Study Groups: How to Make the Most of Your Study Time in Nursing School

By Sarah Collins

05/2/2022

Connections with other nursing students can make all the difference in nursing school. Your colleagues can support you during this stressful time and possibly increase your chances of nursing school success. 

Study groups can help you review essential material for passing exams, quizzes, and lab practicals. But it’s vital to keep your goals in sight and evaluate whether your group is helping you achieve them. 

Key Takeaways

  • Study groups can be an effective tool to study in nursing school. You need to establish your goals and have a clear plan for your study group. 
  • Including the correct number of people, creating a productive environment, meeting regularly, and using various study methods can help increase the success of your study group. 
  • Study groups don’t work for every person, so you need to evaluate your strengths and goals. Then you can create a study group based on your needs.  

What Is the Purpose of a Nursing Student Study Group?

It’s easy for groups to get sidetracked in nursing school. So, it’s essential to define the purpose of your study group.

Most nursing programs have strict criteria when it comes to grades. You need to meet satisfactory clinical performance. Also, you need to pass your tests and quizzes with high enough grades to continue in the class. 

Generally, you meet with a study group to help you pass your exams. However, you can make the goals even more specific. For example, you could have a study group for the main exams and another strictly for skills lab evaluations.  

You want to avoid letting the group turn into a social hangout. The group can quickly turn from a study group to a place to vent about the difficulties of nursing school, how hard a professor is making the material, or how unreasonable the last test was. 

You need to distinguish between your study time and stress relief period. In addition to having a study group time, schedule time to “vent” and socialize with your nursing student buddies. Having clear goals in mind can help you have an effective study group. 

Have a Clear Plan for Your Study Group

Setting clear plans for your study group helps ensure success. Keep the following components in mind as you make your plan:

  • When do you plan to meet? Are you going to meet every week? Every other day? Or are you planning on working with the group exclusively before the exam? While there isn’t a right or wrong, it can be helpful to ensure everyone is on the same page. 
  • Where do you plan to meet? Meeting places may change but having a general idea can be helpful. You can even plan out a few places to meet. For example, if there are many people at the library, you could meet at the student center instead. 
  • What material will you go over? It’s nursing. Everything, right? Well, sometimes. Still, it’s good to set out what you plan to cover at a specific session. For example, you can decide to go over the last two units of lectures or a particular topic. 
  • What should everyone bring? Set up what notes, resources, and tools people need to bring. For example, do you need someone to bring dry erase markers or snacks? Do you plan to use the textbook or just your notes from the lecture? 

How Many People Should You Have in a Study Group?

It can be hard to decide how many people to have in a group, but remember to find what works for you. Consider the pros and cons of large and small groups:

Large Groups

Large study groups expand your resources and study material. For example, if each person has a separate study guide, you can combine this knowledge to boost your working material. If someone from the group can’t come, you will still have enough people to make it worth meeting. 

Large groups also allow for more variety. You can play more games for review and engage in other group study activities. Additionally, you have more people to rely on when you need help at the last minute, such as if you lose a copy of your notes. 

Small Groups

It’s easier to focus in a small group. In a smaller group, the people you work with are more likely to be committed to the group and serious about keeping the group productive. While socializing is still possible, you can stay focused on the course material. 

On the flip side, if one person in your group leaves or can’t make it, you might be tempted to cancel your sessions. Also, your review methods are a tad limited. 

Every group will be a little different, so only you can pick the perfect number. The University of Utah recommends having 3-5 people in a study group. If the group gets too large, it risks becoming a time to socialize rather than study. 

Creating an Ideal Study Environment

You want to stay focused and have productive study sessions. Thus, setting up an environment that promotes learning is essential. Ideally, you want a comfortable space that doesn’t distract you from your group’s purpose. 

Plan where to meet beforehand and ensure the spot is open. You want to avoid activities that waste time, such as moving to a different location. For example, you might agree to study at the library but fail to check if the library has any events planned. When you reach the library, you realize that a seminar is going on in the area you were planning to use. 

Some colleges will allow you to reserve a specific classroom or other space. Ask around and explore what options you have. Reserving an area can help put your mind at ease and ensure your group gets to maximize study time.

Here are just a few other tips about your study environment:

  • Get Rid of What the Group Finds Distracting

Whether it’s loud music, certain sounds, or even phone access, work to minimize what will cause the group to lose focus. It can be helpful to talk to the people in your group and ask about what different people find distracting. 

  • Give Yourself Space to Spread Out

Whether you’re all just bringing a laptop or you want to use books and notes, ensure you have enough table space and chairs to accommodate your group. You don’t want people to feel cramped or like they shouldn’t be there. 

  • Ensure You Have the Right Materials

You don’t want your study group to be interrupted because you don’t have working pens or reliable Internet access. Ensure you have everything you need before diving into your study session.  

How Often Should I Meet With My Study Group?

In theory, it’s best to meet consistently with your group to review material so that you aren’t cramming before any exams. Regular reviews can decrease your stress and improve your overall exam performance. 

But “regular” can mean many different things. The point is to be consistent in what you decide to do. You have many possibilities available to you:

  • Daily or after every lecture: Meeting right after class allows you to review the material while it’s fresh in your mind. It also allows you to fill in any points you missed or clarify what you didn’t understand.
  • Weekly: With a weekly study group, you can review what you learned throughout the week. This time frame allows you to have a good amount of material to work with and can help clarify anything you missed throughout the week. 
  • After you finish a topic or unit: In nursing courses, you typically have a series of lectures about one topic. When you finish going over a specific unit in class, you can meet with your group to review the material for that unit. Focusing on one particular topic allows you to tailor your study time. 
  • Just before each exam or quiz: Although the days leading to an exam shouldn’t be the only time you study, meeting with your study group right before an exam has several benefits. 

When You Meet Right Before the Test

You know that cramming isn’t an option, but meeting soon before the test can be helpful. At this point, people have created their notes and study guides. You can use them to quiz each other and review the material. Think of this time as a final review to solidify your studies up to this point. 

These study times allow you to verbalize what you’ve learned to other people in a complete format. Putting something in your own words and explaining it to someone else indicates that you understand the material. 

Ensure you don’t study all night. Rest is important too and may improve how well you do on the test. 

The Time Frame of a Study Group

The exact timeline you meet will vary based on your group members and the group’s needs. You want to have enough time that you don’t feel rushed, but you also want to avoid people losing focus. It’s okay to test timeframes to find out what works best for your group. 

If you plan to study for a lengthy period, scheduling breaks can be helpful so that everyone takes one at the same time. For example, you can review material for an hour and then take a 20-minute break for food or take shorter breaks to use the restroom or stretch your legs.  

What Study Methods Can My Study Group Use? 

Studying doesn’t have to be boring. Giving studying a game-like quality can help you review the material in a fun format. Variety can also help to reinforce the material from multiple angles. 

Consider the following methods:

  • Play Games

You can make study games as elaborate or simple as you want. For example, you could write questions on index cards and have people in the group answer them. You can do matching or memory games. Additionally, you can create a point system and even use prizes to keep things interesting. 

  • Quiz Each Other

Take turns asking each other questions about the material. Quizzes can take on game-like qualities as well. For example, if someone gets a question wrong, they’ll have to ask the following question or continue to answer questions until they get one right. 

  • Play Teacher and Student

A person in the group should teach the others about a topic. Let them review it “lecture style” and have them ask questions of their “students.” 

  • Act Out Clinical Scenarios

In nursing, critical thinking is everything. If you’re learning about a specific disease or area of care, you can have someone role-play as the nurse, and someone else acts out the patient. This arrangement can allow you to review symptoms and presentations of diseases and appropriate nursing interventions. 

  • Write It All Down

Pick a topic or scenario and write down everything you can from memory. Then compare what you wrote to the group’s notes. You’ll find what works for your group, but don’t be afraid to try different methods until you find the strategies that best reinforce the information for the group. 

Test Out a Study Group

Study groups are not for everyone. It can be a helpful way to review material and even build friendships with other nursing students. However, you know what study methods are effective and work for you. 

Remember to meet with a group more than once before you decide to continue or stop going to the group. See if meeting with the group improves your learning and test scores. If you find the group ineffective, that’s okay. It could just be that study groups aren’t an effective study tool for you. 

For example, maybe you focus better when you are alone or when you can read the material. Reading isn’t as common a tool in a study group because you can do it independently.

However, a group also might not be working because of the other people in the group. For example, are there people constantly shifting the conversation away from studying? Is there someone in the group who clashes with your personality? Are there members who don’t seem committed or willing to put in the effort? It could be that you haven’t found the right people to study with yet. 

Your success in nursing school depends on you putting in the hard work. Think about study groups as a tool in your toolbox. They aren’t the only way or best way to study. You need to find what works for you. 

Conclusion: Study Groups and Their Relevance to Your Nursing School Journey

Nursing school is hard but worth it. Take advantage of the opportunities like study groups to set yourself up for success. Having an effective study group can increase your chances of passing your next test or quiz. Remember that good grades ensure that you pass the class and move towards becoming a full-fledged registered nurse. 

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