Nursing Student Study Tips

I’m starting to get into a routine with nursing school using these study tips.

I am now a second year student, recent survivor of mental health. I had to totally rearrange how I prepared for lectures, studying, and how I took the exams. I’m going to share my tips, please remember that everyone is different and my way of studying may not be helpful for everyone. I decided on this study method through my year of trial and error.


● Textbook (Print or eBook)
Index Cards or Quizlet (for key words, definitions, and medications)
● Timer (I use an app called Timely)
● Pens
● Highlighters

I keep the area I study in simple. To prepare for lectures it’s me, my book, highlighter, folder, and concept map.

I have a Samsung Note 4, an amazing feature is blocking mode. This allows calls to be blocked during specific times. Also allows for a list of numbers that aren’t blocked, this is great for emergency calls that need to come through from sitters or spouses. There’s an option for notifications, too. No more Facebook or email distractions! Just pull up your settings and it’s right there.

After turning on blocking mode, I set my Timely timer for 45 minutes. Every 45-60 minutes, I take a break. Breaks are important. Cramming does not work in Nursing School. It may get you through the test but long-term memory is important for the finals and NCLEX.


Preparing for Lecture

So the studying begins…

  • Read – the teacher’s objectives and the chapter objectives
  • Highlight – Each chapter has several sections. I work section by section. Read the information and highlight key points or things that may sound interesting. Highlighting keeps me reading and helps me remember key points. Try not to highlight everything, but it’s okay if you do. I highlight the meds in the text in green. Everything else in yellow (because it’s the lightest color and I can highlight over it). The most important thing is that you are reading. Make reading a habit.
  • Make notecards I use Quizlet, you can use paper notecards as well. I only make notecards for knowledge information, (key words, definitions, meds). Nothing else.
  • I do not take notes –  I know, shocking! I used to. I had to change this post to reflect how I study now. Notes are a waste of time for me. I end up just copying down what I read. Not taking notes has saved me hours and helps me study more effectively because I am not dreading taking notes.
  • Answer objective questions – even if you have to reference the book. Answer the end of chapter questions or study guide questions. If you have a disk that came with the book, this is a great tool.

During Lecture

  • Highlight – the information the instructor goes over in your book (in a different color highlighter),
  • Take notes directly in the textbook if the information sounds extremely important and you don’t remember reading it or can’t find it in the book immediately, write it in the margins, header or footer.

Yellow highlighting is from when I read to prepare for lecture. Orange highlighting is what the teacher had in the Power Points.


After a year of note-taking during reading, I realized the instructor ALWAYS gets the power point information from the book and lecture literally follows the book, section by section. This has held true for ALL of my nursing classes. Instead of having papers everywhere and being overwhelmed, I have my book and all the information is in a central location. This also works for eBooks.

  • Ditch the binder – You know the one with your book notes, handouts from lecture and the power point slides. You don’t need them! Majority of the time, the handout information was a chart or picture from your book. The power point slide information is taken from the book. Ditch them. I realized I was so used to doing things the “old fashioned way” that I wasn’t learning but following an outdated list of steps. Instead, keep a folder for important handouts and your calendar/syllabus. It takes up much less room.


After Lecture

After lecture, practice the nursing process for what you went over. I assemble a study group and we make nursing process boards. We get a study room at the school’s library and use the white board to really go over the nursing process for that one section. This only takes about 30-45 minutes after class. It lets you get another perspective and other students may have ways to help remember things.

  • Test and reinforce your knowledge – Take NCLEX questions. Read here to learn how to study using your NCLEX questions.
  • Watch Youtube videos, read news stories about the topic, watch movies on Netflix about it.
  • Khan Academy is a wonderful FREE resource!

Do this for each module. To review for exams, use ONLY NCLEX questions, NO handouts, notes, etc. You should only be using the textbook or med note cards to reinforce the rationales on the NCLEX questions!

During my first year, I was a B/C student. I knew the information but I was bogged down with notes, Power Points, and useless junk. I tried going all digital to organize the mess, but that didn’t work because I DIDN’T NEED THE MESS, not in paper form or any other form.

This method took me from failing Mental Health Nursing to getting A’s on every test and I hope it helps you also!

How do you like to do to study?

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