Nursing school final exams can induce massive stress in nursing students, especially since many final exams are comprehensive, covering all of the topics students have learned throughout the semester. On top of that, most nursing students are completely burned out by the end of the spring semester, and it can be an exhausting experience. Nevertheless, it’s important to buckle down and finish the semester strong.
How to Study for Final Exams in Nursing School
Here are some simple tips to help you focus on what you need to learn so that you can prepare for those “dreaded” final exams in nursing school.
Know Your Professor’s Final Exam Format
The first step in preparing for your nursing school final exams is to know how your professor(s) will set up the final exam. This can vary, but knowing the exam’s main focus will help dictate your study strategy. For example, some professors do the following for the final exam:
- Some professors like to pull random questions from all of your previous tests. It will basically be a selected repeat of questions from your prior tests.
- Some professors focus mostly on the information you learned in the last part of the semester, but will also include a few questions from previous tests (i.e. 80% recent material and 20% older material).
- Some professors will only test you on the general information you learned, and the final will be much more generic than your other tests.
- Some professors may not even have comprehensive finals, but many do.
How Do You Determine Your Professor’s Final Exam Format?
Thankfully, most professors will tell you how the final will be structured, and this will tell you where you need to spend the most time studying.
Some professors even take it a step further and offer a final exam review day. I always loved it when professors would do that, and if any of your professors offer a review day for the final, I’d highly recommend going to it. Not only will you be able to refresh material, but professors have a habit of throwing out some great hints about what will be on the exam.
In addition, some of my professors even gave the class a study guide that included all of the major topics we really needed to know for the final. Those things were heaven-sent.
Finally, you can always ask other students if they know how the final exam will be structured. You can even glean clues from professor rating websites such as ratemyprofessors.com.
Gather Your Notes and Begin Studying
Once I determined the main topics I needed to focus on, I would get out my notes and PowerPoints and begin to go over them.
One thing that I highly recommend is to try to develop a habit of going over your notes AFTER each exam throughout the semester, and then use a different colored highlighter to for the concepts you saw on the actual exam.
While each exam is fresh on your mind, you might even want to get out a sheet of paper and write down the main topics/diseases/medications the exam covered. This can be invaluable in helping you to study for comprehensive finals, as you will be able to remember what the professor was testing most.
If you haven’t been keeping up with your notes, you might want to form a study group with some friends to try to brainstorm the main topics to study and compare notes. You can also quiz and teach each other.
Get an NCLEX Review Guide
Perhaps the most important tip I can offer nursing students is to get an NCLEX review guide and then use that as you study for nursing exams. Saunders and Kaplan (*affiliate link ads) are the most popular review guides, and they do a great job of breaking down the material and giving you the highlights. I personally used Saunders during nursing school, and I found it very helpful in both preparing for regular exams and for the NCLEX.
Why use an NCLEX guide for regular nursing school tests? You have to remember that the whole point of nursing school is to not only to teach you basic nursing skills and knowledge, but also to help you pass the NCLEX exam. Therefore, many nursing school professors will cover the same type of content that your NCLEX prep guides will cover, because both are trying to prepare you for the NCLEX exam. Therefore, you’ll often see the same types of questions covered.
As I went over my notes, I’d always have my NCLEX book open. When I came to a topic I didn’t understand, I’d go over my NCLEX book, trying to discern the main points taught by each source. Going over practice NCLEX test questions that come with the review guides can also be a big help.
Watch Nursing Lectures to Reinforce Concepts
I’ve received some interesting comments and messages from viewers lately, and they said that they were able to boost their test scores and/or pass NCLEX by listening to my nursing review lectures on YouTube as they did mundane tasks, such as getting ready for nursing school, while driving in their car, cooking, cleaning, etc.
By listening to the lectures on topics they struggled with, it helped them to retain the information they had already been studying. So listening to lectures may help you absorb material when you feel too burned out to read or memorize concepts.
In each lecture, I always try to draw upon my experience as a nurse (and nursing student) so that I can simplify concepts and explain the relevant information that you need to know.
Conclusion: It’s Almost Over…
I know that the end of the semester can be very stressful and that many of you are burnt to a crisp. Many of you don’t want to hear another word about nursing school. However, hang in there. It will be over before you know it. As hard as it may be, try to buckle down and finish the semester strong. You’ve made it this far, so don’t give up now.
You can do this! You’ll be a nurse before you know it, and nursing school will soon be a distant memory.
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