One of the most daunting parts of a nursing student’s life is taking exams. Here are some tips to help you study more effectively:
1. LISTEN WELL DURING LECTURES AND TAKE GOOD NOTES
A nursing student’s most common mistake is that they only begin to study when exam time is near. But you will cut your exam studying time drastically if you have already understood the topics even during the lecture.
Before a lecture, you should have already read about the topic you will learn. The time inside the lecture room should be spent on understanding or clarifying what you have previously read. This also enables you to ask questions to your professor during or after the lecture on remaining points that are unclear.
The Cornell Note-taking Method is also an effective way of helping you understand the lecture. You separate your paper into two columns of “cues” and “notes”, wherein you just place keywords, diagrams, or thoughts to help you remember what the topic is about. At the bottom of the page “summary”, you have to analyze what was discussed and summarize the topic in a few sentences. Because your thoughts and key items are already summarized, you can easily flip through these during exams as a reminder of what happened during the lecture.
NEVER waste time copying what is on the blackboard/ screen. Professors often give copies of their lectures to the class, or if not, all of the topics are already in your books. This is the same tip for highlighting. Notes and highlights should only be used as memory cues. If you focus your time on understanding what the professor is saying or what the book is saying, then that 2-word phrase you jot down will already make sense.
2. KNOW THE BEST STUDY MECHANISM FOR EACH SUBJECT
Not all subjects should be studied in the same way. Some subjects require understanding, while others require memorization, visualization, practice, or the like. You should also figure out what types of study mechanism work best for you. I personally enjoyed studying with the Made Ridiculously Simple series, you should have a copy in your local libraries. Here are some other suggestions:
Pharmacology is a subject that is purely memorization. But even if they are all terms, you will still see a lot of trends that will make memorization easier. For example, most beta blockers end in “–olol” and most anticholesterol agents end in “-statin”. You can make review cards and quiz with your classmates. Personalizing mnemonics will also very helpful (ie. You have an uncle with diabetes named Ermin which sounds like metfERMIN, so you know that metformin is for diabetes).
Anatomy requires a lot of memorization, but it is also visual in nature. Common tips include creating mnemonics, and you can find a lot of them online. You can maximize both your language and spatial memory by drawing the different parts of the body on paper (or on your body! *wink). You can also get into the adult coloring craze and printout black and white copies of body parts and color them while memorizing. You’ll be surprised that during the exam you’ll remember the name of the part because you used the color red for it.
Physiology and biochemistry require understanding more than memorization. If you can’t understand the flow in book images, try to search for youtube videos on the topics to actually see them happening in motion. Once you get an understanding, make your own flowchart or mindmap of the processes. Something you make your own is easier to remember than something you are forced to memorize.
3. PLAN YOUR STUDY ROUTINE
Here are some questions to help you know your effective routine:
WHO will you study with? Do you work better alone or with a friend to keep you motivated.
WHAT should you study? Study subjects which are harder for you first, when you’re mind is still fresh. You can also alternate subjects to prevent burnout.
WHERE can you effectively study? Should you study at the comfort and silence of your room but with risk of falling asleep? Should you study at coffee shops and be forced to wake up but with many distractions?
WHEN is the best time for you to retain information? In the morning? In the evening?
There is no one style of studying for everyone. You should reflect to know how you work best.
There are a lot of available sample or practice tests for a reason. Use them to practice choosing the best answer among choices. It will help you understand what topics you are not yet familiar with and where you should focus on.
5. PRIORITIZE, LET GO AND RELAX
Ideally, with proper planning, you will be able to master your studies before the exam. But if exam time is near and you have yet to finish studying, do not force it. It is better to know some topics well rather than knowing everything half-baked. Choose the most important and high yield topics and focus your studies there. DO NOT CRAM because it will just give you anxiety, and anxiety is the enemy of the student’s mind. If your mind is focused and refreshed, it will most likely remember the things that it has understood.
Remember that the key to studying effectively does not rely only on studying longer or studying harder, but on studying SMARTER.