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Nursing School Study Tips: A Guide for Busy Nursing Graduate Students


Enrollment in nursing degree programs is on the rise. In 2021, enrollment in Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs increased 3.3%, and enrollment in Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) programs increased 4%, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. In fact, BSN and DNP programs have seen steady enrollment growth since 2002.


With many individuals going back to school for nursing degrees — and with healthcare organizations looking for nurses to help alleviate a nationwide shortage of nursing professionals  —  it’s more important than ever to ensure nursing students have the tools they need to be successful and complete their education. This is especially true for nursing graduate students, who may be juggling competing demands for their time.


Following a set of nursing school study tips can help students ensure they learn and retain information. Anyone enrolled in or considering enrolling in an online BSN to DNP program can benefit from becoming familiar with these study tips for nursing school.

10 Study Tips for Nursing School

Graduate nursing school can be extremely rewarding, but it is also challenging. With courses in pathophysiology, pharmacotherapeutics, biostatistics, and other complex subjects, graduate nursing programs offer students the opportunity to acquire a wealth of expertise. The study tips for nursing graduate students described below can help make the challenge of acquiring that expertise a little easier.

1. Learn to Read Effectively

It’s crucial for students to read in a manner that enables them to engage with what they’re reading. Unfortunately, it can be easy to allow the mind to wander when reading. To read effectively, American Nurse suggests that nursing students use the SQ3R approach (also referred to as SQRRR), which stands for:


  • Survey. First, scan the material to gain an overall concept of its contents.
  • Question. After scanning the material, form some questions about it that will help in reading it again more thoroughly.
  • Read. Next, read the material closely and try to develop an understanding of what it presents. Take the time to look up unfamiliar words and pause to examine charts and tables. It may be necessary for students to read material multiple times to develop a full understanding.
  • Recite. After reading the material closely, articulate what it means by summarizing it in writing, creating a diagram, or even talking about it. In addition to expressing what the material means, also consider why it is important.
  • Review. As a final step in effective reading, review the material again to confirm what it conveys, pausing to identify what still may be unclear. Repeat any of the steps in the SQ3R process that may be necessary to develop a thorough understanding of the material.

2. Tackle Big Projects in Sections

Sometimes, big nursing school projects can feel intimidating and overwhelming. One of the best study tips for nursing school success is to divide big projects into sections.

A 2020 report in Medium suggests the following steps for breaking down any big project into separate tasks:


  • First, specify an overall goal for the project and what it should accomplish.
  • Next, identify key milestones that will be necessary to accomplish the project’s goal.
  • After identifying milestones, divide the project into manageable tasks to meet the milestones.
  • Complete one task at a time.


When working on the individual tasks for a project, try to focus only on the task at hand. Multitasking is not always the best approach. Focusing on a single task can help boost efficiency and productivity.

3. Find the Relevancy for Your Nursing Career

One good tip for studying is to remember to look for the value in study material. Start with the premise that the material will be relevant and think about specific ways in which it could be useful in a nursing career.


Steps that students can take when they have difficulty understanding how a concept could be relevant include the following:


  • Brainstorming with other students to work together to determine the value of the concept
  • Asking themselves how they would use the concept
  • Searching the internet for the applicability of a concept

4. Schedule Your Study Time

Creating a schedule for studying is another good nursing school study tip. But a study schedule is not merely a calendar. Students can create effective study plans through methods including the following:


  • Analyzing study habits and the characteristics of study (for example, the best time of day to study) that work best for them
  • Evaluating current daily schedules and blocking out time for other commitments
  • Identifying how much time to devote to studying for each class


After considering those factors, students can develop study schedules that best fit their lives. Once they’ve implemented those schedules, students should assess them periodically and adjust when necessary. The important thing to remember is to adhere to the schedule as much as possible.

5. Take Notes Your Way

The best method of notetaking is the method that works for you. There is no single best way to take notes, according to Global Cognition. Examples of note-taking approaches include:


  • Organizing notes into an outline
  • Writing notes in a table format
  • Creating diagrams
  • Developing a concept map that shows relationships among concepts


Students also do not need to write down every word an instructor says. Notes should focus on recording the primary concept and any material with which a student is not familiar, American Nurse points out.

6. Take Breaks

Given factors such as nursing program length and intensity, taking study breaks is important. It’s also a good way to reduce anxiety and stress. Nursing students should take study breaks to refuel and boost their energy levels. Avoiding social media during breaks can be helpful. Instead, students can consider clearing their minds by taking a walk or meditating. They also can consider calling friends or family during planned study breaks.

7. Study with Other Nursing Graduate Students

One of the best study tips for nursing school students is to join a study group. Study groups also are good practice for aspiring nurses to work in teams. If students’ schedules or locations make forming a study group difficult, students can create a group chat to share ideas and ask each other questions. Alternatively, students can set up a video chat to meet virtually.

8. Give Yourself a Nursing Practice Test

If taking tests increases your levels of stress and anxiety, consider taking a practice test. Students can derive several benefits from practicing test taking. For example, taking a practice test is a good way to simulate the feel of taking the test, and it enables students to become familiar with the test format. In addition, taking practice tests can enable students to identify areas in which they need more study time.

9. Reward Yourself

Rewarding yourself for accomplishing tasks is important in staying motivated. And rewards don’t need to be expensive. For instance, nursing students can reward themselves by listening to a podcast that they find motivating, reading a book, or simply taking a nap. Making an effort to work leisure time into your schedule is an important component of nursing students’ self-care.

10. Consider Using an App

Educational apps can help nursing students stay on track and supplement what they learn in class. As a 2020 report in American Nurse noted, nursing students can use apps to:


  • Remain focused and motivated
  • Track exam dates
  • Access medical news and obtain answers to clinical questions
  • Create and share digital flashcards
  • Combine notes and documents that are in multiple formats into a digital notebook

Education: The Path to a Bright Future in Nursing

The demands of graduate nursing school can be challenging, but students who follow nursing school study tips and develop good study habits can enjoy the rewards that a career in nursing offers. Equipped with the proper expertise, graduate nursing students can position themselves for fulfilling roles in nurse leadership.


Nurses interested in advancing their careers can explore Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Nursing to Doctor of Nursing Practice (BSN to DNP) program to learn how earning a doctorate can help them achieve their career ambitions. Offering five specializations, Maryville’s BSN to DNP program could be an important step toward nurse leadership. Start your journey today.

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