Humankind thrives off a need to help and care for others, which is why so many people look towards nursing as a rewarding career. Pair this with the high demand for healthcare professionals, and you have thousands of people up and down the country applying for nursing school. Nursing school is no easy ride. There are hundreds – if not thousands – of things to memorize and practice, a hugely varied number of modules, and some of the most demanding tests of higher education.
However, if you can make it through all that, the career itself will reward you with a rollercoaster of challenging times and special moments that remind you it was all worthwhile.
First, though, you need to get through nursing school. So how do you do it?
This guide should provide you with some helpful tips to get you started with cramming for your next exam. That way, you can feel that little bit more prepared for whatever nursing school throws at you.
Let’s get started.
Schedule in specific study time
Studying for a nursing exam may take longer than you first think, so you need to schedule plenty of time to study. If you’re in nursing school full time, this shouldn’t be too difficult. However, those with a full, or part-time job at the same time, will need to think strategically about where they can fit their revision in.
Without strict and focused study time, you will struggle to pass, as there really is just so much to remember.
You need to ensure you really understand any materials that will be used in the test. A lot of nurses recommend spending around (or at least) 4 hours on each test paper.
Not all your studying needs to be done sat at a desk with no breaks, though. In fact, breaks are hugely important. Some people find that changing location during their study time can really help them stay productive, too.
Use example questions or past papers
The best way to prep for a test is to get a feel for how the questions are worded and what the examiner is looking for.
You can easily find practice questions for each module online or rifle through past papers and their mark schemes to see which areas you are strongest and weakest in. Then, focus more on the weak spots.
Practice questions, done within the guided time and conditions, will certainly help you prep for the real thing. You can find tons of practice questions in the NCLEX questions bank that will be super specific to your course.
Create a study group
A good thing about nursing school is that everyone is in the same boat.
Just like you, there are plenty of budding nurses hoping to pass their exams with flying colors. This means you’re perfectly set up to create a study group to help each other. One person’s strengths will no doubt be another person’s weaknesses. As such, getting together to help each other with studies could help you see things from an easier, different perspective.
If you’re just nearing the exam, and you’ve done most of the hard work already, there’s still the chance to create a study group to quiz one another before the big day.
Even those studying for their degree online can get help. There are plenty of ways to bring people together – from Zoom to WhatsApp to Facebook. You might even be able to join an existing online group if you’ve not clicked with other people on your course.
Find your learning style
Not everyone can learn by repeatedly reading through notes. There are four main learning styles that most people fall into, and finding which one you belong to will help you study in a way that works for you. The four learning styles are visual, auditory, tactile, and reading/writing. If you’re not sure where you might excel, you can take this quick 20 question quiz to find out.
Visual learner study tips
Visual learners tend to learn best through pictures, written words, and diagrams. Those that find themselves doodling or color-coding their notes are highly likely to be visual learners. If you think you’re a visual learner, drawing and creating diagrams or charts is a great way for you to process information and remember what you need for tests. Using color will also help you to pick out sections that need to stand out.
Auditory learner study tips
Those that enjoy listening to their lectures rather than reading the PowerPoint tend to absorb information easier through speech and repetition. Saying your notes aloud over and over will help them to stick in your mind.
The best way to study as an auditory learner is in a group of like-minded people. You can quiz each other and read out the answers, explain different definitions and discuss answers through conversation. You might also want to take a recorder to classes, so you can listen back to them later.
Tactile learner study tips
Tactile learners are sometimes also known as kinesthetic learners. These people prefer to take a hands-on approach and get practical in their studies. They type of people who prefer to try assembling furniture without reading the instructions (you know the type).
These learners can benefit from acting out key information. Moving around while studying or physically writing out notes can also help. As tactile learners like being active, taking regular breaks during study time is integral to keeping you motivated and focused.
Reading and writing study tips
Of course, there are also those that just prefer to read and absorb. This learning style is often confused with visual learning, however, reading and writing learners don’t tend to benefit from pictures and diagrams. They’d much prefer to read all information.
This learning style is pretty much the style you’ll be taught, in just about any course you take, so you should have no issue fitting it to suit your style. Sometimes, writing things down over and over can help those last bits of information stick.
Get repetition in
Repetition – whether it’s reading, writing, or drawing – is a great way to memorize things. It’s a foolproof tip that works just about every time!
Create mnemonic devices
Finding rhymes or mnemonic devices to fit the information you need to know can be a great way to relay lots of data in a short amount of time. It’ll also be a useful tool that can be referred to within your exam. Check out this guide to get started.
Remembering streams of facts can be hugely monotonous and difficult. Studying can quickly become dry, and you’ll become restless if you can’t engage with the content.
A good way to spice things up and make facts a little more memorable is to use real-life scenarios and anecdotes. Adding relatability can really help cement facts into your brain in an applied setting.
Self care for nurses is something you can start to practice during nursing school. It’s all about prioritizing yourself so that you can put your best into the world.
While studying, there are still plenty of ways to practice self-care.
Healthy meal prep
Your brain needs the best fuel available to help you during your work as a nurse – and studying for nursing exams is no different. Ensuring you have a balanced diet, however, can be difficult. Especially if you’re managing a job along with your studies.
The temptation to live off caffeine and take-out must be resisted, and your body will thank you later.
Meal prepping is a great way to make sure you can get the most out of your study time. With a meal in place, you don’t have to sit and think about what to eat or struggle to focus through the hunger. Healthy snacks like fruit or salsa and chips make great study snacks, as well as snacks you can eat on the go while working as a nurse.
When your body becomes dehydrated, you can develop digestion issues and fatigue. Drinking water is essential for both a healthy gut and a healthy mind. Make sure to always have a bottle of water close by during your study time or work shift.
Make the most out of breaks
As mentioned above, you should be taking regular breaks when studying. And if you’re working, you can certainly put your lunch or break to good use. While you might want to just bash out four hours of studying with no stoppage time, it’s not the best way to take in all the information. Taking regular breaks can re-energize the brain and help keep you focused and alert.
Breaks don’t have to be spent scrolling on your phone while sat at your desk. You could try to go to the bathroom that’s the furthest away, add some light exercise like squats or jumping jacks, or even take a 15-minute way. If you have very little time to focus on hobbies and things you enjoy, make use of your breaks to do just that. Grab your latest knitting project or curl up with a non-nursing-related book. It’ll be a well-deserved distraction from your revision.