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how to study for a cumulative final?


Hi everybody. I am starting the second year of my ADN program, and I have always had difficulty with cumulative final exams.

I had an 88% going into the class before the final...and had done fairly well on all the exams (27/30, 26/30, 26/30) and ended up with a 73% on the final :( . I did end up passing the course so I am thankful for that, but am sad that I did so poorly on the final exam.

Final exams have never helped my grade. In every course that I've had so far in nursing school they have brought my grade down.

How do you study for finals? I did the same thing I do for all the exams with a few tweaks. Normally, before exams I go through and relisten to the lectures and retake notes...this time going super slow so I catch everything the instructor says. I supplement these notes with extra information I find relevant from the text. I meet with a study group where we take turns teaching each other material/talking through it/clarifying things.

For the final, I met up with the same study group and we went over the material. I also read through all my notes before the study group and highlight with a different color things I don't know very well/wanna look over again and write those out again.

What am I doing wrong? How do you alter your study methods for the final? it is frustrating because I felt like I knew the material- I always do, and then I go into the final and it just seems so random (not every time, but this time and in another course it felt like that).

Any suggestions?

To prepare for final cumulative exams I would make note cards and my own notes as I went through the exams leading up to the final and saved them so that I could focus my time on studying for the final rather than preparing materials. I would also try to study a little bit of the old material (from previous exams) as we went through the days leading up to the final so that it would not be overwhelming to study at one time.

You might also try focusing your studies on the areas that you have been struggling on or that you have got wrong on previous exams. Cumulative exams are kind of nice due to the fact that you know where your weak areas lie based on your exam scores. Focus on those areas and briefly review what you have proven to already know.

There is no definite answer to your question as we all study and learn differently, but, hopefully this was somewhat helpful. Best wishes. 

akulahawkRN, ADN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in Emergency Department. Has 6 years experience.

In classes that have cumulative final exams, the secret is that you start studying before the session begins, well, as long as you know what material the course will be covering the first 2 weeks. You want to read ahead 1-2 weeks (yes, it's a LOT of reading at first) and then once there, you need to stay 1-2 weeks ahead. Just before the material is covered in class, review the material so that it's fresh. A few days after, review the material for the week you just had, or you can review the material just covered on a rolling 2-3 day basis because you need to give the material time to kind of "gel" before you review it.

Also, when you're in groups, try to TEACH each other the material. That helps increase retention of the material as well.

Toward the end of each term, divide the term up into 5-7 equal chunks of material. Then take your exam date, and you want to finish the last "chunk" 2 days before the exam, so that the day off just before the cumulative exam. You do one chunk of material per day, so you'd be starting that review 6-8 days before the cumulative exam.

Remember, anything covered in the reading or in lecture is fair game, but they'll typically only test you on concepts they go over in class. That's most of what they want you to know.

This seems like a LOT of reading, but once you've gone over the material at least 3 times, the review should go pretty quickly and the retention level should be pretty high and you should have a pretty solid base of info to draw from during the cumulative exam.

ParkerBC,MSN,RN, PhD, RN

Specializes in Medical Surgical/Addiction/Mental Health.

Request to review your old exams. Study all of the questions and understand why the answers are what they are. Review all tables and charts in the chapters. If there is a section of your chapter that introduces the nursing process for that particular content, be certain to review it. There is no way you can read all of those chapters and keep up with current assignments. Making notes of key points will be your best option.

One of the best pieces of advice for final exams is that you start studying for it on the first day of class. Make those flashcards as you go, and review them on a regular basis. If you took exam 2 today, then tonight you study a little of your cards from exam 1 material, skip exam 2 material, and start in on exam 3 material. Do this every day. Not just before the test(s). Ac(cumulate) your understood knowledge as you go.

tyvin, BSN, RN

Specializes in Hospice / Psych / RNAC.

Since you know that there will such an exam, take appropriate notes all year. After regular test, make a sheet about what you remember was on the test. When the teacher says "That's going to be on the final"...write it down. Also, ask the teacher if there is a pretest to study for the final (never hurts).

Have a specific journal book for all these tidbits of info that will eventually turn into a small book. Read the journal before you go to bed and when you get up (takes about 10 minutes). Mnemonics, mnemonics, mnemonics; get real good at making up great mnemonics and you'll be just fine.

classicdame, MSN, EdD

Specializes in Hospital Education Coordinator.

if you have access to your old tests that would be great. Otherwise, goo thru the text and pay attention to the outline. About all you can do is hit the high spots, but that includes whatever critical thinking would be required for given situations.

I am in my 3rd semester of nursing school and have found that flashcards do not work for me! I make a "cheat sheet" study guide for each exam throughout the semester that has bullet points and important facts my teacher emphasizes is important to know. When reading the book, I make a note of bold titles and anything the book includes in the end of chapter review. I keep my cheat sheet down to one piece of paper front and back (sometimes have to make the font pretty small to include it all), and keep it in my pocket at all times. I will pull it out during slow moments at clinicals or on my lunch break, standing in line at the store, waiting to pick kids up from school, etc. By the time finals comes around I have 3 cheat sheets to go over rather than a whole book and binder full of powerpoints.

Also, I voice record all my lectures and every night I go back and pick a lecture to re-listen to. Sometimes its nice just to be reminded of what the instructor said the 1st weeks of class!

Hope this helps!

Good Luck!

Some of my classmates have saying "C is for Degree", try not to stress too much as long as you are passing :-)

Disagree with the above comment "C's are for degrees"... Yeah you may get the degree but that doesn't mean you'll pass boards and better yet if you want to go to grad school those grades are not competitive for any reputable school. I know it wasn't you that said it, but it was poor advice.

I agree a C is not a good thing to strive for, its more of a way to comfort someone that got a C on an exam that is normally an A or B student. Put the C behind you and keep on trucking kind of thing, you didn't fail, just didn't do as well as you wanted to. It wasn't meant to be advice, just a way to move past the C

Believe it or not, there are still job applications out there that ask for one's GPA, so getting by with C's is not to be recommended.

Before every test, I like to go over my powerpoints/notes few times and all of my books (I have a few different med/surg books I have accumulated). After I feel like I have a good grasp on things, I go into a blank notebook and write down EVERYTHING I can remember about all topics discussed within that section being tested on. Then, I go back over all my notes and see what I missed. If I missed it, I write it down. I redo this a few times, I may or may not be able to keep rewriting from memory depending on time (always do it mentally, though). I have found that this reinforces everything not only for that section's test, but for the final, as well. At finals time, I break things down by section, study a section per day, and allow a day of rest beforehand. I find that with all this reinforcing before tests, I have it down by finals and am able to just do refreshers. I am in a two year ADN program, 3rd semester. I have scored 89%, 98%, and 86% on the finals I have taken so far.

Disclaimer: everyone learns differently, this is just what I do.

SopranoKris, BSN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 6 years experience.

Best way to study for a cumulative final: study what you DON'T know! All too often, we waste hours of time studying material we already know. Go through the objectives for your exam, try to articulate each objective, use key definitions, etc. If there are areas where you struggle to recall info, that is what you focus on when you study. If you can recall other topics well, then you don't need to waste energy studying them. Trying to cram the ENTIRE course into your head before an exam just causes more confusion.

The other thing you can do is look at the final as a positive thing: you've already passed each exam, so you're relatively good with the material. If you use words like "dread" or "hate" or "difficult", then you inadvertently start psyching yourself out.

Good luck on your next final! You CAN do it :D

AlwaysLearning247, BSN

Has 6 years experience.

For each exam I keep my powerpoints, notes on the chapters, and any handouts together in a binder. I take them out of my binder after each exam and put binder clips on them and leave them in my desk. So say I have 4 exams, I will have 4 separate stacks of paper to use as study material for the final. I usually just review all the notes and stuff before the final. It helps a lot. I ended up getting an 88 on my med surg final last semester using this technique. I'm doing the same for maternity and pedi now so I hope it works again!

thanks everyone!! the finals went well :)

The one thing that helps me the most is going through my notes IMMEDIATELY after the exam (as soon as I walk out the door) and highlighting the information that was in the test questions. I do this again after the test review. True, there may be different or new material on the final, but by knowing what was important the first time around definitely helps me predict what will be on the final.