10 Tips for Test-Taking in Nursing School

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Most students would agree that test-taking is a major concern in nursing school. The ability to take these tests is not only a determinant for passing nursing school but also for becoming a nurse. So it is very important to become a better test taker.

Multiple-choice questions have been the backbone of nursing programs and will not change in the near future. Although different test formats have been added, they are not easier than multiple choice questions by far.

For more information about multiple-choice questions and alternative format questions read the article Nursing School Exams: What Kind of Questions to Expect.

This article contains 10 tips for test-taking in nursing school.

Begin with a positive mental attitude.

Everyone tells you that nursing school is hard and nursing tests are “evil’. However, test-taking is a major part of nursing school. Hearing things like this sometimes makes it is hard to have a positive attitude about anything in nursing school.

No one knows you better than you. No one knows how smart you truly are. Don’t become defeated before you begin. You need to have a positive attitude about nursing school and believe in what you can do.

A major problem a lot of students have with test-taking is test anxiety. Test anxiety can stem from having a negative attitude about nursing tests and nursing school. This is sometimes brought on by listening to everyone telling you how hard the road you have to travel will be.

Be willing to recognize your value. Look at how many nurses there are in the world. If they can do it so can you!

Don’t allow negative thoughts from outside yourself dictate who you will be. Decide you can do it. Having a positive mental attitude is a major key to getting rid of anxiety and becoming a better test taker.

Don’t participate in last-minute study sessions with classmates right before the test.

Avoid Study Groups

When test-taking in nursing school there is always a group of students having oral reviews right before the test.

Often, this is information you may or may not have had a chance to study. It is almost always never on the test!

This is a source of anxiety and undermines all your efforts. You may become confused and begin to doubt yourself.

When you arrive at school, just stay in your car. Try doing your own minor reviews.

Or you can bring some headphones and listen to some calming music while you wait for the exam to begin. The most important thing is to not get sucked into these last-minute study fests.

Don’t pull an all-nighter before a test.

Don’t study all night before an exam. End your studying at a reasonable time so you are not tired during your exam. Being tired will reduce your ability to concentrate. Also, this can increase your anxiety during a test.

Try as much as possible to follow your normal routine. Go to bed at your regular time if possible.

If you follow your normal routine you will find yourself more relaxed during a test and able to recall more information. That last-minute information often only confuses you and increases anxiety.

Don’t intake too much caffeine prior to any test-taking.

I know that caffeine is the living water of nursing school for some students but watch your consumption. Consuming more caffeine than you normally do can have the opposite effects.

Instead of making you more alert, it can make you nervous, restless and irritable. You may not be able to sleep even if you try. You may also end up in your test with an upset stomach or an increased heart rate. In this situation, more is not better.

Do a quick survey of the test.

When you receive your exam, do a quick survey to see how many questions are on the test and to determine the types of questions.

Some exams may be a mixture of multiple-choice, alternative format questions or even calculation and dosage problems.

Figure how much time you want to allow for each question or give yourself a time limit to complete a certain portion of the test.

For example, on a fifty (50) item test with an hour to complete the exam, you may want to divide the test in half and decide you should have 25 questions completed in 30 minutes. You may also divide it into 15-minute increments.

This way you don’t spend so much time on one question. If you don’t know an answer, skip the question and come back to it.

Spending too much time on those questions may keep you from answering questions that you actually know.

When test-taking, it is good to do a brain dump.

Brain Dump

All the mnemonics, lab values, formulas, etc that you learned that will help you on the test need to vacate your brain before you begin testing. And I mean vacate in a good way.

Turn over your exam or use a scratch paper and dump all that information on paper. You will not have to spend precious brain cells trying to retain this information. Don’t spend a lot of time on this.

You don’t have to regurgitate everything you know. Just write a few things that will help you on the test.

Read the directions and questions very carefully.

Make sure you read and understand the instructions before beginning the test. If there is something you do not understand, be sure to ask.

Read each question carefully. Don’t pick an answer just because you recognize the answer. Make sure you understand what the question is asking you before you answer. Never read into the question.

Don’t make dumb mistakes.

Don’t answer questions too quickly. Always reread the question a second time before answering the question.

Questions that are negatively written (contains words like not and never) can throw you off and make you answer the question incorrectly.

If your school uses a machine to grade make sure there are no unfilled bubbles or stray marks.

If you prefer to answer the questions on a scratch sheet of paper and transfer the answers at the end, always double or even triple-check that you are transferring the answers correctly. Once you turn your answer sheet in, that is it!

If you skip a question, remember to go back and answer it. Leave yourself a reminder on your scratch paper.

Follow your original instinct.

Test-taking in nursing school requires a bit of confidence. The first answer you pick is usually the correct answer.

Never change an answer unless you are sure that the new answer you are selecting is correct. A major problem with nursing students is changing the right answer to the wrong answer.

Have confidence in yourself and your ability. You will be surprised how much information you actually have stored away in your brain.

Answer all the questions!!!!

Make sure you have answered all the questions. A guess is better than nothing!

Test-taking in nursing school is different from any other courses you have taken. And, no your IQ did not drop, you just have to begin to think differently.

Websites like NCSBN (National Council of State Boards of Nursing) are a great place for test blueprints and tutorials.

This is your NCLEX website. A lot of students wait until they are finished with nursing school to visit this site, but don’t wait until after nursing school to use the resources. They can help you along the way.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitution for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you chose to use this information.

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