My secret tips for passing nursing school tests (11 test taking strategies for nursing school)

test taking for nurses
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Struggling in nursing school?

NRSNG can help skyrocket your grades 🚀

Did you know that 87,000+ nursing students FAILED the NCLEX last year alone?!?!?

We’ve got to change that . . . one way to decrease that number is to develop some strategies for nursing tests.

Download Our Test Taking Cheatsheet

Nursing school tests can leave you feeling like you are reading a foreign language.  When I was in nursing school I developed 11 steps for passing tests that I want to share with you.

Download the Cheatsheet11 Test Taking Tips for Nursing Students

You CAN pass nursing school and the NCLEX.  Part of that is knowing how to pass exams – another piece of that is having the knowledge.  Knowledge is king and always trumps hacks.

That’s why we built NRSNG Academy, we want to help you fill in the gaps and feel confident in your abilities.  Learn more about NRSNG Academy HERE.

What are you struggling with in nursing school?

NRSNG supplements nursing school and helps fill in the gaps.  Search for a lesson inside NRSNG Academy below.

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Podcast Transcription

One of the things that nursing students struggle with more than anything else is test-taking. What’s up guys? My name is Jon Haws RN. I’m founder of NRSNG. And today we’re going to talk about test taking in nursing school. And more specifically, I’m going to give you nine strategies and nine tips to make sure that you pass and crush those nursing school exams. So hang tight and we’re going to dive into this because if you’re driving somewhere or if you’re working out in the gym or whatever, this is going to be a great episode is going to be a little bit longer. Uh, but I’d recommend you save this episode. You download it and you come back to this one often because I’m going to give you very actionable tips. Uh, and I also want to give you guys a cheat sheet that you can use and you can get to kind of have these 11 I’m actually gonna give you 11 steps, uh, tips for test-taking in nursing school.
So if you head over to nrsng.com/ test-taking you can get these 11 tips to make sure that you pass your nursing school exams. It’s just a nice pdf you can print, download. I would throw it in the front of your binder to make sure that you have these handy with you at all times. Again, that is nrsng.com/test taking. All right, 87,371 that’s how many BSN applicants for the t for the end clicks failed the exam last year, 87,371 we need to change that number. Had an interest in g we’re going to give you the tools, the confidence, fill in the gaps to make sure that we can change that number and that you’re not one of those numbers. On May 6th, 1954 a guy by the name of Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile. This was the first time in history that the four minute mile had ever been broken.
Okay?
Before that time, everyone thought that this was impossible. The no one could run a four minute mile. The body could not handle it. It was never going to be able to happen. Now the crazy thing is guys, 46 days later,
yeah,
his training partner, John Landy also broke the four minute mile. What stands out to me with that you guys is this task, this thing that had been impossible to achieve once it was achieved just 46 days later, it was repeated by someone who knew him. What John Landy did is he looked at Roger and he said, well, if Roger can do that, then surely I can do that too.
On August 12th, 2013 I broke my four minute mile. I graduated nursing school, and along the way I found a study method and some test taking steps, tips that change education for me forever. And I’m going to share that with you guys today, but I want you to know that the four minute mile has been broken. You guys can pass the in clicks, you can become practicing nurses, and I’m proof that you can do it. So like I said today, what we’re going to talk about, what you’re going to learn is nine specific test taking tips to make sure that you pass nursing school exams and that you pass the in clicks. To get the download for this, head over to nrsng.com/ test-taking the first tip I have for you is for Sadie questions. Tip Number one is sad. Got Nothing. What we’ve developed at NRSNG is something that we call the saddest success pyramid.
It is three steps for encountering Satta questions. Anytime you see a sad question or select all that apply on an exam or on the ink legs, you follow these three steps. The first step is you cover all the options. You physically take your hand or a piece of paper or something and you cover up all the answer options. The reason I want you to do that is because I want you to read the question before you start looking at the answer options. Once you’ve read the question, you move on to step two, which is to evaluate each answer option individually. So you move your hand down, move your finger down and read answer option number one or a. As you do that, you turn answer option number one into a true false statement. So what you’ve done here is you’ve read the question and then you evaluate answer option number one as a true false statement.
So true faults, diabetic patients will have blood sugars, hyperglycemia or something like that. Something simple like that. And if the answer is true, you selected. If it’s false, you cross it out and you move on immediately and then you answer or you do the same thing for number two evaluated individually as a true false statement. The reason we recommend this guys is because what we see a lot of nursing students do is they begin to say, well, if a is right, then B must be right because it’s very similar and they start to combine, answer options together and then all of a sudden they went from knowing the right answer to being completely confused and down. This ditch of with this one could be right and this one could be right. So don’t do that and cover all the options. Evaluate each one individually and make them true false statements.
Test tip number two is absolute words. Absolute words on nursing exams are red flags. So some you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say absolute words. Some of you might not. Absolute words are words like always, never, none, all and every, if an answer option contains one of these words, always, never, none, all every, then this is telling you that this is a wrong answer option and don’t select it because really hard to say that you should always do the same thing for every type of patient in every setting and in every situation that you should never do something for every patient and every situation, always never known. All every. Now there’s two exceptions to that and the only two exceptions for that are if it’s a safety issue and if it can be applied to many kinds of patients, patients across the lifespan.
An example of that would be never raise a foley bag above the level of the bladder. Is that a safety issue? Yeah. Because if it goes back into the bladder, we can cause a UTI. Can it be applied to many patients? Does that apply to a pediatric patient, a little baby? And does it apply to a geriatric patient? Well, yeah, so always, never. None. All every, we want to make sure that we avoid those. Tip number three is opposites. What do I mean by opposites? When you see an answer, option a maybe says hyperkalemia, an answer. Option two says hypokalemia or acute versus chronic or overload versus deficit. You see these opposite signs and symptoms. When you see ones that are opposite of each other, this is generally a really good sign that one of these answer options is correct and you should evaluate the opposites first. So this is really just a, remember content is king and you really need to have the knowledge, but this is kind of a hack in a tip. If you see hyper versus Hypo, acute versus chronic overload versus deficit, evaluate those first. There’s often a good chance that one of those is correct. Alright, now let’s move on to tip number four. Tip number four is same. So we just talked about opposites. Now we’re going to talk about same. I’m gonna grab a quick Swig of coffee before I give you guys this tip.
Ah,
you know, I’m not a big coffee drinker and actually when I worked nights at the hospital, I didn’t actually drink a lot of coffee. I actually drink. I always had this schedule of drinking mountain dew like a mountain dew like at one or 2:00 AM. Um, but anyway, coffee is kind of Nice when we’re doing a podcast and we’re chatting here as buddies. Again, you guys, if you want these tips delivered right to your email, you want to put out the cheat sheet and head over to nrsng.com/ test-taking now tip number four, again, like I said, it’s the same when you see two answer options that are essentially saying the exact same thing you need to move on. The reason for this is because both of them can’t be right and they’re saying the same thing. Then one of them must be wrong. Sometimes these can be hard to spot, but if you do spot it and you do feel like it’s really saying the same thing, then you need to move on.
Eliminate these two answer options. You’ve got yourself from a 25% chance of getting it right to 50% chance of getting it right. An example of this would be the patient states that they have really, really bad pain. Okay, and then another answer option says, patient says their pain is an eight. Those are kind of saying the same things and since they both can’t be right, they both must be wrong. All right, now let’s talk about priorities. Tip number five is priorities. As a nurse, when you’re working on the hospital floor, you’re going to have 1 million tasks to complete and all of them must be done right now and so it’s becomes really, really hard to know what to do first. And with all these these tips and tricks that I give you, a lot of these really only apply it as you’re taking tests, but these priorities, you guys, these apply to you throughout your entire career.
So this is going to help you guys figure out how to prioritize tasks on questions but also as you’re practicing and the nurse. The first thing I want to make sure you guys remember and that you guys have studied is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where we start at the bottom with our physiological needs, things like breathing, food, sex, sleep, homeostasis, excretion, and we work ourselves up. This Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, all the way to self actualization, morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving. That’s really important to know, but I’m going to flip it around a little bit for you guys to help you turn Maslow’s hierarchy of needs specifically into nursing care. To do that, we use something called A, B, c, d, e, f, ABC’s, d, f. At the very top of our chart. The very first most important thing to take care of guys are the abcs.
Well, what the ABC stand for? Airway breathing, circulation and safety. Okay? At the end of RBCs we are a little less airway, breathing, circulation and safety. Those are the most important things that we must take care of. And in that order before we can deal with anything else for our patient. After that, we deal with the deep discomfort, pain. How’s our patient, uh, physically feeling? Are they uh, are they okay? Then we deal with the III, which is education. Then we deal with the F, which is feelings, airway, breathing, circulation, safety in that order, discomfort, education, and feelings. Also in that order, why did we do this? Right? Because without an airway, our patient isn’t living. Okay? So if a patient, we walk into a room and our patient’s falling out of bed, the first thing we do is we don’t get over there and we say, let me show you how to use a call light so that you can call it next.
We don’t sit there and educate them. We make sure they have an airway. We make sure they’re breathing and make sure they have circulation, that we make sure they’re safe. We get them back in bed. Then we say we checked them, assess them for, for um, discomfort and pain. Treat that pain. Okay. Now we deal with education. Mr. Jones, when you’re in bed, you must use the call. I, the reason we do that is blah, blah, blah. We educate them on that and then we address their feelings. We can say, what was it that kind of got them to fall, but are they feeling lonely? Are they feeling scared? And we deal with those things. Now when we talk about abcs, it can be high a kind of hard to tell what is an airway? What’s a breathing with? What’s a circulation? So Airway pertains to anything that means getting oxygen from the atmosphere into our lungs.
Breathing means gas exchange, exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen. So Airway, getting it in. Is it open breathing means are we able to exchange it than circulation? Are we pushing that blood around our body and safety? Okay, Airway, breathing, circulation and safety. Again, I spelled this out much more in detail on the free cheat sheet that’s over to interest in g.com/test taking. Now, one thing you’re gonna encounter with this is all these questions that are about a airway, breathing, circulation, safety, all these priority kind of questions are going to give you an option of notify the provider, right? So it’s important to understand as a nurse, as a nursing student, when do you actually call it provider and I’m going to give you a simple way to, to gauge that. If your patient has an immediate need they you can address within your scope of practice prior to leaving that room prior to leaving that patient prior to getting on the phone.
You must address it while you’re there before you call the provider. In real life nursing calling the provider can be a couple hour process. It might be overnight. You might try to find out who’s on call. You might try to get them. Then they have to call back and you have to get so do what you can within your nursing scope of practice to care for that patient before you just go call a provider. And if there’s something that you can do, if you can raise the head of bed, if you can turn on the oxidant, if you can provide a scheduled medication, do those things before you go and call their provider. All right, tip number six, the nursing process, and I know some schools and some places you can use a different nursing process, but we’d like to teach you is ad Pi a. D. P. I. E. Assess, diagnose, plan, implement, and evaluate in this process is so important and you should never break this process.
People will tell you different words for this process or different things, but essentially it’s all doing the same thing. Assess, is there a problem? Diagnose what is the problem plan, what am I going to do about the problem? Implement, do that thing. Evaluate, did what I do work is the patient better. Assess, diagnose, plan, implement and evaluate. Tip number seven, guys, we’re coming into the home stretch. Tip number seven is what are they actually asking? A lot of times I didn’t click questions. They’re gonna have a lot of distractors things on there that don’t make sense. And they’re kind of there to kind of distract you to see if you, you really read and understood the question if you paid attention, right? What the NCLEX wants to know guys is, are you going to be a safe nurse? So yeah, they’re going to throw some things on there to see if you’re paying attention, if you’re catching the right things. So some tips here guys is remove distractors, remove things that are obviously wrong answers. Um, you know, if it says patient has a stroke, what do you do? Get them a bag of chips. Remove that. You might see those things every now and then, but just be sure you remove that.
Uh, the other thing, you can do that as simplify, go back to your anatomy and physiology. What is the body process? If we’re talking about hepatitis, remember where is the liver? What does the liver do? What are the functions of the liver? And go back to those simplest things that you understand. If you’re dealing with something with hepatitis that you don’t really fully remember, then don’t overthink it. Guys, what what I see a lot of people doing what I did a lot as a nursing student is I overthink it. I’ll try to make every option fit the question. I’ll say, well, if it’s a full moon and it’s Friday the 13th and blah, blah, blah, then maybe this one could work. Don’t do that. Don’t overthink it. Take the question for what it says right there with the information that you have, and then remember, unlike any test you’ve ever taken in your entire life, sometimes you’re looking for the incorrect answer.
So when you think see things in the answer or in the question saying, the nurse should do all the following except, or which of these answer options demonstrates that further teaching is needed, you’re looking for that wrong answer. So be careful to read the whole question and read it really, really close. All right guys. The last tip I’m going to give you today and again, to get 11 tips and to get the full print out, please, please, please guys, go to nrsng.com/test taking. I want to see you guys find incredible success in nursing school. And part of that is just knowing how to take the tests, um, cause you gotta check those boxes to get out. Um, so we can help you with that. We can help fill in those gaps. We can help give you that confidence, um, and we help you feel much more organized and successful in nursing school.
So head over to nrsng.com/ test-taking to get started with that. The last tip I’m going to give you guys as in cliques question traps. One of my favorite places in the world to travel is the Pacific northwest. I love the Oregon coast. And a couple of years ago, uh, we took a vacation with my two children and my wife and we drove along the Oregon coast. And one of the things that we noticed there that they do is they crab. Okay. They had these traps that they put crab pots, they call them, uh, down to the ocean. They just leave them there and then they come back in a couple of weeks. So what they do is they take these little traps and they put some bait inside them. And what these traps have is they have a couple little circles and those circles didn’t have a couple of little hinged, uh, kind of flanges that open up.
So a crab can crawl in to get the bait, but then they can’t crawl out the hinges only open one way. So what the NC SPN who writes the end clicks will do sometimes is they’ll throw these question traps out there, these large juicy looking things and you’re like, oh, that looks like such a great answer. They’ll throw these out there to try to get you to select them. But really they’re traps. Okay. So I want to give you guys a couple examples of those, five of them to make sure that you don’t fall for them. The first one is no assessment’s been complete. Be sure that you read in the question, where are you at in the nursing process? Has assessed, has an assessment been done? If no assessments been done, you need to complete an assessment. Number two trap is incomplete assessment. Maybe an assessment’s been done, but is it, is it enough information?
Is there other data that I can pull through? Assessing? An example of this guys might be, uh, the question says you have a diabetic patient, you walk by the room, the patient is shaking. What’s the first thing you do? And one of the options might be go grab d 50 slammed really quick and make sure you get their blood sugars up. Well, what did we miss right there? You know, we saw the patient shaking. We know they’re diabetic. Okay, okay. We don’t know their blood sugar. So maybe the patient has a fib right now. Maybe patients, patient’s cold, may the patient’s just scared. Uh, it could be anything. So make sure we do our assessment to get our assessment blood sugar 70. We need to find out what else is going on then. So we just gotta make sure we complete a full assessment. Number three is first does not always mean assessment. They’re trying to trick you up. You’re on semantic. Sometimes realize where you’re at in the nursing process. If you have a complete assessment, the next thing we do is we diagnose. So what’s the first action? It doesn’t have to be assessment. Action doesn’t always mean implementation. The first action in the example I gave earlier would be go get a glucometer and check the patient’s blood sugar. That’s an assessment, but it is an action. So then the last one would be determined the outcome of each answer.
And with this one guys, and I want you to kind of do this as you work in the hospital too, with everything that you do with your patient and on these types of questions. Think about if I do this and then I go home and I leave Ms. Jones forever, is she going to be okay? Is she going to be okay? And I just leave. If you’re not sure if that patient’s going to be okay, if you do x, y, or Z, don’t do those things to that patient on a question. Okay you guys, I want you to know and I want you to know that we, we care very deeply about you. We want you to succeed. The world needs more nurses and we love the hell out of you guys and we want you to guys to have that success. What I’ve given you today is some tricks, but knowledge is always far more important than tricks.
You don’t need tricks if you know the content and the information and that’s what we do for you guys within the NRSNG academy is we fill in those gaps, we provide you with the confidence and we make sure that we’re providing you the best place to learn nursing. So to get started with the academy, head over to NRSNG. If you are a member of NRSNG Academy, go take the test taking course. I think it’s one of our most beneficial and helpful courses for nursing students. If a, you aren’t a member, go sign up for a trial started. Take the test taking course and you’ll see an immediate return and immediate benefit in what you’re doing. For all of you that are listening though, head over to nrsng.com/test taking and get this handout because I know what’s going to help you. I started this episode by saying the number 87,371 that’s how many nursing students failed the in clicks in 2018 I do not want you to be one of those numbers and I know that you’re not going to be one of those numbers.
Just the fact that you’re taking time out of your day to listen to a podcast about taking tests tells me that you’re part of this interest in g family. You’re part of this new wave of incredible nurses and incredible nursing students who are going to change this profession and I want to commend you for that and I want to tell you guys, one of my favorite quotes is you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with and you’ve been hanging out with me today. You’ve been hanging out with the other tens of thousands of people who are gonna listen to this podcast, and I want you to know that NRSNG is a family and you guys are part of that. You guys, we love you. We want you to succeed. Please understand that. If you need anything, reach out to us, find us, and we will help you guys along the journey. All right guys, with that said, go out. Be Your best self today. Happy Nursing.