Study Strategies

Take short breaks and you will learn more. Take multiple short breaks during long study sessions. Your brain remembers more information at beginning and end of a study session. The material in the middle is less accessible so taking breaks enhances recall. Also, move around or exercise briefly during a study break. It helps to get blood flowing, increases release of relaxing chemicals, and recharges your body. You will learn more material and be focused for the next study session.

You clearly are aware of effective study strategies, as you have made it all the way to this point. However, in our consultations with students, we find there are some simple things people forget to do which can have a profound impact on how efficient and effective your study time is. The study strategies provided here are based on our own experiences, past and current users' experiences, and scholarly research. Our hope is that these strategies will maximize and make more productive your study efforts, as time is a valuable luxury.

Get your mind and body in peak condition. Your mental and physical health are inextricably intertwined. Keep your mind and body healthy. Do this by getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly, eating the right food and drinking enough water. Assure your daily regimen meets each of these needs. Sleep and exercise are critical. You may feel you do not have the time, but you must make the time. Sleep allows your studying to ‘sink in.’ Exercise delivers many physiological and psychological benefits, some of which you may not be aware. The research is overwhelming.

Don't memorize the words; instead, focus on what they represent. When you study a concept or subject, create a mental image of it; this allows your brain to fully understand the concept rather than just a pattern of symbols. You should focus on the objects that words describe and picture such images. This technique enhances storage and retrieval of the material you have studied.

Use mnemonics. Mnemonics help you memorize and retrieve large amounts of information. These techniques can be rhymes, phrases, acronyms, etc. that help your brain be efficient in grouping and condensing large amounts of information into a smaller size. Studying with mnemonics allows higher retention, better retrieval of important content, and reduces test anxiety. The use of mnemonics is essential for a test with extensive content. Our app suggests mnemonics whenever possible. We recommend you write out your favorite mnemonics repeatedly, so they are ingrained in your head more strongly. Save a list of your favorite mnemonics and review them right before walking into the test room. Using mnemonics also serves to increase your memory of topics because many mnemonics allow you to tie an emotion or thought to a specific topic.

Visualize success. Visualization is a phenomenon recognized in the modern era and now practiced around the world by people facing tough challenges like the NCLEX. It is best known for its successful application by Olympic and professional athletes. The scientific evidence of the power of visualization is well established. Imagine yourself in the testing room feeling confident and relaxed. Watch yourself confront challenges and tough problems while remaining calm. Then finally vividly imagine how you will feel when you walk out feeling satisfied you gave it all you could and nothing more could be asked for. Then, finally, imagine yourself seeing that you passed. Imagine who you will tell and what will happen next. Success on your test is improved by your visualization of success.

Study time. Research establishes that studying consistently over a long period of time leads to a higher level of retention than cramming. With this in mind, it is suggested to start studying early. To best manage your time, consider creating a calendar and blocking out specific time periods on certain days that you devote to studying. Be certain that you are realistic and consider other obligations present in your life. Also, set goals (both short and long term) for what you'd like to accomplish during a set amount of time. Our app allows you to study on the go, so while you are waiting in line, on the bus, or anywhere you can study effectively!

Optimize your study environment. Remove all distractions. Your brain works much better if it is focused on one thing. Every time you check Facebook, look at your phone, or have other interruptions it takes you out of deep thought. Then you have to spend 5-10 minutes to get back into that mindset. It might help to turn off the Internet, email, etc. to eliminate these distractions. Find a quiet, comfortable place with good lighting. Eliminating clutter in your study area can help as well. Personal preference will determine whether you study best with silence or noise (consider acoustic or instrumental music, if silence is distracting to you).

Set specific goals. Review the study priorities you have identified and fit the outline into a calendar. Each period on your calendar should contain specific, measurable goals and objectives. (For example: Each night before I go to bed I will answer 25 practice questions. At the end of each week I will do 2 practice quizzes. I will do this for the next 2 months.) Then, stick to a daily routine using the study goals for the day and week. This will allow you to monitor your time, avoid procrastination, and stay on task. Planning to study only one thing a day makes the whole test preparation task less daunting. One rock at a time will move a mountain. Completing each section is encouraging and helps to build confidence in your skills.

Prioritize important content All content is NOT created equal. The NCLEX places a higher importance on things like drug side effects and the nursing process. With this in mind, don’t get caught up with TPN or obscure procedures when there will probably just be a few questions on it.

Keep a positive mental attitude. Negative thought loops can ensnare you. Monitor your thinking and if it turns negative, change. Watch out for thoughts that are not study related. You know what we mean. Keep your thoughts healthy. Think positive thoughts such as visualizing success. Positive thinking and optimism can have a profound impact on your motivation and performance.

Recitation, which means saying back to yourself the information you just learned, is a great way to reinforce a concept. Every so often when studying: pause, look away from the material, and try to remember the facts of what you just learned. If you cannot, it's an indication to go back and re-read it. There are various ways you can do recitation to improve your memory of the material. For example, consider repeating the information out loud as Abraham Lincoln famously did for memorization tasks. Verbal repetition forces you to pay better attention.

Eat smart to be smart. Reduce lethargy and improve focus by eating several light meals a day; don't gorge. Optimize learning and memory by consuming foods such as blueberries (which improve memory) and nuts, seeds, and ground flax which are high in Omega-3 fatty acids that are used to grow stronger neuron membranes and lead to higher cognitive performance. Drink green tea to help decrease anxiety and encourage relaxation by flooding your brain with antioxidants and dopamine. Stay hydrated, as dehydration produces stress, which slows mental function. Maintain alertness and focus. When consuming caffeine, drink green tea or regular coffee on test day. Feedback from students seems to indicate that green tea or regular coffee works better than caffeine pills and energy drinks. Warning: Do not use soda pop as a means of caffeine intake on test day. This is because the sugar crash or insulin stimulating effect of aspartame will make you less efficient over a long test. Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint. To improve oxygen uptake, devour soy, spinach, beans, whole grains, sweet potatoes, and nuts to flood your blood with oxygen-carrying iron and Vitamin B. Assure a continuous supply of energy by consuming complex carbohydrates and whole grains; avoid "energy" foods that rely on gluconeogenesis or your anaerobic pathway.

Know your own strengths and weaknesses. A good way to start studying for the NCLEX is to identify which subjects you know well and those areas that are your weakness. It is highly recommended to go through a few NCLEX questions from all subjects to identify your areas of relative strength and weakness. Then focus on the content areas that are more difficult for you. This approach sounds obvious but many people only like to study what they are good at. Nevertheless, it is ok to say: I don’t like studying pharmacology and I would rather focus on things like hemodynamics. In being flexible and allowing yourself to study a relatively easier topic can help you maintain sanity. You may gain confidence and motivation to tackle the harder subjects next. This flexible approach could prove to be an important factor in preparing for exam day. Just make sure you don't neglect the difficult subjects. Too many students make the mistake of only reinforcing the easy stuff that they already grasp.

Map out your study path. Jumping into studying without a plan of action is a dangerous and inefficient use of your precious time. It is more effective to cluster information into groups of similar concepts than trying to learn everything at once. Studying one topic at a time allows you to notice trends and realize patterns in the subject easier. This strategy can also assist you in staying focused and organized.

Keeping realistic expectations, it is important to realize you can't know every single thing for your test. We want you to utilize a variety of learning tools, minimize test taking anxiety, and build a strong foundation to increase your confidence. We just want you to PASS! We'll do anything in our power to help you. Please let us know how we can help. Email us at nursing@hltcorp.com or give us a call at (319) 237-7162.