70. Are Exit Exams Fair? (Also, how to study muscle A&P AND microbiology!)

Is it FAIR for nursing schools to use exit exams? How should you study muscles for A&P? What’s the best way to study microbiology when you HAAAATE it? We’ll answer these questions in today’s episode!

Did you know I have a free Facebook Group where you can connect with other nursing students AND get some help from me? It’s called “Nursing Students in Nursing School”! Find the link to join on the show notes page at www.YourNursingTutor.com/episode70 

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Transcript for Episode 70


I wanted you to know that, because today I’m answering some questions I received in that Facebook Group recently. I usually answer these types of questions in a weekly Facebook Live that I share every Friday at 6pm. In this particular Tutoring Q&A, you’ll hear me answer questions about the best way to study the muscles in A&P, and how to study for microbiology when it’s hard and you literally hate it. We’re also going to have a discussion about whether it’s normal for a nursing school to have an exit exam requirement that states that if you fail the exam exam, you fail the entire semester…EVEN IF you get a passing grade on every other assignment. 

Enjoy today’s episode!


Hey there, it’s Nicole Whitworth with your nursing tutor, and I am here to do our weekly q&a for the nursing students in nursing school Facebook group. So how are you doing? It’s April. If you’re in nursing school, then we’re getting down to the wire, we’re getting almost to finals. If you are a pre nursing student, then you might you’re probably finishing up the semester prerequisites. Maybe you’re looking at the Fall semester starting nursing school, and you’re starting to freak out a little bit. If so, just now it’s normal. But you’re going to do so much better if you can find mentorship. If you can find a community of positive people, you’re on the right track by being in this Facebook group. And there’s lots of ways that we can support you even more if you’re interested in that. Let’s get on to the questions for today.

Before I do that, actually, I wanted to share a success story from Amy, she posted in the group. She Amy actually happens to be one of my VIP tutoring members, which is part of my paid VIP tutoring and mentorship community. And last week, she was asking me for tips on studying the muscles for anatomy and physiology because she is in ANP right now. And there was actually several people asking about that topic last week. But she came back to me and she asked, or she told me she gave me feedback based on the advice that I gave her. And because of that advice, she was able to study the muscles for a&p. And she got an A on her exam.

So way to go, Amy, I’m so excited for you. And not only that, but I’m so proud of you, because you didn’t just say yeah, I got an A and move on. But she’s circled back to provide tips and mentorship to students who are coming behind you, which is such an important thing is such something I value so much, and something that we’re all going to need as nurses if we really truly want to change the nursing culture for the better in the future. So thank you so much for being the positive change, Amy, and congratulations on getting an A I know you worked hard for that. Let’s get on to some of the other questions.

So this week, I have two other questions that I wanted to get to. Both of them are really good. So the first one is about asking for some tips on studying microbiology. And the second is about oh, having exit exams for your nursing school, and kind of the whole situation where you can pass the semester. But if you fail the exit exam, you still have to retake the semester. So I’m going to talk about that. Second, let’s talk about microbiology first. Microbiology is not a requirement for all nursing programs, but it is for a lot of them, especially the bachelors level. But some associates also have have micro as a prerequisite or CO requisite.

In any case, it is a very valuable topic. But it can be a little intimidating, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve taken general biology. So my tips for taking microbiology and doing well in it. Oh, I should say who asked this question. So this question was asked by Ben. He said he’s wrapping up his prereqs. He’s taking a break from microbiology to write this question, because he paid micro. So let’s see if we can turn that around. But he’s planning to do a 10 month medic to RN Bridge Program. And then after that he’s planning to go back to get his BSN. And he has a wife who’s a nurse practitioner.

So he feels lucky to have someone to bounce stuff off of. But unfortunately for him, her micro class was years ago, and she doesn’t remember a whole lot of the really involved stuff. Yeah, that’s pretty typical. But it should be a little bit reassuring. Because since you don’t like micro a lot right now, just know that. Like is this is true in a lot of prerequisite classes and also in a lot of your nursing classes that when you’re actually in the class, you have to know it at a deeper level, you have to study it at a deeper level for that one exam.

But then later on when you’re applying that info, you don’t have to have as much of the depth in order to be able to adequately apply it to later concepts. Now, here’s the challenge. The challenge is that you have to know you have to be able to predict or get guidance on what is what what’s the difference. What is the stuff that it’s okay to just kind of study the this level of detail for the current test and then let it kind of fuzz away during over time, versus what’s going to be the most important concepts that you really do need to make sure you’ve mastered that you’re never going to forget, so that later on in nursing school, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and re study things that you should have learned already in your prerequisites.

That’s one thing that I help with in my VIP tutoring program. But, but that’s going to be the key for you doing well in microbiology, especially to make sure that your microbiology experience right now is going to be beneficial to you later on in nursing school. So the way I do this is actually the same way that I teach nursing students to study and it’s by using the silver bullet study system. If you need a link to the overview, I have a free 20 minute video that explains the silver bullet study system.

And then if you feel like you need more help applying it to your specific situation, that’s what my VIP tutoring membership is for, because I can walk you through and like live group tutoring sessions on Zoom, we can talk through whatever topics you’re you’re currently studying. And we can, I can show you how to apply the silver bullet study system to your particular situation and topics. So and that’s just one of the things you can get in the VIP tutoring membership. But the key really is to under is to identify what the foundational information is that you need to know in order to understand the next level.

So for microbiology, a lot of times that might be going back and making sure that you really firmly understand the the cell, right, because this is micro biology. So we’re talking about the basis of the cell, you know, all the bits and parts, you need to kind of have them like it like I would tell people in anatomy and physiology, you have to know them so well that if you shrunk down to Miss Frizzle size, like you know that a TV show The Magic School Bus, and you took a bus inside the cell, you could give a guided tour to a group of fifth graders, okay? Because that means that you’re able to verbalize it in a way that makes sense to you.

And you know it, it’s not just that you feel like you know it, but you actually know it. And once you do that, and you can identify what all the parts and pieces are, and you know what they do. That’s the kind of physiology part of it. You know what they do, then when you start learning some of the other topics in microbiology, it builds on that, okay, you start learning things like, you know, even the Krebs cycle, but that’s kind of the memorize two. So it’s identifying like in step one of the silver bullet study system, it’s identifying what is your foundational information, that’s the stuff you usually have to memorize.

Okay, but the memorization is usually less than you think it is. It but it’s, but it is your foundational bits. So once you got that stuff memorized, then you can use that knowledge to understand how the other parts, the more advanced topics fit together. A lot of times we skip that first step, or we don’t have time to do it, we don’t realize it’s important, we don’t understand how all the information fits together in a logical pathway. And so our foundation never gets solidly built. But we still move on with the coursework and the higher level concepts. And we try to attack those higher level concepts, by memorizing them by learning them by reading the textbook, listening to lecture and just, you know, trying to memorize them. But because they’re actually building on these lower level concepts, first, I say it’s like studying on stilts.

And then things seem really hard. They seem really confusing. And you’re just like, I don’t get this, how’s anybody supposed to do this? While you might have a classmate who’s just breezing through, probably because they do have that good foundation. And so to them, it makes sense because they’re always tying the new stuff back to what they already learned. So for microbiology, I would bet there’s probably some foundational concepts that you could go back and identify, and it feels overwhelming sometimes when you have to pull that, you know, take the time to go back and review that.

But I promise you, I promise you it is worth your time. It’s the best way you can spend your study time at this point. Because it’s going to really catapult your understanding of those later concepts. And this is everything I just said about microbiology is true about all of your nursing classes later on. So if you’re if somebody else is listening to this, they’re not in microbiology right now, maybe you’re in fundamentals of nursing, maybe you’re in med surg, and you’re finding it difficult. You probably are missing out on some foundational information. It’s really, really common. It’s the most common problem I see in nursing students who come to me for help.

Okay, so I hope that helps you bed. And I hope you can turn around your hatred for microbiology and eventually at least come to appreciate it if not love it. Okay, and the next question I had to answer today, I apologize if I get your name wrong, but I think it’s tarji. So she says she’s finishing her first semester but the school she attends recommends taking hesi exam, which is one of the standardized exams that a lot of schools use after the final in the second semester in med surg, so even if you pass the class with an ad, and then you go on to fail the HESI, which is 10% of your grade, you can still end up failing the class.

Because the passing mark is 80%. She thinks that this is unfair for students. So she wanted to know if this is all nursing requirements. So just to straight up answer the question, it’s not a requirement for all nursing schools. Every nursing school has their own guidelines and requirements. However, it is a very common requirements in nursing school. This is not the first time I ever heard this. And I can explain to you exactly why schools do this. So the HESI exam, just to let you know, it’s it’s, you know, a standardized exam put out by I think it’s Elsevier. So that’s one of the major publishing companies.

If somebody else is listening to this, it’s very similar to the ATI exams. They’re both kind of competitors. So the HESI exam is a predictor. It’s an NCLEX predictor exam. And we talked I talked about that answer somebody’s question last week about whether hesi is harder than the NCLEX. So if that if you can go back and watch that, if you’re curious about that topic, but the point here is that the HESI exam, if you do well on the HESI exam, then there’s a high probability that you’re going to pass your NCLEX. On the first time, if you do poorly on your hesi exam, there’s a high probability, you’re going to fail the NCLEX, on your first attempt.

And this is important to nursing schools, because nursing schools have to maintain high passing standards on the NCLEX in order to maintain the accreditation status. So if they send students NCLEX, and students, too many students are failing NCLEX, that’s gonna get the wrong kind of attention. And they could potentially lose their accreditation status, which has to do with a lot of things, that they’re gonna lose money and things. So in this sense, it is a really good thing, that they have exit exam standards, in a lot of cases, because it’s kind of like a quality control. They’re not sending you off, you’re spending all this money to go to school, and then they send you off to take NCLEX and you fail it and then what, right, then you’re kind of stuck, you still have to pay back student loans, but you don’t have your nursing license.

I mean, you can, you can go back, and you can retake NCLEX. And I have helped students who have failed NCLEX to prepare again, to retake and then go on to become successful nurses. I’m actually launching a new grad mentorship program later this month, where one of my former tutoring students who she actually failed the NCLEX, four or five times before, she was able to pass it with my help. And she’s coming back to be a mentor. She’s been a successful nurse for five years now. But when but all that to say you don’t want to be in that situation. And so they a lot of schools have put in this exit exam requirement.

So that when you try to, if you don’t pass, that’s like your clue, before you get to NCLEX, that you need to do some remediation that there’s something missing still, that you need to do some more prep work before you’re prepared to take the NCLEX exam. Now, I’m not exactly sure from your description, if you have to pass the HESI in order to pass your class, or if because you said it’s 10% of your grade. Or if it just means that if you, you know if you fail your hesi, but you have a high enough grade and other things that you might still be able to pass. But 10% is pretty big. So if that’s an all or nothing grade, then that might very well mean that if you fail your hesi, you’re automatically going to fail your semester, even if you did very well.

And honestly, that is not an unusual situation, either. There are a lot of nursing schools who just make it a pass fail requirement. So you could, in those situations, you could pass your entire semester with, you know, 100%, even 100% grade. And if you don’t pass your hesi exam at the end of the semester, it doesn’t matter, you fail the semester. So it’s not an unusual requirement. There are good reasons for it, even though it is frustrating. Although it’s very, very important for nursing schools to put this in writing. So yeah, they should have told you about this requirement. At the beginning of the semester before you take it, it should be either in your student handbook or in the syllabus or something like that in writing, making it clear what the expectations are.

If it was never put in writing, if this was just a last minute decision, because they’re kind of panicking, maybe because of their accreditation status. Sometimes you can have an argument that it the requirement should not be applied to your particular class. That is and you have to be really careful about if you decide to go this route, if this happens to be secure situation because you need to do it very respectfully. And you need to do it in a way that you’re following the chain of command, so to speak. So you know, basically read up in your student handbook, find out what to do when you have a problem with things and follow the instructions for how you’re supposed to approach disagreements with your program.

Because you obviously They don’t want to get a reputation for being a problem student, but you do want to advocate for yourself. So if you’re in a situation where this is just like thrown at you at the last minute, then you, you know, might be able to to argue it a little bit and get it adjusted for you. But then for students who come after you, now, it’s a set policy. However, that doesn’t exactly sound like your situation, could you say you’re finishing your first semester and your school is saying the HESI is after your second semester. So it sounds like you’re going to be going into this knowing the full requirement. So in that case, just know that this is not an unusual expectation in nursing school. And it’s actually can be beneficial for you as a student, because it’s going to help you make sure that you are ready for NCLEX later on. I hope that answers your question.

So I just want to let everybody know, too, I still have my live dosage calculations, boot camps going on, they’re available. It’s only $37. The the bootcamp takes about an hour and a half to two hours depending on questions and discussion, because I’m there on Zoom doing it live with you, we are going to show you how to get rid of your math anxiety. Because when your anxiety goes up, your brain shuts off. And so we need your brain to be on the D dosage calculations. I’m going to show you the only method. It’s an easy method to follow that I teach students to use for dosage calculations. And it’s just the same six steps that you can apply to literally any kind of dosage calculation. So you don’t have to memorize formulas.

You don’t have to figure out, you know, what do I plug in where it’s going to be laid out for you exactly how to do it with this system. And then I’m going to give you a practice plan and exact practice plan so that when you leave the session that you are going to feel confident that you can actually do dosage calculations, and you’re going to know exactly what your next steps are to make sure that you master this skill for yourself. Like I said, that’s only $37 For that workshop. And if you would like to get in on that, just leave me a comment on this Facebook Live and to ask for the link and I’ll be happy to send the link to you. Otherwise, I’m so glad you’re a part of this community and I can’t wait to hang out with you again next week. See ya 


I hope you found those tips helpful for your nursing journey! Remember, you can also have an opportunity to get your nursing school questions answered by joining my free Facebook group, “Nursing Students in Nursing School”, where I do a weekly Facebook Live to answer as many group member questions as I have time for. 

But if you’re “all in” on your goal of becoming a nurse, then you probably want guaranteed answers more than once per week! In that case, I invite you to check out my VIP Tutoring Membership, which is how I provide affordable online tutoring and training that will help YOU learn to think like a nurse faster and easier, develop your critical thinking skills, and use those new skills to correctly answer your exam questions…allowing you to skip the overwhelm, the over studying, and generally chaotic feelings that your classmates will be experiencing. 

As soon as you join the VIP Tutoring Membership, you’ll be able to fill out your New Member Profile to tell me more about your specific situation and goals. I’ll personally review it, and email you back within a week to offer my professional tutoring recommendations for what you can immediately change to become more efficient and effective with your studies. 

In addition, you’ll immediately be invited to attend our group tutoring zoom sessions, which are always recorded if you’re not able to attend live. Or you can ask additional questions or seek mentoring advice on our private members-only forum, or through our curated training pathways for nursing or pre-nursing students. 

You can get more information about the VIP Tutoring Membership, OR access any other resource we discussed on today’s episode, by going to the show notes page at www.YourNursingTutor.com/episode70 

Now before we finish, would you mind doing me a 30-second favor? Would you go to Apple Podcasts and write a 2-sentence Review for Navigating Nursing School with Your Nursing Tutor? Simply tell me where you’re at on your nursing journey, and why you like listening to this podcast. It’s one small way that you can support the mission of Your Nursing Tutor by helping other nursing students discover that it IS possible for “normal people” to get through nursing school without completely sacrificing their family, their job, and even their sanity. 

Until next episode, good luck on your nursing journey!

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