How to Study in Nursing School: 10 Tips for Success

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Navigating how to study in nursing school can be tricky. Some top study tips for nursing students include using active study techniques, avoiding last-minute cramming, finding a study buddy or study group and setting up a productive study space. You should also plan on starting NCLEX prep early.

nursing students sitting at table studying

Transitioning to a career in nursing offers many possibilities, such as the potential to choose from a wide range of nursing specialties—not to mention the strong job growth and salary potential. At Madonna University, we’ve been helping career switchers earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree much faster than you might think, thanks to our Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program.

No matter which format you choose for your nursing education, however, you’ll need to know how to study in nursing school. The process will be intensive, and staying on top of your responsibilities is important to graduate successfully. Follow these top ten study tips for nursing students to navigate your nursing education confidently.

1. Active Study Tips for Nursing Students

Success in nursing school requires more than just rote memorization. You’ll need to know how to apply nursing concepts to clinical situations as a nurse. That means you’ll need to thoroughly understand the material and how it relates to practical patient situations.

One way to strengthen your comprehension of the material is to use active study techniques. In addition, try a variety of studying methods to determine what works best for you. Taking advantage of every opportunity to practice hands-on nursing skills in open nursing labs is also helpful. There, you can refine your application of nursing theories in a risk-free environment.

Try these study tips for nursing students:

  • Create a study guide by topic. Come up with questions and problems from the study material and write complete answers. You can do this by creating your own quiz.
  • Become your own teacher. Say the information aloud in your own words as if you are the instructor and teaching the concepts to a class or get a study group together to discuss concepts in a supportive environment.
  • Make it personal. Come up with examples that relate to your experience or case studies you’ve read about.
  • Make it visual. Create concept maps or diagrams that explain the material.
student nurse doing homework

Additionally, don’t forget to space out your studying over several short periods. The most effective practice is to focus on each class every day.

Keeping a list of tasks to complete daily will help you incorporate active studying sessions for each class.

2. Find Your Motivation

This might not seem like a study tip, but finding and remembering your motivation for becoming a nurse is essential for navigating how to pass nursing school. It can seem overwhelming to commit so much time to study sessions each day, but remembering your motivation can help you stay committed.

What inspired you to become a nurse? If you haven’t already been asked this question, chances are that you will be soon enough, and it’s essential you know how to respond.

Your motivation may look different than your peers, and that’s perfectly fine. For example, you may be motivated about caring for patients, while your classmate may be inspired by the opportunity to practice in different settings and specialties. Your reasons for wanting to become a nurse should be as individual to you as any other part of your identity.

“Remember why you chose nursing as a profession because, at many points in the semester, things will get exceptionally tough,” says ABSN student Ed Avena. “Sometimes, your reason for becoming a nurse may be the only thing moving you forward when faced with difficult tasks.”

two Madonna ABSN students smiling

When ready to apply, use these ten tips for getting into nursing school.

3. How to Study in Nursing School with Peers

In nursing school, you will be surrounded by like-minded peers of all ages and backgrounds. These individuals will serve as your most extensive support system, so it’s vital that you turn to them for encouragement and advice during times of need. Conversely, be there for your cohort members when they need a friendly ear.

Be willing to listen to your classmate’s perspectives because it may just help you in the future.

Ed Avena, Accelerated BSN student

Focused and successful people inspire those they’re around. Find a study buddy whose work ethic you admire and meet with them every week to review course material. This support system allows you to concentrate on achieving the knowledge and skill set you need.

You may not know everything about a subject or topic, but surely there is someone in your cohort who does and can explain it better for you. You learn from each other and build off each other in this program.

Kyle Stopa

4. Stay Organized

Finding balance in nursing school is essential to your success. This is because the program includes a blended curriculum comprising three components: online coursework, hands-on labs and in-hospital clinical rotations.

How exactly do you find balance? According to Ed Avena, you must stay organized from day one. “Falling behind or not getting things done early can cost you,” he says. “Do your best not to let it happen, or it will be tough to bounce back.”

Organization and planning will help you to actively study for your courses.

5. Create a Productive Study Space

It’s essential to make good use of spare minutes throughout your day. You can answer practice NCLEX questions on your phone while waiting in line at the bank, for example, or review material while on a bus commuting to school. However, the bulk of your studying will likely occur in one place, and it’s important to make that space as productive, organized and distraction-free as possible.

Choose a spot in your home with the least potential for distractions, and add everything you need to work well. This includes an ergonomic chair and desk, good lighting, noise-canceling headphones, office supplies etc. Ensure other household members know you need quiet time to study without being interrupted while in your study space.

Madonna nursing student sitting at desk typing on laptop

6. How to Pass Nursing School: Avoid Last-Minute Cramming

The pace of nursing school can be intensive, and keeping up with your work is vital. If you start falling behind, it’ll be more challenging to catch up than it is to stay on top of everything. Plan on beginning to study for exams well in advance—ideally, as soon as the exam is scheduled. Last-minute cramming never works well in any academic program, and nursing school is no exception.

7. Review Material Before Each Class

One way to reduce the risk of last-minute cramming is to get into the habit of reviewing material before each class. Whether you’re attending nursing classes in person or online, plan on being ready for class at least 15 to 20 minutes early. Use that time to review the material from the previous class. If possible, it’s also a good idea to spend 15 to 20 minutes reviewing material after each class. Repetition helps reinforce learning.

8. Treat Your Brain to Sufficient Sleep

It may be tempting to cut back on your sleep when trying to find as many minutes as possible in the day for studying. However, studying late into the night or waking up too early is detrimental to memory formation and information retention. Students need about seven to nine hours of sleep each night to promote academic success, as well as brain health and overall wellness.

smiling nursing student

9. Begin Your NCLEX Prep Early

After graduating from nursing school, you’ll still need to pass the NCLEX-RN to obtain the state license necessary to work as a nurse. Putting off your NCLEX prep until after graduation can be tempting since you’ll spend so much time studying for your classes. However, the NCLEX is quite rigorous, and it’s ideal to begin your test prep as soon as possible—even as early as your first semester in nursing school.

You should begin reviewing NCLEX study guides and tutorials early on in your program. You can find many free materials available online. Your NCLEX prep efforts will not only help you feel more confident as you head into the testing site but also help you do well in your nursing classes.

Interested in learning more about achieving your goals in nursing school? Get your comprehensive nursing school guide.

Madonna students studying

10. Take Practice Exams

Taking practice exams is a critical component of NCLEX prep. Practice NCLEX exams may also help you feel better prepared to tackle exams for your classes. You can find practice NCLEX exams available online or in prep books.

Consider taking your first one partway through your first semester. Although you’ll get many answers wrong the first few times, you’ll gain valuable experience with the types of questions you’ll encounter. Most resources should also explain the correct answers, supporting the learning process.

Madonna University Provides Extensive Student Support

madonna nurses with mannequin

These study tips for nursing students are only the beginning of finding success as a career switcher. When you enroll in Madonna University’s Accelerated BSN program, you’ll receive access to extensive student support services from your dedicated admissions representative, highly accessible instructors and expert clinical faculty members. Our Accelerated BSN program graduates competent, practice-ready individuals thanks to our values-based education.

Ready to get started? Contact our admissions reps today to discuss becoming a nurse at Madonna.