How To Pass Nursing School Exams Every Time

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Does your nursing school program require you to score an 80% or higher to pass their nursing school exams? If you’re wondering how it is possible to really pass every nursing school exam, you’re not alone. It can feel like an almost impossible requirement.

Well, I think it’s only fair to let you know that you’ve landed on a 4.0 GPA, former nursing student’s blog. I also happened to pass every single one of my nursing school exams… Therefore, I also happen to be extremely passionate about helping other nursing students graduate.

It’s also a goal of mine to help with the national nursing shortage, and ultimately help nursing students bring an income home after graduating. They’re big lofty goals, but they are worth it. You being here reading this article helps me do that.

In this blog, I will share my EXACT formula as to how I passed every single nursing school exam and graduated with the highest honors (Summa Cum Laude) in my class.

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1. Record your instructors’ lectures (If you’re allowed)

how to pass nursing school exams

Now before you go recording your instructor’s lectures, please make sure you ask for permission. My program encouraged it, but some programs are not about it. I don’t want anyone getting in trouble with their program so please establish if this is allowed from the start.

My method of listening to my instructors’ recordings was to listen to them the day or two before the exam. After I had exhausted all my other study methods, which I will continue to list, I listened to their lectures as a review.

Since I was so well-studied already, I listened to their lectures with new ears if you will. I could pick up the topics they were stressing to us to know. Re-listening to the lectures also filled in any holes I had. This is such an underrated study method.

Nursing school exams come up quickly, so you don’t have a ton of lectures before an exam. That’s why this method was doable. If it were like other college classes where there was a test every 5-6 weeks I’m not sure listening to all lectures would be as doable.

2. Turn your instructors’ PowerPoints into Quizlets

Example 1:

how to pass nursing school exams

Before I started nursing school, I searched for the best, most effective, study methods out there. I came across a YouTube Video that blew my mind. How had I never heard of this before? It made so much sense.

So when I started the program, I tried to figure out how I could implement active recall into my studies (in a way that made sense in the nursing school context). Thus, here is my Quizlet method.

Example 2:

how to pass nursing school exams

I literally copied and pasted the lecture PowerPoint content into a quizlet. I took out keywords I wanted my brain to immediately remember.

While this is only one half of the story, I think this is what made me especially great at lecture exams. My professors only included NCLEX-style nursing questions around the content they taught. So if there was a question regarding say the risks of hypertensive BP, I could pick that answer out almost solely on what I knew my professor stressed to us.

Whenever you are reading test questions in nursing school try to pick out the bolded keywords in your head.

3. To pass nursing school exams, you need to train like Rocky

Train your brain like an athlete trains their body

The brain is an incredible organ. It is a programming machine. But you need to not only “update” it with new information constantly but to refine the information as well.

The most important thing to understand when it comes to passing nursing school exams is that test-taking is a specialized skill. There is a formula to nursing school questions. They must follow the nursing process, ABCs, prioritization, and/or Maslows, for example.

The more practice tests you take, the better you will do. You will start to learn the formula and how to cancel out answer options.

If the only time you are answering NCLEX-style questions is in class on your exams, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

You should be practicing test questions at home where they don’t count against you. THEN you show up to the “big game”.

My favorite test banks:

Your Best Grade

Your best grade is a simple, and to-the-point, nursing school testing bank site. I used Your Best Grade to study for all my HESIs in nursing school and I consistently scored over 1,000 thanks to them. Here is an article I wrote on how I passed the Med Surg HESI with a 1217.

I also used Your Best Grade to study for my nursing school’s exit exam. They have a huge practice bank for that test as well.

They have categories of all the most common nursing school courses and two large test banks to practice for each. I recommend re-taking the tests multiple times, because you probably won’t do so hot the first time. Their rationales are incredible though. So read them and learn why you got the questions wrong, and try, try again.

I learned so much from this site and I will never stop recommending them.

If I had known about them from the start of the program, I would have used their test banks for my lecture exams as well.


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Saunders is the other test bank that you should have for studying for nursing school exams. If your school uses HESI, these are the same writers as well.

When you buy the Saunders book new, it comes with a code to get access to thousands of practice test questions. They are also categorized by specialty.

Now that I have taken the NCLEX, I can see the similarities. HESI and NCLEX questions are shorter and more to the point. So are the Saunders questions.

4. Organization is key to passing nursing school exams

When you have all the tools listed above and ready to go, now it is time to have an organized study space. I always made sure to have a clean and functional desk and my syllabi course schedules hanging up right in front of my face every day.

Well, almost always…

I actually love this picture. I remember taking it and sending it to my nursing school friends to show just how real the struggle was. I was studying for a huge Med Surg exam here, and was losing my mind.

But really, at least have a space where you keep your course schedules printed out in front of you. I hung mine up on my desk hutch and crossed them off each week.

Don’t Cram for nursing school exams!

You should always know what exams are coming up and start studying well before the weekend before.

This is another huge point to make when it comes to how to pass nursing school exams. DO NOT CRAM.

You cannot cram for nursing school exams. I can’t emphasize this enough. You will end up in tears and go into the test terrified. Once you start studying for an exam you realize how much you don’t know and how much you need to know in a very short amount of time.

Also don’t fall into the trap of “if I don’t know it now, I never will”. Or while taking a test “If I don’t know the answer right away, why try”. This is the point of taking the practice tests. You will learn how to critically think through questions and cancel answer options out.

So don’t cram, k? This is where the syllabus course schedule in front of your face every day comes into play. Look at it every day, see what exams are coming up, and start preparing ASAP. You want to be refining your knowledge the few days before an exam, not just barely learning it.

How To Pass Nursing School Exams: Conclusion

So, to sum up my formula for passing nursing school exams, do the following:

  1. Record your instructors’ lectures (If allowed)
  2. Turn your instructors’ PowerPoints into Quizlets (Active recall method)
  3. Train your brain like Rocky (Get access to high-quality practice test banks)
  4. Get Organized (Start studying well before exams)

Sounds simple right? Well, humans are inherently lazy procrastinators so not really. But that is why I wanted to supply this short roadmap. Now that you have this short-form formula, you can get started without being too overwhelmed.

When it comes to passing nursing school exams, it’s important to do what other successful students have done. They have the results you seek. If you are not getting the results you want with your own methods, you have to have the maturity to say okay, I need some help. It’s only for your benefit after all.

You worked too hard to get into nursing school to fail out. So it is my hope that this guide gets you back on track and all the way to the finish line. Good luck!

Jackie Jimenez BSN, RN
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