How to Pass Nursing School Tests

Instructor: Leah Salyer
Nursing school exams are challenging for almost everyone. They'll test not only your knowledge of course material, but also your ability to apply this information in a patient scenario. Developing a solid study plan and knowing what to expect on test day can go a long way toward passing these difficult exams. Keep reading for some tips to help you get started.

Have a Specific Study Plan

Creating a smart study plan that allows you to cover all of the information you need to review without feeling overwhelmed is the key to successfully preparing for your nursing school tests. For this reason, nursing schools often recommend breaking up your test-prep into manageable study sessions. You might also consider using the acronyms you have learned in class and even create your own when you can. This can make it easier to commit important information to memory and improve your ability to recall it quickly when testing.

Always take advantage of available practice tests. It's highly recommended that you borrow or buy an NCLEX book, which includes the same types of questions you'll find on your nursing school exams and is therefore an excellent resource when studying. When working with practice tests, consider answering a set number of questions and marking which ones you got wrong. Instead of immediately reviewing those questions, come back to them the next day.

To help keep your study plan as well-rounded as possible, you might also check out resources like's courses and lessons in nursing. Simply pick the one that covers the topics you need to review and use the short video lessons and quizzes to your advantage:

Pay Close Attention to Each Question

There are a few different types of questions that you can expect to see on a nursing exam. They are as follows:

  • Knowledge Questions: These types questions simply require you to remember the facts you've memorized from your studies. They are generally related to specific terminology or categorizations.
  • Application Questions: In this type of question, you will be required to take the information you have learned in class and apply it to a specific situation featuring a patient.
  • Higher Level Questions: These questions require you to analyze information and interpret data. There are multiple steps to these questions, which are often presented with a patient scenario that you must recognize and interpret in order to come to the right conclusion as to how the scenario should be handled.

When you're nervous you might skim through questions quickly and jump to the first answer that appeals to you. Instead of taking this approach, use your knowledge of the different question types to recognize what a question is really asking you and what your answer might be. Then, look at the answers to see if your answer is there. If you have the tendency to jump straight to looking at the answers, cover them up so as not to tempt yourself.

Search for Word Clues and Eliminate Wrong Answers

When taking nursing tests that have multiple-choice questions, it can also be beneficial to pay close attention to the stem of the question, because it should provide you with all of the information necessary to answer correctly.

The stem could be in the form of a complete or incomplete sentence, or in the form of a positive or negative statement. It can also contain certain key words that will give you an idea of what the question is really asking. Look for words like during, after, initially and most. When presented with a patient scenario and/or a specific problem, pay attention to factors like patient age and sex. Keep these details in mind when choosing your answer.

Approaching questions in this way should also be beneficial when deciding which wrong answers to eliminate. If an answer choice does not fully answer the stem of the question, it is likely wrong and should be crossed out.

Keep These General Study Tips in Mind

There are some additional tips that can help you stay healthy and make the most of your study time when preparing for any nursing school exams. They are as follows:

  • Get enough rest
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Stay hydrated
  • Don't drink a lot of caffeine
  • Communicate with faculty
  • Avoid cram sessions
  • Take frequent study breaks
  • Don't second-guess yourself on exam day

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