A+ Student to Barely Passing . . . Help!

a student to barely passing nursing school

Today’s question comes from a nursing student who says she went from being an A+ Student to barely passing. . . here are my tips for getting her grades back up.  Check out our nursing practice questions!

Hey guys, Jon here with NURSING.com and Med of the Day Podcast. Today we’re going to do another question from one of the readers. I just have so many of these emails that people have written me so I’m trying to get on top of it and send out some responses to those because I do read them.

I definitely understand the frustrations because I have been there, I’ve been through it, and it can be very hard, so I want to try to answer as many of these questions as I can.

Today our question is this. Here it goes: The thing I struggle with most is knowing how to study for the types of questions we have on our tests. I read and outline the chapters and try to take advantage of every possible resource available, yet I have gone from straight A to just barely getting by since starting nursing classes. It is very frustrating.

Okay, so this is common with a lot of nursing students because as we start nursing school we’re taking classes that are less focused on the type of question and things like that.

As we get into our med-surg, our mental health, our OB/Peds, those nursing core classes, the tests are becoming more focused on NCLEX®-style questions so it can become more and more difficult to be able to answer the types of questions that are thrown at us. Unless we can understand the way that questions are being asked, it can become very hard to keep up.

First of all I want to commend you for doing so well in nursing school, for getting straight As. That’s not something that every nursing student can say, so you’re doing a good job first of all.

1. Talk Directly with Professors

Second of all, the first thing that I would say is that you need to go directly to the teacher of these classes that you’re struggling in. What you need to do with these teachers is you need to bring the notes that you’re making, you need to bring the outlines that you’re making, and you need to bring the tests.

What you’re doing is you’re going to them not from an attacking standpoint but you’re going to them from an I really want to figure out what’s going on standpoint.

Let me tell you, that makes a big difference to nursing instructors because they are very used to nursing students who want to argue and argue and argue. A lot of nursing students, that’s just how we are. We’re type A personalities. We’re perfectionist.

It’s very hard to get into nursing school so once we get into nursing school and then we realize that we have to work a little harder maybe in nursing school than we did to get in, it can be very hard for us. Getting one point wrong on one single test can really irritate us. Nursing instructors are used to that type of student.

What I want you to do is I want you to take all the notes you’ve made, all the outlines that you made, all the practice tests that you’ve been taking, and bring them to the instructor with your most recent test that maybe isn’t as well as you would like it to be.

I want you to sit down with the instructor and say, “Look, I feel like I’m studying very, very hard for this. I feel like I’m getting the material. I feel like I’m understanding very well. Can you help me figure out maybe what I’m missing?” Then you’re giving it to the instructor in a way that they can open up with you and tell you how they think you can prepare better for the test. That makes a tremendous difference.

I know this seems like a very simple solution but this would be my number one suggestion for you if you’re in this boat, if you’re like this student who reached out to me.

You need to go to them and show them how hard you’re working and ask them for suggestion. I did this my first semester of nursing school. This was an instructor that everyone just hated. She knew that and she was okay with that.

I went to her and I showed her how I had been studying, what I had been doing. What she did is she proceeded to give me exactly locations where she was pulling questions from and things so I could better prepare. She respected that I came to her and showed her how hard I was working.

If you do that, there’s very few instructors that are going to then go ahead and fail you if they see that you’re actually working hard. They understand that and they’re going to go out of their way to help you.

2. Take End of Chapter Exams

Let’s assume you’ve done that. The next thing I’m going to tell you to do is I want you to take every single chapter exam provided in the book that your teacher gives you. At the end of every chapter there should be five, 10, 20 questions.

I want you to take every single one of those and then I want you to … the questions that you don’t get right, go back and read that section again. Then most med-surg books, pharmacology books, larger books are going to come with a study guide with it as well. I want you to work through that study guide. Do every question in that study guide.

Then on top of that, those books, if if you buy them new they’re going to come with a CD as well. I want you to go to the section about the chapter that your next test is on and take every single question from that CD.

It’s sounds like a lot but I’m telling you the way to pass nursing school is repeat questions over and over and over, because what you’re doing as you repeat those questions is you’re finding out what is being tested, and then you can take what’s being tested, what you’re not doing well on that, then you can go back and study those sections specifically.

Take chapter exams, do the study guides, and do the CD that comes with the book. I know prior to nursing school I’d get those CDs and those study guides and I’d toss them, but I found that those were very, very helpful in nursing school but it was access to more questions.

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3. Test Success – ebook for Nurses

The next thing I’m going to tell you to do I really, really, really strongly suggest that you do this. Very strongly suggest that you do this. I want you to go to Amazon and buy the book Test Success. Let me reach over here and grab my copy real quick.

The book Test Success: Test Taking Techniques for Beginning Nursing Students. This book is written by Patricia Nugent and Barbara Vitale. The old version, I have the third edition. You can buy the third edition on Amazon for a penny plus shipping costs. This book changed nursing for me forever.

What this book does is it goes through and it actually breaks down exactly how to take nursing tests. I found this book in my school’s library. It’s 300 addition something pages but it’s very quick read.

I brought it home. I started glancing at it and I read the entire book in one night. I was a little tired the next day but I read the entire book in one night because what it did is it shows you how nursing exams are different from regular school exams and it helps you learn how to take nursing exams and how to read questions properly.

I would say that this is 100 times better than any of the Kaplan stuff because it’s focused. It’s written by nurses and it’s very, very effective in helping you that.

The book is Test Success: Test Taking Techniques for Beginning Nursing Students. If you have an extra penny lying around somewhere, this is the book that you need to buy. Buy the third edition.

There is a newer edition. I think it’s like 30 bucks or something. You can go ahead and spring for that but this third edition is awesome. It’s a little green cover with some flowers on front. Awesome, awesome, awesome book. It changed nursing for me forever.

4. Nursing Practice Questions to prep for the NCLEX®

The next thing I’m going to tell you is we have our large database of nursing practice questions.  Finding your weak areas is easy with NursingPracticeQuestions.com. With advanced statistics by category you know exactly where you need to focus.

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5. Use Other Books

Last tip I’m going to give you: Find other med-surg books. Go to your school’s library and pull every single med-surg book you can find. Take them home with you and take the end of chapter exams from there.

A couple reasons for that. There’s only so many things that are going to be tested about a specific subject. For example, when you’re talking about respiratory there’s going to be a question about vent alarms.

We have a video on YouTube about that right now. They’re going to ask only so many questions about vent alarms. If you know what that question is then you’re going to pass it when it comes around next time.

It might be worded a little bit differently but it’s going to be the same question and the same answer. Take as many questions as you can about each topic that you’re reading about and you’ll find very quickly that the different books are testing on the same thing. You just need to learn to recognize what they’re asking.

If it’s a question about insulin it’s going to be about onset times and things like that, so you just need to know what those questions are going to be on any given subject and any given area of nursing.

Then you just need to take those tests and understand what those are, and then pass those exams. You can do this. Those are my five tips for you. Go to the teacher, take the end of chapter exam, study guide, and CD exams, read the book Test Success.


Those are my tips for you. You can do this. There are so many students that have the exact same struggle you’re having. Stick with it. You’ll be fine. We will talk to you soon. Okay guys, happy nursing and have a great day.

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