re the people who wrote the exam.

3. It helps to know your weaknesses

While it might be discouraging not to achieve the score you were aiming for on the first try, the silver lining is that you now know what to expect. The challenge that comes with doing anything for the first time is that you might not even know where your weaknesses lie. On a second go-around you now have a better idea of what areas to focus on and how to strategically plan your study approach.

If you haven’t already, check out the Rasmussen University School of Nursing Study Strategies and Testing Strategies guides. Using the strategies from these guides and pairing them with a clearer picture of what to focus on should help you feel much better prepared for test day.

What are your options if you fall short?

It’s never a nice feeling not to achieve your goals. But if you’ve tried your best and still weren’t able to reach the score you’d prefer, it’s important to know what your options are moving forward.

Option 1: Keep trying (even at a later date)

If you have your heart dead-set on a specific program, you’ll have the option of going back and trying again.1 There’s a huge variety of circumstances that may have made achieving a satisfactory score unattainable so far—and many can be overcome over time. This might mean putting your college education plans on hold as you focus on studying and getting back up to speed.

Option 2: Reevaluate your plans and consider other programs

While you do have the option to try as many times as you’d like, reaching the score you’d prefer by a slim margin after several tries might still be a sign that the road ahead in that program could be a rocky one. Vest cautions that the point of the TEAS exam isn’t to create an artificial barrier, but to truly evaluate students’ preparedness for a nursing program.

“In most cases we would prefer students to not take the TEAS several times because the purpose of the test is to make sure they can be successful students,” Vest says.

If you reach a point where you’re feeling unsure about the road forward, take some time to reevaluate. Are you satisfied enough with your current employment situation to forego a college education entirely? What was it about this program that appealed to you? Would you be satisfied in a different healthcare-focused program or profession?

If you’re willing to consider a different degree program, there are several options worth looking into that may not require a TEAS exam score. For example, you can still have a positive impact on patients as a medical assistant or pharmacy technician.

Additionally, there may be programs or offerings that allow you to complete foundational coursework before focusing on a specialized educational track. An advisor can help walk you through your options—so don’t be afraid to reach out if you’re considering other programs.

Option 3: Move on

While it’s clear furthering your education is a noble and often transformative move, there’s no shame in moving on if you feel you won’t be fully committed to pursuing another program. Remember, moving on isn’t permanent—if later on down the road you find yourself ready to make a change, the path to education is always open.

Plan your next step

Failing to reach your desired score on the TEAS exam doesn’t have to be the end of the road for you. Scores can improve with a dedicated approach and there are other healthcare degree options that you may find appealing.

If you’re ready to dust yourself off and get ready for round two, take note of some helpful insight in our article “Don’t Fear the TEAS Test: 5 Common Questions Answered.”

1Maximum attempt restrictions apply. See course catalog for details.

About the author

Will Erstad

Will is a Sr. Content Specialist at Collegis Education. He researches and writes student-focused articles on a variety of topics for Rasmussen University. He is passionate about learning and enjoys writing engaging content to help current and future students on their path to a rewarding education.


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