5 Test-Taking Strategies for Nursing Students

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Knowing how to pass nursing school exams is important for success in your nursing career. Learning the best test-taking strategies for nursing students can help increase efficiency when studying for your nursing exams and make you more likely to pass your tests.

smiling nursing student

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “Nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” — but he clearly didn’t attend nursing school. The third universal truth is that you must take and pass your nursing school exams. Understanding your learning style and practicing some test-taking strategies for nursing students can make learning more efficient and manageable.

Why Success on Nursing Exams is Important

There’s no way to sugar-coat the importance of pure nursing textbook knowledge — safe oxygen levels, good kidney function and contraindicated medications. But, more importantly, patients and their families put trust and often their lives in your hands and expect that you have the knowledge and skills required to care for them.

Passing your nursing school exams is the first step in proving your nursing knowledge and critical thinking skills and that you are ready to care for actual patients. To graduate nursing school, you must know how to pass nursing school exams.

What if I’m a Bad Test-Taker?

You might feel like you are bad at taking tests, but there are ways to practice and improve your test-taking skills. One way is to identify your learning style and develop study strategies that make test-taking easier.

Nursing students often fall into one type of learning style, but some may have two or more learning styles. Let’s explore the three main types of learners.

  • Visual learners use videos and pictographs as a more effective learning method. Taking notes, making flashcards, and color coding material are effective study strategies for visual learners.
  • Auditory learners use dictation apps to convert written work into audio content or find videos online that they can listen to and help learn new content. Modern textbooks often have supplemental access to online material for auditory learners.
  • Tactile (or kinesthetic) learners prefer writing, drawing, and hands-on practice. Nursing is an excellent career for tactile learners, but long study sessions and class time can be challenging. Taking breaks to move while studying can help tactile learners remember the material better.

Knowing your learning style can help you be more efficient with your study sessions and more strategic in how you approach taking and passing your nursing exams.

person sitting down with a laptop and writing in journal

In the University of St. Thomas Houston’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program, our dedicated staff will help you discover your learning style, develop test-taking strategies and support your success in your nursing school journey.

5 Study Tips for Nursing Students

Reading textbooks and completing school assignments are the first steps when preparing for nursing school exams. But much more goes into passing your nursing exams than opening the book and reading or watching educational videos. Let’s learn some practical test-taking tips for nursing school exams that you can tailor to fit your learning style.

1. Start With a Plan

One of the essential test-taking tips for nursing school is to have a plan. This includes knowing how much time you have to study or take the test, allocating enough time for each section, and prioritizing which questions to answer first. You can also create a checklist of what you must do before, during, and after the test.

2. Read the Directions Carefully

Before starting the test, one crucial test-taking strategy for nursing students is to read the directions carefully. Ensure you understand what you are asked and how to answer the questions. If you have any questions or doubts, don't hesitate to ask your professor or instructor.

3. Manage Your Time

Time management is one of the most crucial test-taking tips for nursing school, as you often have a time limit for exams. If you are stumped on a question, spend only a few minutes before skipping to the next one. Try to reserve time at the end to review your answers. Even though you may have been taught that your first instinct is correct, statistically, if you have a doubt, it may be for a good reason. You should revisit any question about which you were not 100% sure.

three students writing on a chalkboard

4. Answer the Easy Questions First

It's wise to start with questions you already know the answers to and leave the difficult ones for later. This helps build confidence and gives you a sense of momentum. Plus, you can always tackle the more challenging questions once you've answered the easy ones.

5. Stay Focused and Calm

Finally, it is crucial to stay focused and calm during the test. Take deep breaths, close your eyes briefly and visualize yourself doing well. Don't let your confidence drop due to anxiety or stress. Remember, you are well prepared for this test and can pass!

How to Pass Nursing School Exams

Now that you know what type of learner you are and how to pass nursing school exams with practical study tips, there are other ways to make learning more fun. One way is to study in groups with your classmates. This can look different when attending a hybrid program like the University of St. Thomas ASBN. With all the great things technology can do, including attending nursing school online, it can make connecting with classmates for study sessions easier.

Start by scheduling short study sessions with a small group of classmates on one of the many free online video platforms, like Google Meet or Facebook Chat. Pick one or two topics to discuss, review your existing knowledge, then ask questions about topics you don’t understand. Collectively, your group will likely know most of the answers already.

Test-Taking Strategies Ensure Nursing School Success

UST ABSN student working with simulation manikin

As a nursing student, you are not expected to have all the answers, just the awareness and insight into what you may still need to learn. Understanding your learning style and using practical study tips for nursing students is important, but nursing students should also remember that it’s ok to say, “I don’t know.” Asking questions and seeking help when interacting with classmates and nursing instructors shows you are committed to learning and want the best patient outcomes.

The additional benefit of having a test-taking strategy is that you can use it every time you take a test. If you’ve found success with group study, keep doing that. If flashcards are how you learn best, repeat them with all your nursing subjects. Repetition is highly effective and can save time and brain power when learning something new.

With the University of St. Thomas Houston’s ABSN program, you can complete your nursing degree in as few as 12 months. Contact our admission advisors today to learn more.