One of the hardest parts of nursing school is remembering all of the information you’ll need to know to pass your exams and, ultimately, your NCLEX.

Retaining information is crucial to passing your exams. If you’re struggling in your nursing program and having a hard time retaining info, look no further than this article.

I’m going to share with you some tips from successful nursing school graduates.

*Disclosure: This article on how to retain information in nursing school may contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. For more info, please see my disclaimer.

How to Retain Information in Nursing School?

Retaining information is easier when you plan it out and get creative. Drawing pictures of various body systems and disease processes, writing flashcards, or taping and listening to lectures are a few ideas you can try out to help you remember what you need to know.

Try a few things out and then find what works for you (it may not be the same as your study buddy’s, and that’s okay). 

Breakdown of the Easy Ways to Retain Tough Information 

Check out the nursing student academy if you’re wanting more help in nursing school It’s a resource that supplements your nursing education. Go here to check it out.

1. Draw It Out! 

Who says studying has to be boring? Studies show that drawing pictures can help you retain difficult information. This translates to better grades and to you being a much happier nursing student!

If you want to spare yourself the clutter and save some trees, invest in a good whiteboard. This way, you can just erase it when you’re done. 

Dry Erase White Board
Whiteboards are good to have during group study sessions.

Pro Tip
Always have a template! Whatever disease process or body system you are drawing, draw it out on a piece of paper.

This will help you to go back and check your work to see if you missed any important parts or recalled something incorrectly. 

2. Record Lectures 

Recording lectures is a great way to retain information and ensures you’ll never be left scrambling to remember what your professor said during a lengthy lecture.

If you have a professor who likes to speed through everything, this can help you go back and add little important details. You can use your phone or a dedicated voice recorder to do this, and then replay it while getting ready for school, work, or even driving in the car.

Repeated playback will help you remember the important things! 

Sony Digital Voice Recorder
You can use your phone but I think you'll find it a lot easier to just get a dedicated voice recorder.

Pro Tip
Make sure you ask your professor if you can record their lectures. Some will not allow it.

You should also ask if you can keep the recorder in the front of the classroom, near where they’re lecturing, so you can get a clear audio capture. 

3. Space It Out 

You’ve heard it a million times, I’m sure: You cannot cram in nursing school! There is simply too much to remember.

If you’ve come across this article the night before an exam, try not to freak out (do your best and remember this for the next exam).

Spacing out your study time is important in order to help your brain synthesize and store information.

When you try to cram the night before the exam, you do not retain the needed information for your exam and, most importantly for the NCLEX. 

Pro Tip
Set a study schedule and stick to it! If you aren’t working during nursing school, your new 9-5 job is homework and studying, so make sure you hold yourself accountable to a schedule. 

4. Color Coding 

There have been several studies done that show that color is an important aspect of retaining information.

A good example of this is in pharmacology. You will need to know side effects, desired outcomes, and what the medication treats. Put each of these in a different color (and always use the same color) to help you remember information. 

Pro Tip:
You can  that create a fun way of going about tackling a boring subject, and they keep your notes neat and clean!

Keep your study sessions as creative as possible by using tools that you enjoy (gel pens, crayons, etc). 

5. Handwritten Notes 

Studies have shown that handwriting your notes, rather than typing, helps you to remember information.

Not only does it force you to capture the important pieces of the lecture (because handwriting usually takes longer than typing), but it also tricks your brain into remembering information. 

Pro Tip
Studying doesn’t always have to be simply recalling information. Rewriting notes is a great way to study and keep your hands busy! 

Related: How to Take Notes in Nursing School

6. Figure Out How You Best Study

As good as this list is, it won’t do much for you if you pick the wrong ones. What I mean is not everyone studies and learns the same way. Students generally fall into one of three learning styles.

  • Auditory: an auditory learner retains information best by speaking and listening to it. For example, listening to recorded lectures.
  • Visual: a visual learner learns best by looking and seeing the material presented visually. For example, instead of listening to a lecture on blood flow through the body you would learn best by looking at a diagram of it.
  • Kinesthetic: a kinesthetic learner (also called a tactile learner) learns best by doing. For example, continuing with the blood flow scenario instead of listening to a lecture or looking at a diagram a kinesthetic learner would learn best by trying to draw or recreate the blood flow diagram.

Pro Tip
There’s a ton of resources you can find on the web that will help you learn how you study best and how to take advantage of it.

Learning how you best study can reduce the amount of time you study while improving your effectiveness and your retention of the material.

7. Seek Outside Help

If you’re really struggling with learning and retaining information in your nursing program, you might want to consider seeking other help. You’ll typically have three options with this.

  1. Reach out to the nursing faculty. This is typically the cheapest option and just involves you going to the office hours of the nursing professor that’s teaching the class you’re struggling in.
  2. Find a nursing school tutor. This is a good option if your struggling and you need a little bit more help than what you’re getting during the instructor office hours. You can go here to find highly rated nursing school tutors.
  3. Find supplemental study material. There are courses and videos you can find that can help fill in the gaps and explain things in a different way that might work better for you. There are free videos and resources out there I prefer paid options because they tend to be better done and they’re more likely to be up to date than the free options. A good one you should check out is the nursing student academy.

Retain Information, Pass the Exam

Retaining information isn’t easy, especially when you have so much that is being thrown at you.

Try using one of the above methods (or a combination) to help make nursing school a tad bit easier!

Do you use any other methods that aren’t listed here? Help another student out by letting us know in the comment section! 

Have You Read These Yet?

Frequently Asked Questions

You’re not going to remember everything from nursing school. You’ll learn some things that you’ll never need to use, and when you start your nursing career as a new grad nurse, you’ll start learning new concepts you never learned in nursing school.

Most nursing students should expect to study for around 3 to 4 hours a day regularly to gain mastery of the material covered during nursing school.

Drawing pictures, using flashcards, and listening to recordings are just some of the hacks nursing students can use to remember things during nursing school.

Using flashcards, drawing out pictures and diagrams are just some of the tricks nurses use to retain information.

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