5 Nursing School Study Tips to Ace Your Way Through

a student to barely passing nursing school

Nursing school is a beast all its own. Learning how to study so that you can ace your classes can be a challenge.  In this episode I offer 5 study tips that I used to graduate with a 3.8 and secure Summa Cum Laude honors.

The 5 tips I discuss are:

  • Find someone smarter than you
  • Create chapter outlines
  • Create questions for yourself
  • Meet your nursing school instructors
  • Take as many practice tests as you can

Yes, nursing school is hard, but once you figure out the system and learn how to play the game you can make the entire journey much easier and insure that you pass the NCLEX® with ease.

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Podcast Transcription

Welcome to the “NRSNG.com Podcast,” the podcast created by nurses, for nurses. Are you ready to take your learning to the next level? Sit back, and crank up the volume. Here’s your host, Jon Haws.


Hey everybody. This is Jon with the NRSNG.com Podcast. Today, I’m excited to talk to you about … I just wanted to cover some of the nursing school study tips that worked well for me. I attended a second degree BSN program after completing my first degree in business, and I found that nursing school is a little bit different than a business degree, but before I get started, I wanted to just talk to you real quick about Simclex.com. This is a software product that I’m working on with my software developer right now, and what it is going to be is it’s going to be the first and ever, and only NCLEX simulation software out there, to help you study for the NCLEX, and prepare.


What makes it different than any other product out there right now is it actually simulates the computer adaptive component of the NCLEX. I remember nursing school, I had a really difficult time finding anything that truly simulated the NCLEX, and for that reason, now that I’m out working and everything, I thought it would be nice to create something to help students really prepare for the NCLEX, with something that simulated the NCLEX by adapting to you as you take the test. If you’re interested in this, go over to Simclex.com, that’s s-i-m-c-l-e-x.com. All that really is right now is a place for you to put your email address in there, and by doing that, we’ll get in touch with you and let you be part of helping us create it. We’ll give you free questions to take, and ask for some advice and tips from you that might help you best prepare for the NCLEX and some features that you look for in the program.


Anyway, today we’re going to talk about nursing school study tips. Like I said, nursing school was a bit different than any other program that I’d been to. Actually, before I started nursing school I had about 180 college credits. I attended a program initially studying health science, and took anatomy and physiology and all those courses there, and chemistry’s and things, and go through about 102 credits there, and withdrew from that after some time, and realized I wasn’t quite sure exactly what I wanted to do yet, so short of achieving a bachelors degree there, I withdrew and later attended a business program, a couple of years later, and took another 60 credits there or so, and then took some credits on the side, preparing for nursing school, microbiology and things like that.


I had already taken quite a bit of college credit prior to attending nursing school, but I did find that nursing school is a little bit different in the way that tests were administered, and in the different practices that I found best help me. Rather than just memorizing information, nursing school, I found it most helpful to actually understand what’s causing things, and everything. I’m just going to talk about 5 different study tips that really helped me. Now, in my program, I did graduate [inaudible 00:03:34] from my program. Part of the Sigma Theta Tau, the whole National Honors Society thing. I had a 3.8 and I was able to, as the NCLEX has 75 questions, so I feel like I was able to learn some habits that helped quite a bit with studying.


The first thing I want to talk about is developing a study group. Now, when I say that, I don’t necessarily mean just picking out your best friends in your program. What I mean is finding someone in your class who is smarter than you. It really is important to find someone that’s smarter than you. For me, this wasn’t hard, but you really need to find someone that has a better grasp of the content, or perhaps has a different background than you, where they’ll be able to strengthen your weaknesses. I was able to find a friend in my course who had already taking a whole bunch of pharmacy courses in a different country, and came here to do nursing school, so for me, this was a huge win. He was able to explain concepts that I didn’t quite grasp, and it really worked for me.


Instead of just getting a study group of a bunch of friends where you get together and talk and chat, find someone who is smarter than you, who gets the content a bit better than you, that you can pick their brain to really understand concepts that you’re not getting. Another thing I started when I was in nursing school is I started what was called the “urgent assessment group.” What this was was I would take the content that we were covering for the week, whether it be cardiac or mom/baby stuff, whatever it was, whatever it was that we were covering in that chapter, and I would send it out to everybody in a group, and then we’d all show up and what would happen is, one person would have to go up in front of the class, in front of the group, and everybody could fire away questions over specific topic, and the person would have to answer the best they could.


The reason I developed this, is it because it makes you think on your feet, and I felt like a lot of nursing questions were thinking on your feet, understanding what was really going on, and it also required a person to teach. Made them teach the material, and I feel like once you understand material well enough that you can teach it to other people, you’re going to do well, because you understand more than just the facts about it. You understand what’s really going on. That really helped, and then another thing we did is we’d get focused study groups, so we’d take the material we were studying, if it was, like for the cardiac test, we assigned one person to hypertension, one person to arrhythmia’s, one person … I don’t remember. Different topics, and each person would cover that topic really well.


They’d make a handout, they’d develop questions, and then they would have 15 minutes to teach their subject to everyone else. I remember for one of the groups, I did cover arrhythmia’s, so I prepared a 3 or 4 page handout covering the different arrhythmia’s, how to identify them, and then drew on the whiteboard and handed it out to everybody, and that was a lot of fun. It broke up everything that we were doing. Study groups would be my number 1 tip. Second would be to make an outline of each chapter, so as you’re covering a chapter for a specific week, I find it helpful to make an outline of that chapter, so I would read through the chapter, and as I’m reading, I’m making an outline.


I’m saying, “Cardiac system,” and then doing bullet points for the different anatomy and physiology, and then for the different disorders, and then bullet points for each of those things. What that did is it gave me a really quick reference sheet so I could go back and find things in the book. I would write down the page numbers for when things were located, and this just gave me a quick way to be able to see what was actually in the content, rather than having to sift through 200 pages over the heart, like I’d look at my brief chapter outline, and as I would read, I would know where things were at, and make a few notes and scribbles on there. That really helped, making outlines.


Thirdly, and I think this one was really helpful, was to write practice questions over each topic. Let me see. Doing this, what I mean by this is you go through the chapter, and as you’re going through the chapter … I’m trying to bring up an example here. As you go through the chapter, you divide the chapter up into the different sections, like for the heart, it would be rhytmn disorders, coronary circulation disorders, inflammatory conditions of the heart, and as you’re doing that, as you’re reading these main sections, you then write questions for yourself, and then you make yourself go back and write out these questions.


For example, with rhytmn disorders, you would say, “Outline the conduction system of the heart. What are the different portions of the EKG and what do they represent? What is sick sinus syndrome? Define ‘nursing care for bradycardia,’ including the meds.” What this did for me is it made me … As I’d go through the sections in the chapter, I would make different questions based on what I’m reading. Rather than just reading the information, reading about bradycardia, I would say, “What is bradycardia?” Write that question down in a Word document. “What would the nursing care be for bradycardia? What would the vital signs look like for bradycardia?” I’d write a whole bunch of questions out, and then after I had these questions, I would go back and answer those questions, and I would do that one time with a book, and I would do that one time without the book, and then I would continue to do that.


Once I felt like I knew those questions forward and backward, I was pretty confident that I understood the material very well. I would highly recommend doing this. I feel like this was an incredibly helpful tool, so what I’ll do here, if you go to NRSNG.com/14, that’s going to be the page for this podcast, so NRSNG.com/14. I’ll post this example, or I’ll post a link to this example, where I have 119 questions or so written out about the heart, and different heart disorders, and you can see exactly how I did this and what I’m talking about. It’ll be a PDF, you can download it. I’ll actually have it listed up there on Gumroad and you can, it’s free to download, but if you want to leave a little donation that would really help, and I would greatly appreciate it, but this is one of the handouts that I did during nursing school.


NRSNG.com/14, and there’ll be a link there to Gumroad, where you can just go there, and it’s completely free to download, of course, but if you do want to leave a donation, I would greatly appreciate it. It would help a lot with making the podcast and everything. I felt like that really helped with having those questions that required me to really answer and understand things. Fourth recommendation I would give is to meet your teacher. Now, this sounds really obvious, and I know it’s really easy to hate your instructors in nursing school because of the way that tests are and things like that. I think it’s just common nature in nursing school to have some animosity towards your teachers and things, but the one thing I found, my first semester of nursing school, we had an instructor that a lot of students didn’t really like, and she knew that, and she was okay with that, but I felt like she was a good instructor and she actually really cared about what we were trying to do, and what our goal was.


I went and sat down with her. I just asked if I could have a meeting with her. This was probably just after the first test in “Fundamentals in Nursing,” so I went and sat down with her, and I asked her, “Look, what can I do to best prepare for your exams? What material should I read? I feel like some of the material on the test maybe isn’t coming directly from our reading. Is there other places that I can go?” What she did is she actually gave me other books that I could study from, she gave me some tips, she gave me some suggestions, and more importantly, I developed a relationship with her where she knew that I was working hard, she knew that I cared, and she knew that my goal was to do well in her class.


I had her for a couple of different classes after that, and she always would give tips and things that would help me prepare in my classes. I really think sitting down with her, and I did this with several instructors, as well, but this was the first time that I had done it with her. She actually wrote me a couple of different recommendations for jobs, and also for nurse practitioner school. I feel like those played a big role in my acceptance, and in my doing well in nursing school. Sit down with your instructors, send them an email, talk to them after class, say, “Hey, is there a chance that I can sit down with you?” Bring your tests, the questions you get wrong, and even if you’re not even trying to argue a question, I know a lot of nursing instructors are going to automatically assume when you want to talk to them, that you’re going to try to argue for points.


Don’t even do that. Just take your test, and go to them and say, “I missed this question. This is what I was thinking. Can you help me understand what I missed and what I’m not understanding?” I feel like that will play an incredibly vital role in your success in nursing school. The last example I’m going to give, the last study tip I’m going to give is just to take practice tests. Take as many practice tests as you can. Every book is going to come with questions, so your textbook, every textbook is going to come with questions at the end of the chapter. Do those questions, start there, take the CD from the book and do those questions. A lot of the time your book is going to have online questions, do those questions. I say that for a couple of reasons. The more practice questions you get, the better you’re going to be able to understand the material.


Second of all, there’s only so many things that need to be tested over yeast disorder and disease, so by taking those questions many, many times, you’re going to understand what’s going to be tested, and what you need to know. Third of all, a lot of times you’re going to see repeat questions. Your teachers have to get their questions from somewhere, and sometimes you might honestly see repeat questions on tests, and that’ll really help you, but taking tests over and over and over is going to prepare you to do well in your classes, it’s going to prepare you to know what you need to study, and it’s going to get you prepared for the NCLEX. I think that will really help you in nursing school.


The 5 tips I’m going to offer that really helped me in nursing school to do well are develop study groups with people smarter than you, make outlines for each chapter, write questions over each chapter that you will then go back and answer, meet your teacher, not in a confrontational way and argue for points, but just to meet them and pick their brain, and lastly, take practice tests over and over, and over again. If you go to NRSNG.com/14, NRSNG.com/14, I’ll have a link up there where you can see what I’m talking about, about writing questions over each topic. I think that’ll really help you, but also if you go to Simclex.com and want to be part of that, and help us out in creating that software, just go in there and enter your email and we’ll get a hold of you, and pick your brain, and ask you to help us out a little bit.


I appreciate you listening to us. I hope you are doing well, and achieving all the success you deserve in nursing school. This is Jon, come check us out on YouTube, podcast, the blog, and you can contact me anytime at [email protected] I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you.


Thank you for listening the “NRSNG.com Podcast.” Visit us at NRSNG.com for disclaimer information and to keep the learning going.


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