Learning how to effectively study in nursing school can be more of a daunting task than learning the actual content in class. If you find yourself questioning the effectiveness of your current study method or you aren't satisfied with your grades, read on for 6 actionable study tips that will help you make the grade!
What is truly the key to better comprehension and higher test grades? Actively studying. Throughout my years of attending school, no one ever taught me how to truly study. Before going off to college, I remember frantically scanning Google's search results for the best study tips. I wanted to finally pinpoint a specific study routine that would generate the best possible grades, especially in nursing school. However, I quickly learned that my study routine would differ slightly for each course.
The most important thing I learned is that it's not really about the amount of hours spent studying, but rather the way you study. I'm sure you've seen this scenario unfold before: A disappointed student holds a test with an unappealing grade in pure disbelief. You hear them say that they read the chapters that were assigned in the textbook and reviewed the study guide and notes but they can't understand why their grade doesn't reflect their efforts. In this scenario, it's questionable whether the student actually studied.
Too often students spend the bulk of their time reading the same material countless times, hoping that the repetition will force the content in their long-term memory (or long enough to pass the test). But reading something over and over again isn't really studying, and yet this is a popular study method.
Well then, what is a better way to study? Hands down, the more actively and attentively that you study, the more likely you are to remember what you are learning. How do you study actively and avoid falling into the trap of mindless, passive studying?
Pay attention in class.
This is common sense, but I can't tell you how many students in my classes I would see tuning out the instructor, deep in a conversation on their cell phone or browsing the internet during lecture. Isn't it important to spend the most attention when you are learning something new for the first time? If you pay attention in class, you will actually know which sections of the book are worth reading when you review your notes later.
Rewrite your class notes.
During lecture, in my attempt to keep up with the instructor and capture all the main ideas, my notes would frequently look messy and unorganized, especially when I wouldn't print the accompanying powerpoint slides. Going back sometime after lecture (ideally the same day) and rewriting your class notes is one wonderful example of actively studying because you are taking the time to organize your most important information. Take the time to really think about what you are writing and why it does or does not make sense. Incorporate symbols and pictures that can fit in your notes to help make the main ideas stick.
Find a youtube video that relates to the content.
It's easy for your eyes to glaze over and lose focus reading a gigantic, boring textbook that lacks colors and images. Try to find a video online so that you can watch the information be presented in a different way. It's even better if the video features animations that you can reference when you're faced with a difficult question about the content. And honestly, sometimes hearing someone else besides your instructor explain a concept can make a big difference in your understanding.
Challenge yourself by answering questions.
This study method is one that should not be overlooked. Before each exam, you should dedicate time to soley answer questions related to the content that you learned. Answering questions forces you to think critically and can reveal any weak areas that you otherwise may have missed. Your nursing school toolkit should have quality study resources that will boost your chances for success. Invest in Q&A books for each nursing subject or a few NCLEX review books and commit to answering at least 50 questions before each test.
Teach someone else what you've learned.
This is another powerful, active method that reveals whether you truly understand the content. If you can teach someone else in a simple way that they can understand, you likely have a firm grasp of the concept. This is where having a study buddy or group (link) comes in handy, so don't be shy!
Make your own study guides, tests, and quizzes.
I once read that you should be able to condense your notes to one page for each chapter. Sometimes this was possible and other times it was not. However, if your notes are short, sweet, and to the point, it will be much easier for you to identify the main ideas and make your own study guides and tests with those main ideas.
As you can see, there is so much more to studying than just reading the same content repeatedly. The more effort you put in, the stronger connections you will make with the content and you will have the knowledge and critical thinking skills to perform well on your tests. Strive to incorporate most of these methods into your studies for maximum results. It is no secret that the more unique exposures (audio, video, text, image) you have, the stronger memory of that concept will be established.
Be on the lookout for more in this how-to study series and let us know if you found this article to be helpful. How do you choose to actively study and what results have you seen?