Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Memory Techniques for NCLEX Review

Preparing to take on the NCLEX-RN means a whole lot of studying—which means a whole lot of information being downloaded into the ol’ grey matter. Most nurses reviewing for the entry-to-practice exam give themselves at least two months of study time before the big day. So, how do you get all of that information to stick?

The days of being advised to highlight, rewrite, and summarize your class notes are long gone. As it turns out, that approach isn’t really effective. Better is to engage the natural processes we use to synthesize and retain information.

Doodle by Dan Paluska (CC BY 2.0)
Draw or doodle
Although the doodler in class has long been pegged as the “daydreamer” or as someone who can’t pay attention, recent science shows that drawing actually improves focus and memory in a classroom situation. Doodling, far from being a distraction, can be what makes your thoughts come together.

So, while you’re participating in an NCLEX Prep course, don’t be afraid to have an extra sheet of blank paper with you to let your inner Da Vinci out while the instructor goes through the review.

Sleep on it
Although we think of sleep as time for our bodies to recuperate—especially those of us who do shift work—it’s also when our minds get to work making sense of the day. That is, our brains synthesize information while we sleep, creating connections between new inputs and our previous knowledge.

Merely “sleeping on it” can bring solutions or new outlooks to problems and concepts you’ve previously been struggling with. In short: don’t forget to get plenty of sleep in the lead up to the NCLEX-RN—a study technique we can all appreciate!

Do practice questions
Taking a break from inputting the information and instead putting it to work is a way to test that those neural pathways are dug, paved, and line-painted. Doing practice questions is a form of “retrieval practice,” which is proven to be more effective than input-only studying. That’s why during PRIMED’s two-day NCLEX course time is taken to do exam-type questions for each key topic and a 200-page workbook is provided to continue the practice at home.