How to Study for Nursing School Success- Part II

by J.Adderton J.Adderton, BSN, MSN

Specializes in Clinical Leadership, Staff Development, Education. Has 29 years experience.

Whether you are a new or returning nursing student, the study habits that have worked for you in the past may not be enough for the challenges of nursing school. This article will add to the effective study strategies, explored in How to Study for Nursing School- Part I, to help you make a smooth transition.

New Approaches For Student Success

How to Study for Nursing School Success- Part II

How to Study for Success in Nursing School- Part I provided tips on how to lay a strong foundation for effective study. From attending class, rethinking assignments to scheduling your study, it is important to “see the big picture” of how good study habits can help you succeed in nursing school. Let’s start Part II by reviewing popular study strategies that may not be as effective as we believe.

Three Highly Used Study Strategies That May Not Work

In 2013, Kent State researchers reviewed scientific evidence for common learning techniques used by students. The findings were published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest and the usefulness of three techniques popular techniques were debunked.


A survey conducted at an elite university found 84% of students studied by rereading their textbooks or notes. While rereading can be beneficial when needing to recall information by memory, the strategy does not necessarily help students understand the content.


It is not uncommon for nursing students to have scads of highlighters, in varying colors, to use when reading material. However, research has shown highlighting as you read does not help with understanding and may lead to lower test scores. If you like highlighting as you read, be sure to restudy the material using a more effective strategy.


Research found that summarizing the most important content in a text could be helpful, but there is a catch. To summarize effectively, studies have shown extensive training to build summarization skills is necessary. Therefore, depending on summarizing as a primary study strategy may not yield the desired results.

The Most Effective Strategies

Kent researchers identified practice testing and distributed practice as having the highest overall utility rating.

Put it to the Test

Practice testing provides you with the opportunity to apply what you learn. Multiple-choice practice tests may be the most effective format, promoting stronger retention of information. A simple internet search for practice questions on the topic you are studying will provide you with enough questions for a quality practice test.

Distributed Practice

Last minute cramming before an exam does not often lead to comprehension and retention. Research shows distributing, or spreading out, study is a highly effective learning strategy. This also speaks to the importance of scheduling out your study sessions.

Intensity is Good

There is a way studying can take less time but still be effective. It is all about intensity. Shorter, focused and intense studying allows you to learn more effectively without hours upon hours of studying. Without distractions, sessions can be beneficial and last just 30 or 45 minutes.

Make the Most of “Easy Weeks”

Having a light week in your work, personal or school life can be a rare occurrence. My first response to a “down week” was usually to kick up my feet and take a much-needed break from anything related to nursing school. However, downtime can be used to your advantage by offering the opportunity to get ahead on assignments, projects or studying.

Don’t Wait for Inspiration

Do you ever find yourself waiting on some outside strike of inspiration to provide the motivation needed to tackle assignments and prep for exams? Waiting to be motivated is most likely just cleverly packaged procrastination. Think of studying like exercising. It is not something we always want to do, but the reward is worth it.

When morale is low and you’re questioning “Can I really do this?”, remind yourself you did not make it this far in your academics by accident. Be willing to adjust and try new study approaches to meet the challenges of nursing school.

What study advice do you have for a new or struggling nursing student?

Hello! I have been a nurse for 24 years and have enjoyed a diverse career. I love teaching students and sharing information and advice for student success.

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