I Failed the TEAS Test … Now What?
By Brianna Flavin on 10/26/2023
Um...how many times can you take the TEAS test again?
You’ve had your heart set on becoming a nurse for a while now. You registered and took your TEAS exam (Test of Essential Academic Skills). And your stomach dropped when the results came back.
Those TEAS scores are now a wrench in your plans. But you aren't about to let a standardized test, of all things, keep you from a well-respected and interesting career that literally saves lives.
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 your potential next steps.
TEAS test retake rules to live by
Your obvious next move is to retake the TEAS test and try to improve your score. Now that you've had your first attempt, you know what to expect. Here’s what to know as you prepare to take the TEAS test again.
1. Retaking the TEAS test can make a difference
The ATI® TEAS exam reports that schools will typically allow you to take the TEAS test three times a year.1 Your prospective nursing school or healthcare program gets the final say on the number of attempts you can make, however, so be sure to check with them to verify.
Your TEAS scores from the first go might not accurately represent your knowledge. We aren't all great test takers, and getting familiar with the format and language usage can be its own learning curve.
Basically, the TEAS exam is 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 test fee, it’s possible to close the gap on subsequent tries if you put in the necessary work.
It's really not uncommon for students to fall short their first try and then recover, according to Josh Turner, AVP of Campus Operations at Rasmussen University.
Take your next attempt seriously, but don't be discouraged.
“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. You need to study and practice for the TEAS exam
“A lot of people think they don’t need to study for the TEAS exam,” says Georgia Vest, Senior Dean of Nursing at Rasmussen University. “There’s a misconception that you can just show up and take it.”
But really, this is like any other test. If you study and prepare, you boost your chances of success. The assessment technologies institute (ATI) administers the actual TEAS exam, and they offer official practice tests for this very reason.
The practice ATI TEAS exam will cover all the same subject areas and formats as the actual exam and give you a chance to see your scores immediately and make two attempts. If you need to see a big improvement in your test scores, paying $50 for a practice test is probably worth doing. Access it through your account on the ATI website.
If your last ATI TEAS scores were only a little bit lower than you needed, the Rasmussen University Library and Learning Services team recommends several free options for TEAS prep, including:
- Mometrix Test Preparation
- Union Test Prep
- YouTube tutorials
- Mobile apps
- GED prep books from your local library
3. Know your weaknesses
The challenges in taking the ATI TEAS the first time aren't just the exam material. For that first try, you have to figure out how to get to the testing center, stress about stashing your personal items and cell phone, get used to the question formats and watch the clock tick down while you work through the entire exam.
Your next attempt will still be timed, and you'll still need to follow the testing center rules--but this time, you'll know what's up. And you'll have a better idea of what areas to focus on and study up for. Take advantage of that knowledge and study!
Think of this as your first course in nursing school--nurses need to pass lots of exams to reach licensure. Learning how to prepare, study and take practice tests will make your whole education easier.
Check out, How to Study in Nursing School: Students Share 9 Great Nursing Study Tips for advice you can use now and throughout your education.
4. Reach out for personalized support
If you are worried that a more dedicated study approach won't be enough to help you pass the ATI TEAS exam, enlist some help. Working by yourself can only get you so far.
If you struggle to crack open those study materials, ask someone you love to help you go through flash cards or set aside study and work time.
If you struggle with the English and language usage aspects of the exam, seek out an English Language course or a tutor who can help you refine your language skills.
If you struggle with the mathematics section or scientific reasoning, a short term tutor could also make a huge difference.
Even though there are tons of online resources you can utilize--there's something powerful about a more personal interaction. Working with other people can help activate your mind, and they can help you understand the things you're getting hung up on.
If you feel you may need reasonable testing accommodations due to a documented disability per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), look into exam accommodations.
Note: ATI requires documentation for reasonable testing accommodations, so make sure to give yourself plenty of runway and submit that at least six weeks before the exam date.
If you get especially nervous around testing, look into resources for test anxiety.
What are your options if you still fall short?
If you have retaken the ATI TEAS as many times as you can this year, and you still haven't gotten the score you need, look into the following options.
Option 1: Keep trying (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 next year. There’s a huge variety of circumstances that may have made success unattainable so far—and many can be overcome over time.
It might mean putting your college education plans on hold as you focus on studying and getting back up to speed.
Or reach out to your dream program directly and ask for their advice. This has the dual benefit of connecting you with people who can help—while also giving you a chance to ask some questions about the program you’ve been dreaming of.
Option 2: Reevaluate your plans and consider other programs
The TEAS exam isn't easy, but it isn't the last big exam you'd have to pass to succeed in nursing. If multiple attempts aren't making much of a difference on your score, it could be a sign that the road ahead will be a rocky one for you.
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.
Take some time to reevaluate. 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—they've heard from students in similar straits for years and years.
Reaching out to ask for advice could lead you to a career path you never knew you'd like.
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.”
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