This post may contain affiliate links. Read more here.
Uh oh, nursing finals time! It is no secret that the end of the semester in nursing school is undeniably the most stressful. This is the time when we are all calculating what kind of grade we can get on our nursing finals and still pass the class. Trust me, we’ve ALL been there!
Would it be super crazy if I told you that studying for nursing finals for me was a breeze? I refused to let the end of the semester finals craze interfere with all of the hard work I had put in throughout the semester, so I came up with a method that helped me ace every single nursing final every. single. semester.
Yes, it can be done. Here are the 5 steps I came up with that allowed me to not only study thoroughly and completely for my finals, but ensured I passed every final with a 92% or higher.
1. Organize your study materials.
Start with organizing everything you will need to study for finals. This means gathering ALL lecture materials for the entire semester including cheat sheets, lab values for particular content sections, practice questions you used, and any supplemental materials provided by your instructor or things you’ve created on your own to master the content.
Organizing your materials BEFORE studying does a couple of things:
- Allows you to see how much material you really have to go over for each content section (this is IMPORTANT and must be done before continuing on to the next steps in my nursing finals studying process)
- Enables you to effectively map out a study schedule/timeline so that you are prepared and ready to test come finals day
- Ensures you are not missing any important content or documents because let’s face it, things get misplaced and lost all of the time so this gives you the opportunity to figure out if you’re missing anything and also gives you time to get whatever you’re missing from a friend or your professor
Sidenote: During the course of the semester, I store all of my notes in a LARGE 2-inch binder so all of my notes are in one place. I use one binder per class and label the front of the binder with the class name (makes it super easy to refer back to during finals time!). Also, invest in a 3-hole punch to make storing your notes even easier.
Now that we are organized, and you have all of your notes for the semester, it’s time to see how much information you have to go over before finals start!
2. Determine what you will study for your nursing finals, when, and for how long.
This is the step where you will need a calendar of some sort. On the calendar, circle the date of your final and then GO BACK 2-3 weeks and circle that date. This is the date you will start studying for your final exam!
Next, count up the number of content sections you went over during the course of that semester. For example, during my hardest semester of nursing school, we covered gastrointestinal, cardiac, respiratory, and endocrine disorders. I would generally have anywhere from 3-5 packets of content to go over for each section we covered.
So, let’s say I have 12 packets of notes to study for my final and I am starting 3 weeks prior to when I have to take my finals. I will divide the number of packets by the number of weeks I gave myself to study. For this example, I would study 4 packets per week. Not bad, right?
Using this method, the amount of content suddenly didn’t seem completely overwhelming and daunting. It also allowed me a few extra days per week to unwind and spend time with family, friends, and not stress myself out. It is all about balance.
Now that you’re organized and know how many subjects you need to get through before the final, we can dig into starting the actual study process.
3. Study the content you struggled the most with FIRST!
I cannot stress this enough! Cardiac was by far the most time consuming and hardest section of the semester for me so I started studying my cardiac notes first. You should do this for a few reasons:
- The harder the content, the longer it will take you to get through – starting with the hardest content first allows you to spend more time on it and not feel rushed or stressed trying to get through it if you were to put it off to the very last
- You will probably have more questions or need more clarification on the harder content as opposed to the easier content, so this gives you time to ask questions or seek additional guidance from other resources to clarify your knowledge
4. Practice, practice, practice!
Once I finished a section, I would answer practice questions catering to the specific content I just went over. I’m obsessed with Med-Surg Success and talk about it in my post The Top 5 Resources Used By Straight A Nursing Students as well as a few other resources I fell in love with during nursing school.
Answering practice questions after going over the content tests your knowledge and reinforces key concepts – all of which contribute to retaining the most important information so you can pull it from your long-term memory on finals day.
Also super important is to keep a tally of which questions you missed, read all rationales for both RIGHT AND WRONG answers to determine why you missed the question/why you got the questions correct, and then re-do the missed questions.
5. Once you finish a content section, MOVE ON!
When you finish a content section/study packet, continue to follow your schedule and move on to the next. Studying for finals should NOT be a cram session. You’ve already studied this content for the unit exams, so studying for finals should be more of a review session than anything.
This is why I also stress working hard at the beginning of the semester so when nursing finals roll around, all you truly need to do is just review anyway.
Now, for a quick recap:
- Gather and organize your notes for the entire semester to prepare yourself for studying for nursing finals
- Determine how much time you will give yourself to study and divide the content over the amount of time you think you need to go over all of it
- Answer practice questions after you finish each content section
- Read all rationales for both right AND wrong answers, and re-do any missed questions
- Once you finish a section, MOVE ON!
This method was fool-proof for me and many of my classmates adopted my finals study method with amazing results! Do you think you will give this method a shot?