How to study for Nursing School?


Hello! I will be starting my first semester of nursing school at Carroll University this Fall 2016 and I will be going in as a sophomore. I'm super nervous and I was wondering how should I study for the classes? OR does anyone have techniques at how they studied which was really helpful? What helped you get through your first semester?

My sister has been scaring me haha She said I will have no life, I'll have to cut off my boyfriend, and I will have to study like 40 hours a week like a full time job!

I struggle a bit trying to retain so much information at one time or short period of time, and then I end up stressing myself out. So I wanted to figure out ways I can decrease stressing myself out and having a consistent study pattern that I can retain everything I learn! I do like flashcards, but sometimes it can be very overwhelming because of how many I must make. I also have a big dry erase board that is very helpful. I know fall semester 2015 I just transferred to this school and took ANP and could not figure out how to study for it, so my grade wasn't the best, then by 2nd semester I figured out a great system and got an A in the class! So I realized if I figure out my groove I do much better haha.

Thank you for all the insight!!


671 Posts

Hey there fellow nursing student :geek::bookworm: I just finished my first year and I'm on summer break awaiting 2nd year of an associate program. I would say most of what your sister said I do agree with haha. I barely see my friends unless it's winter and summer break. Your Bf time will be and should managed efficiently in a way that works for you two. I know that juggling feeling as I was with someone but they broke it off with me before finals in one semester. If you can get a recorder it would help so much to sit down and listen to it and take some notes. You want to study almost all the time when you have time to. If you're not studying you're doing hw or something school related. You really want to read ahead of time if you can and print out PowerPoints if you can ahead of time and take notes on that in class. Download some nursing apps the ones with questions because it will help apply knowledge and doing those questions is key. You'll find yourself in morning or evening clinical which I have gone through both, you can still study hours before or afterwards. You can join study groups if you find talking to people helpful in studying.

Specializes in Telemetry, Primary Care. Has 8 years experience.

You really won't know your study habits until you actually start the program. I'd definitely say studying for nursing was a lot different then studying for general ed classes (if I actually studied for those classes lol). I was never a reader at all, but I committed to passing nursing and became a textbook reader all throughout nursing school. I read each required chapter at least 3 times each adding highlights and notes as I went along in reading as well as in lecture. That's pretty much what got me through nursing. Flashcards didn't work for me, never really saw the need either.


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Specializes in CCU, CVICU, CVRU, Cardiac Cath Lab, RRT. Has 1 years experience.

Congrats on being accepted! I just want to start by saying that nursing school is hard, but it is doable. I am halfway through a two-year community college program. While I don't feel ready to be a nurse yet and am scared about the intensity of being a senior this fall, I am able to start putting things together and thinking like a nurse, which is encouraging. You will be there too before you know it!

There are so many ways to study. However, it really doesn't do any good to cram yourself out, especially the night before a test. The tests are all about how well you can apply what you know and think a certain way (in order to pass NCLEX and be a safe nurse). I try to never stay up passed 23 or 24 hundred the night before. I attempt to exercise the day before as well. The morning of the test, I get up at 6 and get ready and commute to class (including eating breakfast) if it is an 8 o'clock class or go to Panera if it is an afternoon test. I try to take KAPLAN questions and review notes the morning before.

As to studying in general, I copying all of the Power Points into my OneNote notebook for each class and then take notes and record on OneNote, using the Power Point notes as my base. Anything that is stressed in lecture, that keeps coming up or that I have questions about is bolded, underlined or highlighted. I then try to review and format my class notes within 24 hours of the lecture and look up anything I had a question about. I put all of the lab values into Quizlet. Also, I usually devote a section on my OneNote notebook to the pharmacology for each unit (our pharmacology is integrated throughout the program). Things like insulin times and drug classes may get put into spread sheet form and can be incorporated into OneNote.

I read the textbook before class and highlight so that I can just refer to the highlighted material as I study for tests. And yes, you will probably end up doing more highlighting than less, but it really helps me (a slow reader) to study more efficiently. We then use Course Point (Wolters Kluwer) and KAPLAN for practice questions and assigned questions. I usually get to mastery level 4 on Course Point as I read the chapters in the textbook and then work up to mastery level 8 (the highest level) as I study for the test. Right before the exam, I do some KAPLAN questions to see where my weaknesses are and get more varied questions. You may be using different platforms for practice questions, but the idea is the same. You want to practice applying the information and see how it fits together. Doing the practice questions means applying it on a level that is often over your head, so don't get discouraged if it takes you a long time and you don't do as well as you would like. It really has helped me apply the concepts, which is what instructors are looking for. There are only a couple of times where I got a question wrong on the actual class exam due to remembering a question from Course Point or KAPLAN. Some people struggled more with that than I did. So just find what works for you.

Basically, I read and highlighted my textbook around two weeks ahead of the correlating lecture, took notes off of a Power Point base and used Quizlet and Excel to memorize facts like lab values. Another thing that helped with pharmacology and F&E is Picmonic. As an auditory person, having the cartoons really helped me get the key stuff for the all of the drugs. I would do all of the Course Point questions for each chapter we were going to be tested on and then Kaplan questions for the topics. A week before the exam, I would start reviewing and getting to the mastery level I wanted.

It was a lot of work. However, I have been successful in getting A's in all of my nursing courses so far and 96 is the lowest I have scored on a final exam. My KAPLAN proctored exams have all been somewhere in the 70's (raw percentage score).

This is just what has worked for me. Everyone is different. Some of my classmates make study guides for each chapter, others do thousands of flash cards and some use Quizlet extensively.

You will figure something out once you start! Right now, try to enjoy life and make some good sleep/diet/fitness/distressing habits to help carry you through school in good physical and mental health. Taking an hour every day to work out and do something you enjoy really helps you stay fresh when you hit the books for the umpteenth time. Hope that this is an encouragement and best wishes for your success as a student and a nurse!

Has 1 years experience.

does anyone have any really good worksheets they used to drug guides or anything else they would fill out and memorize!?

This gave me so much help and tips for my upcoming semester!!! Thank you so much for sharing


16 Posts

This outline has made me super successful throughout nursing school.About to graduate this fall and I have followed this since the first semester and have done very well with mostly A's and some B's. I would go home after class every day and do this for each disease from that days lecture. It's fast, simple, and helps to highlight the important information so that you can critically apply it to nursing questions.

1)The disease:

2)General or important pathophysiology:

3) Etiology/Risk Factors/Population

4) Key Signs and Symptoms: ** do not list EVERY sign and symptom just important/specific to that disease

5) How it's diagnosed

6)Important Patient Teaching:

7)Key Interventions/Treatments:


9)Significant labs:

It seems like a lot but once you do it a few times it becomes incredibly easy. I found that I would only highlight these significant answers while the professor went through the powerpoint and it made it very easy and quick to make the outline after class each day.

It depends on you. You need to figure out what is and isn't effective in studying for you. If you're studying 40 hours a week, you're not studying effectively, at all. So if you found a system that worked, and got you an A, keep going with that. Any applied science class is going to be a little harder, though. Rather than just remembering information, think of all of nursing as being the "clinical" questions you had to answer in A&P. Remember the ones where you were given a low level of a hormone and you had to identify the symptoms of it... Nursing school is 100% that, on every single topic, where even the clothes the patient should wear going home is based on that type of reasoning.

If flashcards work for you, look into practice tests. Most textbook publishers usually have some kind of online program that includes study tests for every chapter. Some teachers are awesome and actually assign study programs that some publishers idiotically hide behind a teacher having to give access. Reputable companies like Kaplan have programs with tons of practice test questions. Then just make your own where you think you need extra work.

For not having a life and having to cut off your boyfriend... You'll still have a life, and you'll still have your boyfriend. But you're not going to be at his house every waking minute of your life. Science majors in college is when you learn that the other person is a part of your life, not your whole life. And a lot of people struggle at this point, because they're used to if they're not at work and they're awake, they're with their bf/gf. You know, the ones that don't live together, but to literally everyone else alive, they live together.

The best advice I can give for studying: Create a system. Spend some of your time reviewing, going over everything you already know. But then spend most of your time studying only what you don't know. No matter if it's your first time or your 500th, the symptoms of that disease are never going to change, so once you know the symptoms, review it, but don't keep going back over it 20 times that night. The amount of time you study is meaningless. If you spend 40 hours studying what you already know, but only 1 of those 40 hours are on stuff you don't know, you're still going to not know the stuff that you don't know. Prioritize what you study and when, and then it really doesn't take that much time for most people.

And you know the phrase: "It's all Greek to me?" Take that literally when it comes to all of your terminology. Most of the terms, especially diseases, are Greek for what they do, and why (I gave a few examples in another thread, I pointed out how ALS (the ice bucket challenge disease) translated into English was literally "no muscle nourishment related to sides hardening disease." When you fix the grammar (remember adjectives come after the nouns): Disease that both sides harden because of a lack of nourishment to the muscle). The answer to the question is in the name of the disease. Treat medical terminology as a second language, because it literally is, you're learning Greek, and that makes everything so much easier.