Preparing for finals should begin the FIRST day of classes.  Okay, okay, okay, maybe you weren’t all overachievers in nursing school like I was.  Honestly though, if you come to class prepared to listen and actively participate in the learning process from day one, it makes studying for finals (and any tests, including boards) MUCH easier.  We all know how different nursing school test questions are from other classes – all the answers are correct, but which one is the MOST correct? 

So if you’re not quite as organized and have all the free time in the world to study on your non-nursing school days that are NOT filled with class, SIM lab or clinical, here are my recommendations for studying for finals.

  1.  Organize your time – if you don’t have a calendar on your smartphone or don’t have a smartphone; get a hard copy calendar – whether it’s a pocket calendar or whatever suits your fancy, and SCHEDULE out blocks of time to study.  It’s much easier to make yourself do something when it is penciled into a calendar.
  2. Determine your study style – do you like to study alone, with one or two classmates, or a whole group?  I never thought I would be someone who studied well with a group but honestly, I cherish the study sessions I had with my nursing school friends. They kept my sanity in check and kept me focused on the prize.  Yes, there was some off-topic chatter, but it was definitely a life saver for me to have the ability to cover information again, because there was always something I had seemingly missed while taking notes like a squirrel in class.
  3. Find a good study book, or two or three.  Obviously textbooks are a good place to start, but I bought an NCLEX prep book that was separated into mental health, mother/baby, and medical/surgical areas.  Honestly, your nursing school instructors probably pull some of their test questions out of these books as well, and it gives you lots of practice on properly breaking down and answering questions the “NCLEX” way.
  4. If your nursing school uses online resources like ATI or PrepU – find the practice tests related to the appropriate subject matter and DO. MORE. TEST. QUESTIONS.  Honestly – you can’t do too many prep test questions.
  5. Know ahead of time that these tests are not your usual college tests.  There is no rote memorization involved in helping you pass.
  6. TAKE BREAKS – a good rule is 10 minutes per 1 hour of studying.  Don’t get on facebook, instagram, twitter, snapchat, tinder or other social media sites during your breaks – come on, we all know that by the time “just 10 minutes” is up, we have wasted an hour and gotten nothing accomplished, along with probably melting any information you just studied out of your brain.  Get up, go to the bathroom, refill your water, and get some fresh air.
  7. If you are struggling with an area of content that you did poorly on a previous test, contact your instructor for some help.  Good nursing school instructors want us to succeed.

Most importantly – get a good night’s rest.  Nothing good ever comes from all night binge studying.  NOTHING. 

Last – cut yourself some slack if you don’t ace every test.  Nursing school is hard, but being a nurse is HARD WORK.  Millions of great nurses earned grades just good enough to get them out of school.  It’s about the work, not the As on your degree audit (unless you are going to go to CRNA school and then well, it’s a little more important).  Nursing isn’t about how well you do on a test…’s about patients and their lives!

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