How to study effectively


I was just wondering what is the best advice for studying and actually retaining the information as I'm learning to become a nurse. What has worked best for you in your studies and how do you not get distracted?

Mell Bell

71 Posts

You have to find out what works best for you. I'm not a study group person, I have to have silence and I have to read everything. What I usually do is read and highlight the chapters first. Let that sit for about a day, and then go back and take notes on what I high lighted. Study those through a few times, go over things I don't quite understand. Then I'll go over the notes that I took in class, and the notes that were sent out by the professors.

To not get distracted: turn my cell and computer OFF - I will procrastinate on Facebook if I don't.

Also, if you start to read sentences over and over and just are not paying attention - move to another chapter or topic. Hope this helps :)

Nurse Connie

244 Posts

I'm a study group person. It helps to bounce ideas and rationales off each other. I read the chapters and highlight on my own, then we bring our text books/notes to group. We use Fundamentals Success and go through the questions on each subject that will be on the test (we get a "blueprint" on what will be on the test and how many questions on each category). We focus on the ones with the most questions. It's worked great so far this semester, I've gotten an 86 and a 94!

Specializes in IMCU. Has 12 years experience.

  • I can't do study groups and require almost complete silence to read most stuff.
  • I only answer my cell phone during specific times and only check messages once a day.
  • I check emails only twice a day.
  • I barely take more than 3 lines of notes in class but I do the readings before class so I can be engaged during lecture.
  • I don't reread anything (unless I am researching for a paper or care plan).
  • I do every NCLEX style question available for the topic being covered in class (the ones at the end of the chapters, in the ATI materials, Saunders review) -- usually about 40 per competency.
  • If a subject bores me rigid (like L & D), I try very hard to make myself more interested in it.


61 Posts

The thing that has helped me most is to make a "to-do" list of everything i need to study/review. I am very specific in my study goals since I tend to go from reading a chapter about safety and hygiene and suddenly i'll see an illness i don't know much about so I begin looking up stuff in my med-dictionary then my med-surg book and suddenly i am so far away from the subject i had orignially began studying that i can't get back on track. It is too easy to feel overwhelmed!

While i am reading my chapters i have a pile of blank flashcards and a sharpie beside me. When i come upon an important term or concept that i do not know i'll write it on the flashcard. They don't all have to be for "testing" yourself. I, personally, feel that these are better than just notes taken on paper.

I also like to use larger flash cards to hold large amounts of organized, specific information. (ie, nursing process, lung sounds, wound care, injections) These types of cards are good for quick references during class, labs and clinical without having to carry around a book.

Scrubmouse RN

134 Posts

Specializes in GI.

Read the assigned reading before lecture. Usually I just read it quickly. Take lots and lots of NCLEX type questions which can be found in most textbooks or their websites. Rationalize why an answer is right and find out why the other answers are wrong. Go to the text and highlight answers to the NCLEX questions. And don't forget your basic anatomy and physiology so you can tie in things together.

Specializes in Cardio-Pulmonary; Med-Surg; Private Duty. Has 5 years experience.

To keep from being distracted, I bought some noise-cancelling headphones and I listen to classical music.

Normally I never listen to classical -- only when I'm reading/studying. And I only listen to instrumentals, nothing with vocals. I guess my brain learns to tune out the meaningless noise (music), and the headphones block out exterior noise, and that keeps my brain from getting distracted.

I can read in the living room while my 10yo watches cartoons and I can read at his hockey practices without being distracted. I even use the headphones when I'm at the library -- even though it's a pretty quiet place, you still have people walking by, people pounding on keyboards, people printing stuff off, people chatting with their buddies, etc.


116 Posts

Every time I tried to read the book I'd fall asleep in it. I like the pictures and charts though. I didn't take notes in class after second semester. No flash cards. What i did need to write down I kept to one paper and i wrote normal, no cramped writing. I'm definitely a study group person. Nothing like trying to explain something and realize the holes of your logic. And I did a lot of nclex questions before each test. Those are the only books I tabbed. I graduated top of my class.

Its not traditional but it worked well for me. I knew the material well. My friends still text me with questions on there breaks now that we all have jobs.


29 Posts

I realized that I remember information better if I hear it, so what I do is read the book out loud to myself. I also record the lectures and play them back and take notes as I go. Also read all of the assigned reading before going to class and have some questions ready to ask if you don't understand something. I also love using flashcards to learn terminology. And a good NCLEX book that's divided up into subjects is beyond helpful.

A good way to tell if you understand and learn the information, is to teach it to someone else. It helps me to ramble on forever to my mom about a particular subject and have her ask me questions. It helps me realize what I know really well and what I need to work on.

Hope this helps! :)


903 Posts

I break my sessions into ~25 minutes of studying [or the end of one section, whichever comes first], and then 5-10 minutes of walking around, getting a drink, maybe looking at allnurses :). If I try to study too much at one time, I don't retain the information.


905 Posts

I spend a lot of time on vocabulary. If I thoroughly understand the fine distinctions between definitions, I will understand most of the concepts involved. Same concept in sorting through sample test questions - if I understand why the wrong answers are wrong, I will get much more out of the sample test than if I just identify the correct answer.

I do not try to learn something in one shot. Sometimes that works but more often I apply spiralling. I study a new concept half of my study time and spend the other half reviewing. I let any particular topic go for a few hours, then a few days, then a few weeks, then a few months. I do study for the test (I need the grade) but I also study things that are already tested for because I need to do that to remember them in enough detail for the long term.

Another way to do spiralling is to spend half the study time on the new concept, a quarter on the last couple of topics studied, an eighth on the ones a little older, and an eighth rotating in the oldest topics.

I use as many different ways to study as I can.

Also, if I don't eat right, or if I don't get enough rest, or enough exercise I don't learn much no matter how much time or effort I put into study. If I have a good margin built up, I can push my limits to some degree. I just know it is WELL worth making a priority of keeping a good margin.