Walk Into Your Next Nursing School Exam Feeling Prepared!! (5 test taking strategies for nursing students)

answering nclex questions

Nursing school tests are very different from tests in different majors.  Not only is there a lot of information to cover, but you’re also simultaneously trying to remember information for 3 other tests just this week alone. To be successful and not only pass tests, but retain information for the future, you must develop testing taking strategies for nursing students specifically.  

Below are my tips to prepare for nursing school tests and some test taking strategies for nursing school.

1. Lay out what’s expected of you

At the beginning of the semester write out everything in a calendar.  Make sure this is a calendar you actually look at… and then look at the entire semester at once.

  • Deadlines
  • Exams
  • Quizzes
  • Clinicals
  • Etc.

You want to know what’s expected of you for a few reasons.  First, you never want to walk into class one day and everyone is handing in an assignment that you had no clue about because you hadn’t looked at the syllabus in months and just assumed the prof would remind you of an upcoming assignment (yes, that happened to me my first year). It is also important to see everything laid out all at once so that you can get a big picture of the semester.  This helps you quantify your commitments and get an idea of what you need to do when.  Inevitably, there was always one week where a major exam, major paper, and large clinical paperwork assignments were all due at the same time… all of which could not be completed in a week, let alone the night before.  

2. Don’t just plan when you’ll study, plan what you’ll study

After you can visualize the entire semester, then figure out when you’ll study. But don’t stop planning yet!  You not only need to figure out when to study, but what material you’ll study at that time as well.  This will enable you to to ensure that you have covered all material before the exam.  Divide reading assignments up into manageable chunks and allocate time to really processes it mentally and make notes.  If you do this ahead of time, you’ll save precious time in the midst of the semester. You won’t be trying to figure out what to do when so you will cover everything and start to freak out because you have no idea how you’ll get it done!  You can just sit down, look at what you need to study at this specific time and start studying immediately.  Taking out that extra planning step each time you sit down really adds up. Doing this once at the beginning of the semester is key.  Do not make the fatal mistake of just looking what’s due each week at a time.  You’ll quickly find yourself behind and overwhelmed.

RELATED ARTICLE: How to Use the Nursing Process to ACE Nursing School Exams

3. Plan for multiple exams, study for one at a time

You’ll have a med quiz on a Wednesday, clinical with paperwork to be completed on Thursday, a major exam and paper due on a Friday, and be expected to have read the information for the next section for class Friday afternoon. There are a lot of moving pieces.  You must plan ahead of time when you will tackle these various assignments, and then when you sit down to study, focus only on what you have scheduled yourself to study at that time.  Do not be distracted by the 900 other things you have to do.  You don’t need to worry, because you have allocated/set aside time to address all of those things.  Rest in that reassurance and focus.

This is key – planning not only when to study, but what to study, making sure you’ve covered all of what’s required of you will enable you to relax and focus more when you do sit down to study.  You will not be overwhelmed or anxious because you know and can remind yourself that you have set aside time to study the other material.


4. Focus understanding and applying concepts, not finishing reading assignments

When we’re assigned to read a certain amount and then get tested on it, many approach their studying like, “Ok I just have to get through the reading and I’ll be good!”



You must not only get through the reading, but you also need to understand the reading… and finally, you must be able to apply what you’re reading to patient care.  Keep this in mind while you’re planning time to study as well as when you’re actually going through the material.  Don’t just memorize that COPD patients typically have a lower baseline oxygenation saturation, learn why this is this case… be able to verbalize it, and think about how you’d explain that to someone else. This will enable you to field exam questions better because you truly understand the subject and haven’t just memorized sentences.  We created a whole academy of course based on this thought process of learning to really enhance understanding.  You can check it out at NURSING.com.

5. Eat well, sleep well and exercise


It’s hard to succeed when you’re constantly exhausted, merely being kept awake by the grace of Red Bull, and sustained by Easy Mac and Swiss Cake Rolls.  When you’re planning, plan to get your studying done at a reasonable hour so you can get consistent, quality rest.  Plan regular times to work out.  Try to eat foods that are nutritious.  Being diligent with these things will enable you to be at the top of your game come test time.  

I hope these strategies for preparing for nursing school tests are helpful!  When you add these test prep strategies to the resources we have available to help you succeed in nursing school at NURSING.com, you are really setting yourself up for success.  

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