How to Use Your Nursing Tutor Study Guides

Surviving nursing school is a LOT easier with free study guides and cheat sheets to help nursing students. Find out where to get the "must have" nursing study guides, and tips for how to use them most effectively.Did you know that you can find free nursing study guides on the Your Nursing Tutor website? They are a PERFECT fit to go with the How to Study in Nursing School mini-course. In fact, you should go sign up for it right now…I’ll wait ☺️

So, now that you know about these free nursing study guides, what’s the best way to use them? Great question! After all, the last thing you need is one more worksheet to do in all your extra “free time” ??? If you’re going to spend your time on it, you want to make sure that you get results!

These study guides are not meant to be simply read (and highlighted) like a textbook. They are designed to help you use active learning strategies (NOT passive) so that it will be easier to understand AND remember the most important nursing information for the long-term.

I recommend that you go through each study guide 3 times, approaching it a little bit differently each time. But before I explain the details, first let’s decide…

Which Study Guide Should I Start With?

Start with the basics…literally.  Each topic available has a free nursing study guide that reviews the “basics” for that topic.  For the most part, the “basics” means Anatomy & Physiology.  But don’t get scared! It is essential to understand the A&P if you are really going to understand a nursing topic

Why start with Anatomy & Physiology?

But if you already brain dumped your A&P knowledge, don’t worry…it’s not as tough to get it back as you might think! In fact, I show you exactly how to do that in the How to Study in Nursing School mini-course. So if you didn’t sign-up yet, seriously…go do it now!!

After all, there is not much point in trying to understand a disease process if you don’t understand the underlying A&P. You’re just wasting your time memorizing a bunch of symptoms that don’t make logical sense. And over time, all of these fuzzy symptoms gradually start to blend together. The next thing you know, it’s almost time to take NCLEX, but you’re panicking. You “feel like” you know all of the info (you DID study it and pass the class, after all…), but you’re still getting too many NCLEX-style questions wrong…and you can’t figure out why.

Please, please…don’t put yourself through that experience!

Even if you think you already know the A&P, it won’t hurt to start with the Basics study guides anyway.  That way, if you really DO know your A&P, it won’t take long to whip through it. In fact, it will be a nice, casual review. But if it turns out that you’re a little shaky on the details…well, it’s much better to find out now rather than later.

How do I pick which body system to start studying?

As long as you’re starting with the Basics, it doesn’t matter too much which topic you choose. If you’re currently studying Respiratory system diseases in your nursing class, then go with that. If you’re independently reviewing before NCLEX or after a failed class…just pick a topic and get started.

But if you really want my recommendation, I say start with the topic that scares you the most! That’s why I usually start my tutoring students with Endocrine Basics. I do this because most nursing students see the word “endocrine” and started shaking in terror.  However, I’ve learned through my tutoring experiences that most of that “endocrine fear” boils down to a fuzzy understanding of the endocrine glands and hormones. Once students get that part understood and memorized, the fear is gone.

Next, go through the Study Guide 3 times

First Study Guide Attempt

Once you’ve chosen a Basics study guide to work with, it’s time to practice thinking like a nurse! Start answering the study guide questions from memory. Remember, this is basic information that you should have hidden in your head somewhere. If you can’t remember it, then just answer the best you can. Feel free to put parts of words (even just a first letter!) if that’s all that you can remember.

Second Study Guide Attempt

After you’ve exhausted your own knowledge, you’re ready to reference your textbook. The second time you go through the study guide, focus on checking your answers from the first pass, and then looking up the answers that you completely forgot.

Third Study Guide Attempt

By this point, you should feel pretty confident about the answers on your study guide. So, for the third pass…look at the Your Nursing Tutor answer key! The answer key obviously won’t be word-for-word the same as your answers, but the concepts should be the same. This will be another good exercise for reviewing the A&P, because you will have to compare and evaluate if what you wrote is the  equivalent of what is on the answer key. If your answers are completely different (or if you can’t decide whether they’re close enough), then you’re probably not understanding the material as well as you thought you did, and you need more A&P review for sure.

What to do after the Study Guide

After finishing the study guide, you’re in a GREAT position to seek out more help, if necessary. Now is the time to ask questions and get clarification from teachers, classmates, or tutors. As a bonus, they will be more willing to help you because you can show them the effort you’ve already put in trying to learn the topic yourself.

It will also be easier for them to help you, because you’ll be able to ask them specific questions about what you don’t understand. For example, when a student comes to me and says “I don’t understand Cardiac,” where do I even start? (That’s a trick question…I always start with the A&P ?) But if they come to me and ask, “Could you explain a little more about cyanotic heart defects?” Now that’s a question I can clearly help them with.


So, to review.  When using the Your Nursing Tutor study guides:

  1. Answer from memory (and write it down)
  2. Check your answers in your textbook, and look up anything you didn’t know (and write it down)
  3. Compare your answers to the Your Nursing Tutor answer key

After you’ve finished these 3 steps for any Basics study guide topic, feel free to move on to other topics in that category. For example, if you decide to do Neuro Basics, then try out ICP next!

And one more note. These “rules” for using the Your Nursing Tutor study guides do have a few exceptions. If you find a study guide that is an exception, you will see special instructions at the beginning of that study guide to tell you exactly how to do that particular study guide. Be on the look out for those instructions.

I hope this gives you some guidance on the best way to use the Your Nursing Tutor study guides. Want a suggestion for your next steps? Read about the best way to Study for Nursing school!

Leave a comment below telling me which topic you want me to ADD to my study guides!

(Originally published May 24, 2010; Updated October 15, 2018)

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