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Lecturers in the hot seat-insider tips for nursing students

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Advice on how to achieve the best grades, from those in the know

If you ever wonder what’s really asked of you in your exams, assignments and life as a student nurse, wonder no more. Caroline Stacey spoke to two lecturers and a final year student to debunk the myths

What makes an A* grade assignment?

“Apart from needing to be well written, they need to become familiar with the style of writing associated with nursing and the social sciences. There is a body of knowledge which underpins the profession, the students’ critical analysis must be presented in this style. I would advise reading social science and nursing journals to get a feel for it.” Cate Wood, Lecturer, School of Health and Social Care at Bournemouth University

Can you tell us a little about how students can best manage their time?

“I’m going to do a Kirsty and Phil thing here: Plan Plan Plan. Students need to juggle work, university assignments, placements, family. It’s a lot of commitments so they have to be able to prioritise that with deadlines. The need to be having conversations with their family and friends, fitting things in as and when they can.” Gareth Partington, Senior Lecturer of Adult Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University Campus Suffolk

Tell us about the most common exam pitfall.

“A lack of planning. Plan each answer before you start writing as it’s easy to get lost otherwise. Read the whole exam paper first then allocate the time given according to the marks you will receive. I’d also suggest re-reading what you write, it’s about planning your time effectively to make sure you’re able to do this.” Robert Moran, Final year Nursing Student, University Campus Suffolk

What about pitfalls when it comes to completing their assignments?

“Deviating from what was asked. Some questions are admittedly vague but once you’ve worked out what’s been asked of you, the rest should come. Concentrate on structure, grammar, flow, the devil’s in the detail. They should also think about originality, I personally like nothing better than a student who takes a different angle.” Gareth Partington, Senior Lecturer of Adult Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University Campus Suffolk

How would you recommend students approach revision?

“It’s so easy to run out of time but it’s so worth getting into the habit of spending plenty of time revising. It’s about finding an approach which works for you, be that study groups, study buddies or lone working, and sticking with it once you have.” Robert Moran, Final year Nursing Student, University Campus Suffolk

What about tips for top scoring exam answers?

“Making sure they’ve answered the question, depth is important. I’m looking for them to have the confidence to pick out the bits they know best and to go into depth and detail with those parts.” Gareth Partington, Senior Lecturer of Adult Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University Campus Suffolk

What extra-curricular activities would you recommend?

“Anything that helps develop their ability to critically think; debating societies, critical thinking clubs, study days. Often nursing students get focussed too much on nursing instead of useful, transferable learning skills and if it’s not directly related to nursing we’re not interested.” Gareth Partington, Senior Lecturer of Adult Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University Campus Suffolk

What insider tip do you wish you’d known throughout your own studies?

“Independent learning. A lot of students find it hard that they need to guide their own learning and that we as academics are here to facilitate. They must be autonomous and make the best use of the heaps of support available to them. Guide your own success, it’s down to you as a student. University academics and support staff are there to give you as much advice as they’re able to but only if you ask for it.” Cate Wood, Lecturer, School of Health and Social Care at Bournemouth University

What one overall top tip would you give nursing students to achieve success?

“Based on two standout students I’ve come across in my career; maintain enthusiasm, remain engaged and keep a positive outlook throughout the three years. With many students their initial enthusiasm, if it’s evident at all, wains. So my tip would be to maintain enthusiasm and get involved with everything you can.” Gareth Partington, Senior Lecturer of Adult Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University Campus Suffolk

Any other advice our students might benefit from?

“Make the most of the staff while you have access to them. Library staff should be students’ best friends. Use them to gain access to academic writing and literature searching workshops. Make the most of other students while they’re around too, read each other’s work before handing it in. It will help with ideas on how to make it better and also improve the student’s ability to think critically.” Cate Wood, Lecturer, School of Health and Social Care at Bournemouth University

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