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First Semester Nursing School


I will be starting my first semester of nursing school in January 2011, I am super excited and nervous at the same time. From talking to several students that are in second/third semester, they say that students haven't been able to get an A in the first semester of NS. They all mention that it has to do with the critical thinking and the way the information/questions are presented to the students. I want to do as good as possible because I know of two RN new grad intern/residency programs around my area and even though they look at the whole applicant, most of the emphasis deals with academic performance.

I have a B.S. in Public Health and Human Biology, I am a hardworking student but I want to ask if there is anything I can do to prepare myself for this first semester. How can I learn some of the critical thinking/study methods and test taking strategies when it comes to nursing? I worked as an EMT for two years and took the NREMT, not sure if nursing deals with the same critical thinking question style as EMTs.

Also, I was wondering if I can add another class apart from my first semester Nursing classes. Did any of you take one, two separate classes apart from the nursing classes?

Any other advice will be greatly appreciated,



Congrats on your acceptance!!

I am finishing my first semster of nursing school. I don't know how my program compares to others but the first nursing courses are considered introductory- we learn basic skills and fundamental knowledge. I am also taking microbiology and nutrition while taking my nursing classes. So yes, depending on your program, it IS possible to take other courses and do well in them. That being said I am definitely looking forward to having ONLY nursing courses next semester!!!

As far as the test taking and critical thinking portion of your post, the book we use is:

Test Success: Test-Taking Techniques for Beginning Nursing Students 6th Edition by Patricia M. Nugent and Barbara A. Vitale

ISBN: 0-8036-1894-8

I really enjoyed this book. It gave test taking techniques (like how to answer those questions where every answer is a "right" answer!!) It also gave time managment hints and had many practice questions that gave rationale for each option.

Best of luck to you!!! I hope your experience is as positive as mine is!

Thanks for your reply! =)

Just one question, how are you in an RN program and still taking microbiology? I thought most programs require micro, physio and anatomy to be completed prior to entering the program?

Again, thanks


WandererRNBSN, BSN

Specializes in LTC, Med-Surg, Special Care, Postpartum. Has 8 years experience.

Some programs like the one i am in have u take those classes along with your nursing classes. But you can also take them before you start the program. Thats what i did, and some of my courses transferred from the university i had attended, so now all i have left is micro and my nursing classes

In my program micro could be taken during the second semester of the program along with adults1. Most people take any and all co reqs before though. What classes are you wanting to take while in the program? Required courses or something different?

Also recommend the test success book the previous poster recommended. Definitely read through that before starting. Also a good book is "fundamentals success" by Davis. This one is great for practicing nclex style questions for each test. Practicing as many questions as you can before each test along with your reading/ learning the subject matter is the best way to get used to the style of questioning and succeed on the tests.

Thanks a lot!!

They are two general education classes (Lifespan Development) and (Mexican Culture through Literature) Also, I plan on working 2 12s.

Nursing Lecture: Monday 8am-12noon and Thursday 2-5pm

Clinicals: Tuesday and Wednesday from 6am-1-2pm

Friday: Off

Planning to work Either Friday, Sat, Sun

The other two classes: One is Once a week (Wednesday from 5-7:50pm) the other, M and W from 3:30-4:50pm

Not sure if it would be too much, what do you all think?


Specializes in Long term care; med-surg; critical care. Has 9 years experience.

No one else can really tell you what you're capable of. I'm in my first semester, I work 40 hours a week, I have three young kids at home and I'm doing fine to this point. There are some students in my class that have no outside job, no family obligations, and they're not passing this semester. You've got some good resources listed above with the testing taking and fundamentals books. You need to know whether you're capable of managing your time. I think that's the most important part. I've got a BS and MS in sciences and the academics of nursing 101 didn't seem that difficult to me. The most challenging material for me was fluid and electrolytes, the rest was mostly about the nursing process as a whole. Good luck.

Personally I wouldn't take any other courses that aren't required. Especially if you are going to work to. You have to have time to study and sleep too! Even if you have always been an excellent student nursing school is hard to get accustomed to. I just wouldn't do that to yourself if you don't have to.

I was really nervous when I started my first semester too and didn't think I would be able to hold A grades, but so far I am and we only have a few weeks left in this semester. It just depends on how much time you put into studying and reading. I think the best advice I can give is to get the "Fundamentals Success" book by Patricia Nugent. I bought the first and second edition (hoping to get different questions from both books, but they are basically the same exact questions so save yourself $30 and go with the 1st edition). But let me tell you...that book has been a life saver! I don't know if it's the same for all schools but we only do NCLEX style exams and I think the more practice you get with the questions, the better you will do on the test. The book I mentioned has a little bit of everything in it for a beginning fundamentals class..you will love the book!

Good luck!! :)

I got an "A" in both nursing 1 and 2. It's tough and you have to bust your butt! But it's doable! I have a couple weeks left of nursing 3 and will probably end with a "B" and I'm definitely ok with that. I wouldn't recommend taking other classes with nursing. I know some students that took other classes and really struggled and didn't do so well. So it depends on you. Good luck!

Congrats on the acceptance!!! :)

I'm also starting a program in January (BSN-A), and I asked a lot of the current nursing students the exact same question, because I had heard the same. I feel like the overwhelming advice is to ditch the thought that you can simply memorize material, and instead, seek to really understand why you are doing certain things - even if that means you need to read up on background information on that topic on your own.

My husband is an EMT and I think you may have an advantage in that, because I noticed that in helping him prep for the NREMT, a lot of the questions seem to be that "critical thinking" style that we need to focus on. :)

Good luck, and can't wait to celebrate success with you all!


The National Registry EMT exam is as difficult if not more so than the nursing questions. We were looking at HESI questions the other day, and they weren't any more difficult than NREMT. That said, with your EMT experience, PH and bio background nursing school won't be hard.

I have a bio background (previous degree), even taught bio for a year along with chem and A&P, and I went through paramedic school and worked as a medic for a while. With that and the NREMT-P test background I haven't found any of the concepts in my first semester BSN program to be difficult.

There's a lot of stuff never covered before like the assorted ostomies, taking care of them, tube feedings, and that type of thing that EMS would never be concerned with, but the information is not complex and is rather manageable.

Good luck. You'll like it. I enjoy the lectures.

Thanks a lot for all of the advice everyone, really appreciate it!

I agree with ImThatGuy. Given your past experience (academically and occupation) you will be fine. I'm going to assume you know all about time mgmt., understanding concepts (not memorizing things just for a test), etc. You will be just fine.

I'm a second degree student and I find it relatively easy. Although, this is only my first semester. I can tell you that the amount of time I put into studying for one nursing school exam is more than I invested in all of my undergrad studying.

Here's a few tips:

- Study, study, study and never fall behind

- Don't understand something? Research it until you do.

- Follow directions!!! Ex. - I missed 3 med math questions, bc I did not show my work. I had the right answer, but I did not show my work.

- Don't 2nd guess yourself on exams

- Ask yourself "are you sure and does this makes sense" before answering exam questions

- Never ever forget AD PIE (assessment, diagnosis, planning, intervention and evaluation)

- Know lab values (K, Na, RBCs, WBCs, etc) Different programs want you to know "their" lab values

- Never IV push potassium chloride (KCL)


Hi Everyone! I'm so glad I found this post..you are all so positive. I am also starting nursing school this Jan. I'm also very nervous because I am quiting a job and basically drastically changing my life to do this. I have a BS and MS already, but really always wanted to be a nurse. I guess I am most nervous about the unknown, since I haven't started yet I have no idea what NS is like. I have talked to several people and some are positive and other very negative. I guess I need to just relax and dive in! I just got the "Tess Success" book and can't wait to look at it now.

So it seems like you would all agree that NS is very doable..just time consuming?