My followers love to talk about studying. This could be just because so many are becoming first time Registered Nurses, or it could be because another significant portion of you are trekking through grad school to become Clinical Nurse Specialists and Nurse Practitioners. Then again, maybe it’s just because studying for nursing school, undergraduate or graduate, is so insanely daunting. When I was in grad school, it seemed every week we were assigned 1000 plus pages to read, comprising book chapters, research studies, and scholarly articles. In the beginning, I truly struggled with organizing all of these materials. However, through trial and error, I was able to find a way to make it all work.
A little background here for those of you who are reading one of my posts for the first time. I have a previous Bachelor’s Degree in Communications with a specialty in Advertising and Public Relations. I graduated in 2007 when jobs were very scarce. I worked retail for a year before beginning the prerequisites for an accelerated Bachelors of Nursing (BSN) program. I was accepted and graduated from that program 18 months later. I worked for three years full-time as a bedside nurse in Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care prior to grad school, and continued working full-time until the final year of my dual Acute Care Nurse Practitioner/Clinical Nurse Specialist Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program. My point being, I have a lot of experience with studying, but I was not always good at it.
Prior to nursing school, I was a self-proclaimed terrible test taker. I had major test anxiety mostly due to my poor study habits. I never felt prepared for exams, thus taking tests of any kind, especially standardized tests, was increasingly difficult for me. However, once I started my accelerated BSN program, it became evident I needed to learn to study and I needed to do it fast because the classes were so compressed, that sometimes we were taking tests weekly. This time crunch left little room for improvement in-between exams.
After receiving my first test score, I analyzed the questions I was missing and quickly realized memorizing was not my issue. Memorizing is a skill that can be optimized, but it takes time and discipline and you just have to do it. I did it. I was missing questions that were vague, and now as I understand, typical “nursing” questions. They were the “select all that apply,” double-edged sword questions, where you looked at the answer options and could swear that A, B, C, and D, might all be correct in some realm.
My colleagues were missing these questions as well. And let me tell you about my accelerated BSN class. Like many second degree nurses, the people I went to nursing school with were exceptionally smart. My class was solely admitted based on GPA and my classmates were a mix of women and men, some of whom attended prestigious private schools for their first bachelor’s or master’s degrees, one who was a pharmaceutical scientist, another who was an epidemiologist, a few who were not able to find jobs previously like me and just wanted to be nurses, but all who had admission GPA’s over 3.6. And almost all were NOT succeeding on these nursing exams – at first.
This is when I realized it had nothing to do with the people taking the exam and everything to do with the exam itself. The nursing exam was my worst enemy and I vowed to make it my best friend. In my mind, I thought, if we are going to have to take an exam at the end of nursing school that determines our fate, like the NCLEX or any certification exam, then why are we studying exam review materials at the end of the program? We should start studying them in the beginning.
So, this is when I purchased my first board review book. Along with every section in nursing school, I completed the related board review practice tests and analyzed the answer explanations. Meaning, when I was studying psych in nursing school, I was studying the psych section in my board review book. Additionally, I began to time the practice questions so I became faster and more efficient with my test taking. After I started this, I noticed my anxiety about tests decreasing and my scores increasing. When I graduated nursing school, I nearly had a GPA of 3.8 and I passed my NCLEX in 75 questions. I attribute both of these achievements to this method of studying.
When I started grad school, I did the same thing. Except in this day and age, there are so many more study materials available then there were when I was getting my BSN. I purchased a membership to BoardVitals, which is a huge study question review bank. I was able to complete individualized practice tests related to my Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP) certification, before I was done with the degree, which were related to the topics I was studying each semester. This method, once again, supplemented my studying, helped me organize an overwhelming amount of information, and simultaneously made me better at test taking. After graduation and when I was truly cramming for boards, I used BoardVitals again for timed practice exams and felt more than prepared for my ACNP certification exam. Before even completing my DNP, I had finished thousands of ACNP review questions.
I am working with BoardVitals now because I wholeheartedly believe their product can help nursing students of all kinds stay sane. If I were to do it all over again, I would purchase their six month membership and complete review questions weekly through the semester (there are so many it’s almost impossible to run out.) I cannot suggest this method of studying enough, and to me, it just makes sense. I certainly hope it will help you too. Click here to check out BoardVitals and use the same study method I used through both of my nursing degrees.
Finally, use the code “NURSEABNORMALITIES” for 20% off your BoardVitals purchase.
Good luck everyone! <3