3.4 Success After Class: Reviewing Material

Leslie Jennings, RN

Learning Objectives

At the end of this section, the learner will:

  • Describe the importance of a review period prior to an exam.
  • Create a Five Day Study plan for an upcoming exam.

Planning a review period prior to an exam

     Many students, however, don’t start thinking about test taking, whether weekly exams, mid-terms, or finals, until the day before when they engage in an all-nighter, or cramming. Students wanting to be successful have to have the self-discipline to schedule time to study well in advance of the exam. They have to actually do the work: the preparation needed in order to have the best opportunity for success on the exam. Then, they have to be able to apply their preparation accordingly and perform well on the exam.

It would be beneficial to spread this preparation and practice out over time and prepare periodically rather than to wait until the last minute and binge study or cram. Planning for a review period over five days prior to the exam and healthy eating and sleep habits cannot be overemphasized. Without a plan, preparation would not be the same and this may affect your test score. Binge studying and cramming also are not healthy. Careful review of the material prior to each exam is required for optimal performance, and student reports tell us that the habit of “cramming” the night before the exam is not going to lead to positive, long-term results. Staying up late puts stress on our brain and body, and not getting adequate sleep places our bodies at risk for getting sick.

Students need to develop a mindset that every time they attend class or complete a reading assignment they are preparing for the next exam, because so much of their grade rides on those exams. In college, it is not uncommon for your entire course grade to be based on two or three exams with no options for a retake or extra credit. Instead of an exam being over one or two chapters, exams are more likely to cover 5+ chapters of material, and in the case of a comprehensive exam, an entire semester’s worth of material. Intentionally working through the process of preparing for, taking, and learning from the testing process will facilitate successful outcomes.

Notes for Nursing  Success! During nursing school, you have multiple exams in the same week, so creating a study plan will help you avoid stress and feel prepared!


Often, students jump right in to taking an exam feeling stressed and rushed with a need to regurgitate information immediately. However, approaching a test in a careful and methodical way can help ensure the best results. You can best utilize your exam time by taking the time to survey the exam directions and point values and planning how to approach sections of the test. Strategy is particularly important for tests with mixed types of questions (i.e., multiple choice and essay) or tests with multiple essay questions. For example, if you were to spend too much time on the multiple choice questions and not allocate enough time to complete an essay question, you may have answered the majority of the total number of questions but still do poorly on the exam if the essay question was worth a larger portion of the exam’s total points. Plan your time carefully and manage your stress.

Activity 3.4 – Creating a Study Plan

Creating a Study Plan

Identify when your next substantial exam will be given in a class. Create a five-day study plan using the formula described in “Create a Five-Day Study Plan for Exams”. Once you have created this plan, incorporate the schedule into your time management calendar for implementation.

Create a Five-Day Study Plan for Exams

Making a plan that will allow for the careful review of all of the assigned and presented material leads to less stress the day of an exam and the best conditions for recall and performance. Here is a simple method for creating a study plan:

  1. Break the material for the exam into four manageable “chunks.” If material can be logically divided by chapters, use that method. If not, make up your own chunks based on the content of the material. Note: It is not a good idea to break up information by the method of delivery (i.e., one chunk equals notes, one chunk equals readings, etc.). You want to include all information on specific topics together in one chunk (e.g., information about the topic of osmosis from the lecture notes and the textbook in a chunk).
  2. Plan to spend about two hours studying on each of the five days.
  3. You should work with the material on the exam in two ways, by preparing that material for review and by reviewing that material. Preparation of material incorporates study techniques discussed earlier in this chapter such as combining and clarifying lecture and textbook notes and creating visual organizers for topics.

Example of the Schedule for a Five-Day Study Plan

Day One
Prepare 1st Chunk – 2 hours

Day Two
Prepare 2nd Chunk – 2 hours
Review 1st Chunk – 30 minutes

Day Three
Prepare 3rd Chunk – 1.5 hours
Review 2nd Chunk – 30 minutes
Review 1st Chunk – 15 minutes

Day Four
Prepare 4th Chunk – 1 hour
Review 3rd Chunk – 30 minutes
Review 2nd Chunk – 15 minutes
Review 1st Chunk – 10 minutes

Day Five
Review 4th Chunk – 1 hour
Review 3rd Chunk – 30 minutes
Review 2nd Chunk – 30 minutes
Review 1st Chunk – 30 minutes

Taking some time to plan out what material will go into each chunk will ensure that you do not miss anything.

This method typically works very well for courses that offer two or three tests throughout the semester; however, a similar method could be modified by the number of days or the amount of time spent each day if a course offers more exams with less material on each exam.


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