To be a nurse you will have to pass the required examinations. If you plan to be an LPN you will have to pass the NCLEX-PN and if you want to be an RN you will have to pass the NCLEX-RN. Exams are easy enough for some people, but others struggle to pass, even when they are competent and know all of the subject material required. There are a number of study tips for nurses which are recommended to help you prepare for the NCLEX exams.
Tip 1: Time Management
It goes without saying that the best study tip for nurses is time management. In order to make time to give each of the topics on your agenda the full attention they need, you must be able to prioritize and make time for all of them. In this case buying a personal planner or a calendar on which you can write a plan will be of great help in ensuring you cover all of the necessary material.
Tip 2: Preparation And Study Guides
Study guides are books aimed at helping you prepare for the exam by providing you with a number of questions that are very similar to the exam questions and by providing you with comprehensive summaries of all of the work you will be tested on in the exam. Some of the better publishers of these study guides for nursing subjects are:
- Cliffs Test Prep
Buying more than one study guide is only beneficial if they are substantially different in their approaches.
Tip 3: Take Notes
Taking notes refers to making notes in your lectures. In addition it means summarizing the textbooks and coursework that you have covered in your own time and for yourself. Summarizing each chapter in your book into a page or two will make a substantial difference when it comes time to study the work. Use headers and sub headers to lay it out in an easy to read format. Do the same for lecture notes. The act of summarizing itself will help you remember the work.
Tip 4: Create Flashcards
Writing specific information on flash cards will help you recall the important facts that will be covered in the test and it will help you quiz yourself and your colleagues for the test. If you are not sure how to make flashcards it is possible to buy them. This method helps you to:
- File away names of diseases
- File away names of conditions
- File away names of treatments
- List signs and symptoms
- List diagnostic tests
- List interventions
Tip 5: Tape Record Lectures
If it is ok with your lecturer, ask if you can tape record the lectures. This is not a replacement for taking notes in class as you will still need to listen actively to retain the information more efficiently. Recording the class can help to supplement your notes when you are studying, especially if your notes are not perfect and you cannot clearly remember what they refer to. You will also be able to listen to your lectures as you travel or do household chores.
Tip 6: Attend Class
It is very important that you actually attend your classes. This is true for a number of reasons:
- Often something will come up in a lecture that is not in the book but, because the lecturer knows what is likely to be in the test, they mention these factors in class.
- Another student may ask a very important question that you will never hear the answer to.
Unless you are genuinely ill it is better not to miss any of your classes.
Tip 7: Study After Every Class
It is important to study just before the exam, but this is not the first time that you should be trying to digest the work covered. After every lecture you need to set aside some time to study the work that you have done, doing additional research if necessary and looking for additional sources to substantiate your knowledge. Studying alone like this on a regular basis will cement the information in your mind and will decrease the amount of pressure that you will be under when it comes time to write the examination.
Tip 8: Keep Your Study Area Clean
Keeping your study area clean can affect your ability to study properly. It is suggested that you:
- Keep your study surface neat and tidy
- Remove any items, such as cell phones, that may distract you from the purpose at hand
- Store all of your study materials in a single container
Cleanliness in the workplace can promote clarity of mind and therefore ensure that you study in as an effective way as possible.
Tip 9: Do Not Listen To Music
You may have heard it said by professionals and fellow students alike that music can help you study. This is not in fact the case. Studies have been done which show that, rather than helping you retain information in your brain, listening to music while studying distracts you from the material you need to learn and remember. Consequently it is important that you maintain a quiet as well as a clean study area in order to get the most out of your study session.
Tip 10: Leave Your Notes At Home
When it comes time to write the exam, leave your notes at home. Many people think that last minute studying just before they enter the exam venue will help them, when in reality it is more of a hindrance than a help. Generally this technique will only:
- Confuse you about the answers
- Make you more nervous than you already are
Assume that you have, by that stage, done everything that you can in order to prepare for the exam, take a deep breath, and write it.
Tip 11: Speak To Your Professor
Your professor or instructor will be a professional who has probably written the NCLEX exam himself or herself at some point in his or her life. They know what will be on the test and what is not as important. Consequently you need to keep communication lines with your lecturer open at all times. If your lecturer has office hours, visit them when necessary with your questions. Most lecturers will also provide you with an email address or sometimes even a telephone number that you can use to contact them.
Tip 12: Create A Productive Study Environment
This has already been mentioned, but it is worth mentioning it again. An effective study environment is:
- Neat and tidy
- Free from any distractions such as cell phones or food
It is essential that you do your best to set up an area that meets the above requirements in your home. If you cannot it may be better to study at a library where the above criteria are requirements and where you will be able to study productively.
Tip 13: Prioritize Your Life
If you are serious about becoming a nurse you need to prioritize those activities that will help you to achieve this career goal. This includes studying for the exam. Certain sacrifices may have to be made. For example you may have to start saying ‘no’ to your friends when they invite you to go out. Instead of watching your favorite television shows you may have to spend the time studying instead. Once you are a nurse similar sacrifices will be made, so you may as well get used them now.
Tip 14: Decide Which Class Needs The Most Attention
Some of the topics that you cover may be harder than others. You need to focus on those that you struggle with the most. This may have the following implications:
- You may have to give up on getting an “A” in one part of the test in order to get a “C+” in another
- Although it would be nice, do not assume that you can get an A on all areas of the test
Tip 15: Pace Yourself
It will not be possible to learn everything that you need to know just before the test and, as a result, you will need to pace yourself. This includes studying throughout your course in your own time. In addition you should do pre reading for your lectures the day before you attend the class as this will help you understand the class more easily and therefore remember the information more easily. As the exam approaches, study every day in preparation for the test paper.
Tip 16: Make Use Of Technology
Using technology can be a lifesaver when it comes to preparing for your nursing exam, and in this modern day and age you have plenty of options available to you. There are a number of technological advancements that can be very helpful for nursing students:
- Use a voice recorder to capture lectures
- Use email to communicate concisely with your instructors and classmates
- Use Internet resources to help you with research papers and studying
- Use software programs designed to create templates of nursing care plans and patient assessments
Tip 17: Set Aside Enough Time For Care Plans
In some nursing courses you will be required to create care plans for your patients. These can take a very long time. Generally speaking it is safe to take the amount of time that you think you will need t complete the plan, and double it for a more realistic expectation. Care plans can help you retain information that you need for the exam which is why they should not be rushed and why they should be completed properly.
Tip 18: Study For A Few Hours At A Time
Your brain needs time to process all of the information that you have studies. Consequently you should study for fairly short blocks of time and have breaks in between:
- Your study sessions should be a few hours long
- Your break periods can be anything from 30 minutes to a few hours long
Be sure that you factor in enough time to cover all of the necessary work while still ensuring that you will be able to take the number of breaks necessary to best remember everything.
Tip 19: Refer To NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) Review Materials
The NCLEX review materials that are available can serve as a valuable study guide. When referring to these materials you should focus on the questions that are related to the work that you learned in class that day or that week. That will help you to think about the course work in a way that will help you when you are faced with questions on the topic in the exam. These resources can be found on the NCLEX website and are usually offered free of charge to those who are interested in augmenting their studies.
Tip 20: Don’t Give Up
If you are struggling with your coursework, don’t give up. Instead, take a step back and review the situation. Think of what you can do to ease your difficulties. By the time the work gets hard enough for you to consider giving up you will already be so far into your course that it will be a serious waste to give up at that point. Believe in yourself and you will surely succeed.
Many of the above tips are difficult to put into practice and none of them are aimed at making your coursework easier for you. You will still need to work hard and the key ingredient in all of the above is a desire to do well on the NCLEX examinations. Without personal investment and a strong inner drive to succeed and become the best nurse possible you will find that these study tips for nurses are ineffectual at best and completely useless at worst.