The new number of living is 78% when you are in nursing school. That is the cutoff for passing an exam at my school and many other schools.  There was nothing more stressful for me than waiting for those few hours until exam scores had been posted.

I had never actually learned to take a test before nursing school. Neither of my parents attended college, and I did not have any close mentors at that time to lean on for support that had gone through nursing school. In my mid- 20’s when I was starting nursing school, and rubber hit the road when I got my first exam score. I still passed, but I was well below the class average.

I mustered up the courage and went to review my exam during office hours. I made stupid mistakes. I knew the answers and still got the questions wrong. I felt about as small as my two-year-old after looking at the test.

Then, my instructor asked me questions. She gave me a few tips on studying, but one changed my life. I was already using the Cornell Method of taking notes, which was helpful but not enough.



Make a set of notes into NCLEX Style Test Questions.

Test myself? Before an exam? It was so simple at the time I felt silly for not thinking of it myself. Sure, lab values, objective measurement, and other items that were clear cut made sense. Changing my notes into test questions was a huge game-changer. NCLEX style questions are like no other question you’ll ever have. How can one question have four right answers, but I have to know the “Rightest” answer. I hadn’t even gotten to the “Select all that Apply” style questions yet.


Here is an example of how I changed my notes:

If a patient is in the diuretic phase of AKI, the nurse must monitor for which serum electrolyte imbalance?

                         AKI- Diuretic Phase

  • –          High levels of output 1-3 liters/day
  • –          Osmotics diuresis/ low concentration in urine
  • –          Low NA, Low K, Dehydration
  • –          Metabolic Alkalosis (K is low)

After that, I went out and bought this book to study. 

It was not easy, but when I started to write my test questions, the material began to sink in, and I went from regurgitating information to learning and then finally applying the knowledge.