Studying for the exam can be exhausting. Especially if you’re reading the material over and over again and it just doesn’t seem to stick. I struggled with this during my studies and I am hoping to help you feel better than I did. A key study strategy that really helped me while I was studying was to make the material mine.
The other day I shared this graphic above, it’s a cuter version of what I do when I’m studying for any exam but the message still rings true and clear. When I’m studying I so my best to not take the material at face value and instead turn them into something that my brain can understand and enjoy to look at. When studying for the exam it’s important to find out what that means for you!
What do I mean
As you’re going through your guides and trying to figure out how to digest all this material I encourage you to find the best way to take ownership of the material. What I mean by this is find ways that you can understand the material in a way that works for you and your learning styles. For me that meant a lot of writing and a lot of videos. For you it could mean anything! Whatever it means for you, try to take the material out of the guides and into your mind. I’ve come up with a few tips that helped me and I hope will help you:
Break it down
Sometimes the material we’re reading over is so dense that it’s almost too hard to understand. Taking a step back from the material and breaking it down to the simplest form can sometimes be helpful in establishing the foundation of understanding the material. This was helpful for me with the MNT sections where I broke down the functions of each organ to grasp what they do and how else they work.
Find common themes
Going through the material and reading over certain topics there’s material there that can overlap or share something in common. As you’re studying finding out those common themes and grouping them together in your head is a great way to help you remember and understand the material. For example, the graphic I shared on the gram. I knew that there were 3 temperatures to remember 145, 160 and 165. On top of that when I looked into it more I noticed that there were commonalities for each of the temps; 160 was ground meats, 165 were all birds and 145 was basically everything else, meat and fish. For this I both broke the temps to the simplest forms and found common themes to help group them. Color coding is also a helpful tool in helping the commonalties jump out of the page.
Turn it into something else
I am not the type of learner that can just read and understand, even with some books I have to read over a passage a couple times to really understand what I am reading. That being said going into studying for the exam all three times I really tried to make the material come out of the book. For me that means a lot of webs, a lot of drawings and color coding. The more I put the material into images and charts that I could understand the more I was able to retain the information. When I was studying found a blank notebook and went through each section of my guide and started turning everything into something else. Making charts and rewriting the material.
Write it out
Bouncing off the previous point write everything on paper. Whether it’s in a blank notebook, like me, or sheets of computer paper, also like me, actually writing things out can help your brain remember the material. I gathered sheets upon sheets of material that I was just writing out to get the info to stick in my head and really help my understand what I was reading. Flashcards were also helpful for this, making the material easily accessible. If writing isn’t your jam I suggest quizlet to type your questions. Then you can really have instant access to all your materials and it keeps track of what you did and didn’t learn. Also your study materials don’t have to be *cute* they just have to be helpful for you and understood by you!
Check in, Check Out
Repetition also helps with memory, we all know that. A tip that I learned from a Simple Nursing video was to start each session by writing out something 10 times before and after your study session, he calls this “Check in Check Out” method.
I did not do this for my study sessions but I did do it when I was trying to remember some smaller things for the exam. Things like intra/extracellular, the fish diagram for remembering lab values, gallons to cups, etc. I wrote those 10 times after some of my study sessions and one last time before going into the exam so when I got to the testing center I had them in my memory and dumped them out on the scrap paper they give you at the testing center as a bank of info, in case I needed it. I am a fast test taker so I do not necessarily recommend this if you don’t have time to spare on the exam.
At the end of the day, I think that when you’re studying for the exam you have to really own the material. Treat it like it’s your baby in a way, know it the best way that you can and in only ways you can understand it.
What are some strategies that you use to make the material yours? Let us know in the comments and happy studying!