I am not very experienced in studying for Nursing School yet (only six weeks into it), but I do some tutoring also so maybe this will help a little.
I find that at least part of the answer for me was to really understand the concepts behind the facts. I know this sound redundant, but I have found that I can have all the facts memorized, but if I don't trully understand the concepts behind the facts, I don't do well on tests (I learned this the hard way).
For example: you can know all the facts/figures about CHF (Congestive Heart Failure), yet be unable to explain to me what the actual condition does and how it works. If I don't know the condition/test/drug inside and out and backwards too, I know I won't do well on a test. Why? Because my professor is going to turn it inside out, backwards, and probably put it into language I can't understand on that test question. If I only know how CHF can progress from left to right sided, and then my professor puts a question on the test about it progressing from right to left sided, I have a problem. If I understand the disease process I will probably be able to figure out what she wants.
If I know how the underlaying problem/test/drug works, and I forget one little symptom, I can probably figure it out well enough to answer the test question. If I have simply memorized the list of symptoms, and I forget one I am in trouble!
When I study, I usually try to get a grasp of how each disease/condition/test/drug works, and then after I understand
it, I will go back and memorize the details that go along with it. Often I will go through a chapter, catching the main concepts and trying to comprehend them. Sometimes I will take notes on these main concepts, although never detailed notes. Then, I will go back and breifly review all the details I need to know about this. I will repeat these "detail reviews" several times until I take that test. For example, yesterday we had our NG tube insertion checkoff. I knew that my professors view checkoff time as a good chance to drill us on anything remotely related to the checkoff material. So, first I reviewed the actual process for inserting an NG tube from my notes and my book. Then, I looked up all the details about all the sizes the Dr. may order, the types of NG tubes, the purposes they may be used for, the abdominal assessment methods and norms/abnorms, etc. Then, right before class I once again reviewed all those details. I passed, by the way, Whew! This method has really worked for me so far, although it's not applicable for all subject areas.
I also try to only study for a hour at a time then take a short break. This really helps my mental alertness. Get a good night's sleep before every test! Skipping sleep to study instead only cuts down on your effectiveness even if it feels like you are more prepared. Tired brain cells just don't function like alert ones do, from long experience.
The study guide is a great help to me. I have never tried taking many notes from the book, my hand gets tired enough writing notes in class. However, I have found that short notes on a flashcard can help. I can then quickly review that flashcard wherever I am.
Medical terms are a big part of nursing school. Every test, I go through all my class notes and my entire chapters and make a flashcard over all the new terms I don't know. I study those flashcards until I know them well, and I know how to SPELL every single one of those words. At our school, if its spelled wrong, it is wrong.
One of the biggest problems with studying for nursing school for me is the lack of time. We have so much info hitting us so fast that there is no way I can take hours and hours of straight study time for every test. I try to take advantage of every single spare moment I have. I make flashcards over those terms and main concepts and take those with me. In line at the grocery store? Waiting for the Microwave? Stirring the soup? Waiting to pick someone up? Grab the slightest chance, whip those cards/notes out and read a few lines. These "study minutes" can go a long ways toward giving you more study time. Just be careful though, one of the students I tutor lost her flashcards in the freezer one evening as she was trying to get a ice cream bar out.
Study groups help many people. I tend to be a loner, so a study group doesn't do much for me, but they really help many people. You can help each other with parts of the lecture that you didn't understand, notes you missed, hard concepts, etc. Try one and see if they help. Be aware though, that if they get to big they don't help much. 3-4 people is best.
I hope this helps!