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Clinical Systems Leadership

3 ways to actively prepare for exams in class

You may be well on your way to getting your masters degree in nursing, but as you know from previous years as a nursing student, there’s a sea of exams you’ll have to pass before you have that degree in your hand. Many students end up cramming for big exams a couple of days before the test date, frantically searching for all of the important information that could be on the test. Instead of overwhelming yourself at the eleventh hour, actively prepare for your exams during lectures to ensure you have all of the key information on hand for your study sessions. Use these three tips to guide you.

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1. Take detailed notes
Taking notes may sound like a no-brainer, but when your daily schedule is filled with classes, study sessions and clinicals, it can be challenging to find the motivation to take detailed notes in every lecture. However, this can make or break the quality of the information you have when it comes time to buckle down and study for your exam. Note taking also lowers your risk of zoning out during lengthy lectures – all it takes is a few minutes of daydreaming to miss a lot of key information.

To ensure your notes are crafted in an organized format that makes them easy to review in the future, use headers, subheads and bullet points. If you feel that certain information is particularly important or your professor mentions something about it being on the test, highlight it and note the page number from your textbook that delves further into that topic.

2. Ask questions
There’s nothing worse than going into an exam feeling uncertain about a topic you know will appear at least once somewhere. This is why it’s important to never hesitate to ask questions in class. Even if you’re fairly confident that you know the answer, you can find it in your textbook or you can easily Google it online, always ask your professor for his explanation. You never know, he may be expecting you to answer the question with certain details on the exam that you won’t find from your Internet searches or asking friends.

If you can’t find an appropriate time to ask your question, don’t brush off your uncertainty or save the question for next class – with so much on your plate your chances of forgetting that you wanted to ask something during your next lecture are high. Send your professor an email or stop by during office hours so you have a clear and solid answer to your inquiry.

3. Use the tools that work for you
Everyone absorbs information differently. After years of classes and exams, have you found that you’re more of a visual learner? Or do you retain information better when you write it as your hear it? Determining which strategy works best for you is key to establishing a method of studying that’s going to get you that “A.”

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If you like to be tested or quiz yourself, flashcards are effective tools for studying. They’re particularly useful when it comes to studying diseases and related information, such as their treatments, symptoms, diagnostic tests and interventions. Each time a new disease is introduced in your lecture, create a new flashcard so you don’t have to worry about making them all at once. On test review days when professors share what’s likely going to be on the test, try using a tape recorder to catch everything your professor is saying. This can save you from missing important details that you wouldn’t be able to write down fast enough. Just be sure to check with your professor first to make sure recording him is OK.

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