How to Study to Make the Most of Your Nursing Finals

Nursing students sitting outside.

As you gear up for nursing school final exams, you may be experiencing test stress and anxiety. These feelings are completely valid!

Nursing finals are often comprehensive, and it can be challenging to remember all of the content you learned throughout the semester. Still, it’s important to finish your semester on a strong note.

To help you succeed in your nursing final exams, here are four nursing school study tips from Alison Thorpe, BS ‘19.

1. Write it down.

As soon as a lecture finished, I would find a quiet spot to re-open the PowerPoint (that was now a maze of my own notes and stick-figure diagrams) and “decode it” to create organized, topic-specific outlines. I found that this process of reorganizing the notes into my own words helped me start to make sense of the new concepts and see how they all connected.

Pro tip

Make it a point to create these outlines after every lecture. Not only does this get the hard part out of the way quickly, but the lecture material is still fresh and you'll be able to provide yourself with better explanations and descriptions in your outlines for when you revisit them for exam time!

2. Read it back.

Once I had my easy-to-read outline, it was time to get to work. Whether it was taking a highlighter and brightening up the difference between metabolic and respiratory acidosis or taking a different colored pen to rewrite symptoms of a hyperthyroid storm, I found that the more I interacted with my outlines, the more it clicked. I would aim to do this daily, that way I was able to apply the older notes as I added new outlines to my study material for a more complete understanding.

Pro tip

To avoid the “study fatigue” that you usually fade into after three hours of clicking through PowerPoints, I found that I could better concentrate on each topic and steer clear of mindless reading by reading over and interacting with my outlines in short, frequent sessions.

3. Make it a conversation.

One of my favorite sayings during school was Einstein’s, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” And what better way to do that than with a friend! After creating a good foundation of the information individually, it was time to put it to the test. I would grab a friend or two and we would start to bring the notes to life. We stretched the concepts, asked each other questions, created mnemonics and  found ways to connect ideas in different ways. Each time we would walk away with a deeper understanding. Not only was it fun to try and untangle some of the tougher pieces together, but each person brought their own way of interpreting the lectures and were able to provide their unique perspective.

Pro tip

Sharing your thoughts on the subject out loud helps you develop a more complete picture of what you are studying. I was able to fully grasp each concept as I explained it to others and also heard their perspectives.

4. Repeat.

Consistency is key when it comes to solidifying your understanding. Whether it’s therapeutic communication techniques or calculating fluid resuscitation for a burn patient, the more ways you can go over a topic,  the more natural it will become to recall the information when the time comes. So grab your outlines, read ‘em over (...and over and over), then maybe get coffee with a friend and talk it out!

Pro tip

The best way to avoid test anxiety is by being prepared. The more comfortable you are with the information, the less you have to worry about come test time. Since you have interacted with the notes in so many different ways nothing should surprise you come test time because you have already seen it and are familiar with it! Write, read, vocalize, repeat...and know you are more than ready to show them what you know!

About Alison Thorpe, BS ‘19

Alison Thorpe graduated from our traditional BS in nursing program in 2019. During her time at UB, she was president of the Undergraduate Student Nursing Organization. She currently works as an emergency room nurse at Westchester Medical Center.

Published October 7, 2020