Top Tips for Studying and Taking Nursing Exams

Top Tips for Studying and Taking Nursing Exams

It’s no secret, everyone wants to ace their nursing exams. I can’t speak for every nursing student out there but I know that when I was in nursing school, a passing exam was 73% or higher. So passing didn’t just mean not failing, it meant doing pretty well. I always felt so much pressure when I’d sit down to study for an exam or take the actual test. Keeping all of my grades above 73% was new for me, and it was a hefty goal.
Top Tips for Studying and Taking Nursing Exams
Sophia M.

  ·  

September 14, 2023

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Flash forward to now, I think back on nursing school and I realize that things weren’t really as bad as they felt back then. If I can make it through, you definitely can too. So keep going, you’ve got this. 

Today, I’m sharing some of my favorite tips for studying for and taking nursing exams so that you can achieve your ideal score. 

Nail Down Your Study Routine

The first step in acing an exam is studying well for it, right? So you want to start by figuring out what works for you and what doesn’t in terms of your study routine. Figure out how you learn best, lean into that, and when it seems to stop working, try something new. We know that integrating multiple learning modalities into your studying is a surefire way to absorb new information effectively. 

1. Try not to overwhelm yourself

You’re going to want to do everything in your power to stay focused while you study. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to read 100 textbook pages in one sitting. Focus on the key points and do your best to absorb the most important information, or get an overview of what the chapter has to offer.

2. Eliminate distractions

Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room, your smart phone. Put it away, turn it off. Whatever you have to do to avoid picking it up every few minutes while you study. Trust me, it will help so much. My favorite approach is to allow myself a few minutes to look at social media (or whatever I want to) on my phone before I begin studying. I look at the time when my study session begins and I commit to a certain time frame of uninterrupted study. Once that time is up, I’ll take a break and I can use my phone during that time for another designated interval. This prevents me from randomly checking my phone and getting distracted.

Eliminate distractions
Eliminate Distractions

3. Find a study buddy (or don’t)

You may study well with others, or you may not. Finding a study buddy or even a study group may be helpful since it offers the opportunity to have open discussions about the course material and quiz one another on the content. Be wary of distractions though. If studying with others causes you to get off topic and you end up just wanting to socialize, then you may want to just save group hangouts for non-study times and keep to yourself when you have an important test ahead of you.

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Tips for Staying Focused During Exams

Studying is hard, but let’s be real, taking the actual exam can be a challenge in itself for a lot of us. I remember a lot of my colleagues in nursing school who struggled with test anxiety. These individuals could prepare all they wanted to for an exam and might still feel incredibly stressed on the day of the test. I felt for them, and I definitely experienced similar challenges at times. If you struggle a lot with test anxiety, talk with your professor about how they can help accommodate this. Here are a few tips that also might help.

1. Wear ear plugs

Again, I can’t speak for every nursing school but I know that all of my nursing exams were completed in a big computer lab with all of my classmates. It was intensely quiet during exams, except for a few small yet very distracting noises. It was often hard to tune out the sound of everyone else clicking to the next question and sometimes typing written responses. Some of my classmates would wear ear plugs to help them focus. I never did this, but I think this is a great idea. Of course, check with your professor first to make sure that this is permitted at your school. 

2. Breathe 

Breath work is a great way to combat the stressors that come with taking nursing exams. 

Your breath is something that is fully in your control, even when nothing else is (remember that). 

Take a couple of deep breaths before taking the exam and any time that you start to feel stressed during it. Inhale slowly through your nose and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Breath work can help relax your whole body so as to not let the stress get in the way of your focus. 

3. Take your time

If I’m being totally honest, the absolute worst exams in nursing school were the ones that were timed. Obviously, a timed test will make you feel rushed, and when you see other classmates finishing and you still have half the test left you may start feeling like you need to rush through the rest of the test. Try hard not to do this. Taking your time can help you stay relaxed and focused. Reread the question if you need to. Read through all of the answers and narrow down which one makes the most sense to you. Obviously, if you are being timed try not to take too long but don’t rush yourself either, it’s a balance. 

4. Take notes

See if your professor will allow you some scratch paper during your exam. This can allow you to jot down some notes while you’re taking your exam. For example, if there is a lengthy question that is confusing you, you can jot down the important parts of the question to help yourself narrow down what exactly is being asked. 

5. Try not to go caffeine crazy

Trust me, I know that nursing school is exhausting. So I’m not telling you to give up caffeine altogether, but do try to be mindful of your caffeine consumption. It’s easy to drink tons of coffee while studying or on the morning of an exam, but remember that caffeine can only go so far. If you’re having a hard time staying focused during exams you may not need to chug more caffeine; there may be more to it than that. Always eat breakfast on the morning of an exam and pack snacks while you study. Did you know that thinking burns calories? You need to fuel your body so that your brain can function well. Sure, caffeine is great and all, but make sure to be mindful of how you’re using it and don’t rely on it to fully fuel your test taking. Also, you can try some natural approaches to staying focused, such as ginseng and other vitamins or supplements. 

Remember, You Will Score a Less Than Ideal Mark Sometimes

You definitely cannot ace every single nursing exam. You will score a less than ideal mark sometimes, but that doesn’t mean that you’re going to fail nursing school or that you’re never going to become a nurse. 

Nursing school is designed to be hard. 

This is how your professors ensure that they are training highly driven and determined individuals to go out into the world and treat patients. 

I came very close to failing a few courses in nursing school, but look at me, I made it out and I passed the NCLEX on the first try. Actually, in my final semester of nursing school I failed the final exam for our most important class. According to the syllabus, this meant I couldn’t graduate and I’d have to stay back a semester to retake the class. I was devastated. My professor must have had some good in her heart though, because she allowed me (and the other two students who had failed) to retake the exam so that we could have the opportunity to graduate. We all made it and got to graduate on time. 

So, keep in mind that these things do happen. You may fail a test or even a whole class, but as long as you’re trying there is a good chance that your professors will recognize that and work with you to help you make it through. 

Utilize an Online Course to Help Guide You

If you’re really struggling, you don’t have to struggle alone. The courses at Lecturio are designed to help nursing students who need extra support. The wonderful nurse educator at Lecturio, professor Lawes, has designed a whole course dedicated to studying and taking nursing exams. She gives some valuable tips to help you get the absolute most out of your study time.

Like I said, nursing school is designed to be hard. But there are steps you can take to make it easier on yourself. Lecturio’s online courses offer expert advice on making it through nursing school and might be exactly what you need to overcome the most challenging nursing classes.

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