Nursing studies

How to ace an exam

Taking exams can be stressful, but thorough preparation will help ease your nerves and boost your performance on the day, writes Kathy Oxtoby. 
Revision-iStock.jpg

Taking exams can be stressful, but thorough preparation will help ease your nerves and boost your performance on the day, writes Kathy Oxtoby

As a nursing student, you can expect to sit exams in anything from anatomy and physiology to numeracy and medicine management, and its important not to let nerves get the better of you.

Anxiety over exams is common, says University of Central Lancashire senior lecturer in pre-registration adult nursing Stephen Gowland-Mahon. If you are feeling anxious, talk to your academic supervisor who can advise you on strategies to get over exam nerves.

He says students often try to predict specific topics that may come up in the exam, but a more thorough approach to revision is to look at the modules content as

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Taking exams can be stressful, but thorough preparation will help ease your nerves and boost your performance on the day, writes Kathy Oxtoby


Rather than trying to revise an entire module at once, have a sound revision plan. Picture: iStock

As a nursing student, you can expect to sit exams in anything from anatomy and physiology to numeracy and medicine management, and it’s important not to let nerves get the better of you. 

‘Anxiety over exams is common,’ says University of Central Lancashire senior lecturer in pre-registration adult nursing Stephen Gowland-Mahon. ‘If you are feeling anxious, talk to your academic supervisor who can advise you on strategies to get over exam nerves.’ 

He says students often try to predict specific topics that may come up in the exam, but a more thorough approach to revision is to look at the module’s content as a whole instead, as this doesn’t rely on guesswork.

Break it down 

Rather than trying to revise an entire module at once, have a sound revision plan, and break down your areas of study into topics, he adds. 

To get the most out of the revision process, ‘first tackle the areas you’re not comfortable with to get yourself out of your comfort zone,’ says Mr Gowland-Mahon. Dealing with the most difficult areas first will help you feel more prepared for the challenges an exam might present.

As well as having a revision timetable, students can look at opportunities for incidental revision. ‘Organise your time and allow for revision in what could be seen as odd places, such as during your commute,’ he says. ‘You can also put up notes with bullet revision points next to the bed or on the back of kitchen cupboards, which are great ways of helping you absorb information.’ 

Being creative during the revision process can help you to absorb the knowledge required to perform well in exams. Mr Gowland-Mahon suggests using different coloured pens for different topics to highlight key points to remember. This can also help you identify your strengths, weaknesses, and what you need to work on. 

Avoid negativity

Using social media sites such as Twitter to discuss topics can be a valuable way of learning and revising. But be aware that members of social media nursing groups may post messages about how they are panicking, warns Mr Gowland-Mahon, ‘so don’t be drawn into circles of panic and negativity’. 

Last-minute cramming should also be avoided. ‘The night before an exam, try to relax and have an early night so you can be clear-headed for the morning,’ he says. 

‘And remember that the preparation you have done will give you an advantage, and a good knowledge base will enable you to achieve the best you can.’ 

Tips for exam preparation

  • Revise the subject as a whole, don’t rely on guesswork to predict questions.
  • Tackle the areas you find most difficult first. 
  • Look at opportunities for incidental revision, such as when you are commuting.
  • Be creative, use different coloured pens to highlight key points to remember. 
  • Use social media wisely. It’s about support, not panic.

Kathy Oxtoby is a freelance journalist 

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