Get to Know Your Professors and How They Test!
Get to Know Your Professors and How They Test!

One of the most nerve-wracking moments in nursing school is the first exam of the semester. Especially if you’re taking a course with a new professor who may or may not have the best reviews online. As a nursing student you probably have a minimum exam average you need to move on in your program, which makes every exam you take HIGH STAKES. This ranges from low 70’s to the mid 90’s (if your program requires anything over a 90% exam average, you are my personal hero for achieving that). A favorite line for a lot of students is “C’s get degrees”, but what do you do if a C is a failing grade in your program? You need to take the initiative to maximize your study time and retain the information you need to ace those exams.

But you’re also expected to read the textbook, participate in discussions, complete case studies, review PowerPoint presentations, use supplemental articles and website, attend clinical, and then some. The question begs, what the heck is on the exam and what’s the best way to study?! 

“Do I pull from info we learned in clinical?“

“Do I focus on case studies?”

“Is my professor testing anatomy and physiology concepts??”

You don’t want to waste time reviewing information you wont see on the exam, but you also want to make sure you’re studying material you’ll also see on your specialty ATI or HESI exams and eventually the NCLEX. Combined, this makes for a semester full of anxiety.

I’ve spent so much time studying material that didn’t make its way onto the exam. I’ve spent all-nighters reading my Mental Health nursing textbook and the professor pulled questions from things she specifically said in person. I’ve spent time reviewing lecture notes on Health Assessment PowerPoints and the professor pulled word-for-word questions from the back of the textbook. If you’re not using the right material, the short answer and those dastardly ‘select all that apply’ questions become even more challenging.

Every class I’ve taken in my BSN program goes one of two ways: They either rely heavily on the text or on lecture notes and PowerPoint presentations. There are classes I’ve taken where I have never even needed to touch that $400 textbook the syllabus listed as ‘required’ and I still passed with an A. You’ll also notice that the amount of time spent on concepts will often align with the amount of questions on your exam regarding those same concepts. This means that if your professor spends 20% of class time discussing emergency care for myocardial infarction, you can expect to see roughly 20% of your exam questions relate to those concepts. Once you have a grasp on what materials your professor is using to create your test bank, you’ll be able to structure your study time appropriately.

It’s always a good idea to see a peer tutor, too. Chances are they know about your professor and might have even had class with them, so they have the inside scoop about their testing methods and the concepts they like to pull from for their exams.

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there to learn more about your professor, they’re willing to divulge information if you take the time to reach out to them. They encourage students to reach out to them because believe it or not, they WANT you to succeed. 

Extra tips for great grades:

Form study groups with friends!!! It’s so important to find a group of people in your cohort that you connect with instead of finding new classmates each semester. 

Use multiple modalities for studying (like writing, typing, or discussing) will help you reinforce and recall those important concepts and nursing interventions that will help you succeed on your exams.

Just like each instructor has a unique teaching style, you have a unique learning style. Find it, finesse it, and run with it.

Happy studying!


Written by: Mary Vadenais

Instagram: marybvadenais

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