To say that the first semester of nursing school is overwhelming would be an incredible understatement. Between being assigned to read 20 textbook chapters a week, skills checkoffs, and your first clinical shifts (not to mention, care plans!), studying can be a pretty daunting task. Throughout my first semester of nursing school, I developed a study method that helped me to not only maximize my time, but to minimize stress and achieve grades I was proud of.
Determine your learning style. We are all unique and, that being said, your professor's 250-slide PowerPoint presentation might not necessarily solidify complex disease processes for you. The VARK assessment is a great tool to help pinpoint what kind of learner you are. With this information, you can formulate a more effective study method to ensure you're not wasting your time. The VARK Questionnaire | VARK
Create your own notes. Nursing lectures are notorious for being complex...and oftentimes, too much so. Trying to retain too much information is only going to overwhelm you. Whittle down your lecture notes to the "meat and bones"--the core concepts. In example, when looking at a disease process, oftentimes if you understand WHAT is taking place physiologically, you can deduce the S/S and treatment modalities. Aim to UNDERSTAND, not memorize!
Adequately plan to maximize preparedness. Allowing yourself a few days to prepare for a major test isn't going to cut it. Start studying immediately following your lectures to ensure new concepts stay fresh in your mind.
Keep it cumulative! Just because you feel like you understand a certain topic doesn't mean you can simply set that information aside. Continue to review this information while you're learning new concepts to make sure you don't lose it!
Do as many practice NCLEX-style questions as possible! Check out books from your school's library, rent them online, or purchase. Not only will this help you apply the new concepts that you're learning, but it will also give you a good indicator of where you are in your NCLEX preparedness. Davis and Saunders make great comprehensive NCLEX review/Q&A books and the Success series makes subject-specific Q&A books. You can further reinforce concepts by reading the rationales for both correct as well as incorrect answers.
If I could provide you with one last tip, it would be to remember to enjoy the ride. Cherish the friendships that you make and remember to take time for yourself. Always remember your WHY and allow that to fuel your passion and propel you into this incredible, rewarding career!