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We recently talked to a student who had failed the NREMT exam several times. When asked how he’d prepared between attempts, he said what most students say: “I hit the books.”

Hitting the Books: What Does That Really Mean?

It turns out students mean a wide variety of things when they say they hit the books. And many of those things don’t turn out to be particularly beneficial when it comes to NREMT preparation. We’re not saying books are a bad way to prepare—Dan has written several textbooks, after all!—but often, students just go back and read the same stuff over and over again.

If re-reading the textbook is your primary NREMT strategy, you can do better. Here’s why:

  • Retention of material from passive reading is notoriously low.
  • Reading may help you remember facts, but the NREMT doesn’t ask you for facts. It asks you to apply multiple facts to complex scenarios. You should have learned all your facts before class ended. NREMT prep is about application.

How to Use Your Textbook for NREMT Prep

When used strategically, your textbook can help you prepare for exams. Knowing how and when to “hit the books” will make your study time efficient and dynamic.

Here are four important ways to use your textbook that won’t waste your valuable study time:

  • Read in short bites. Choose one topic per sitting (e.g., anaphylaxis or suctioning). If you want to brush up on another topic, come back later.
  • Engage in active reading. After reading a section, challenge yourself to write out a summary of what you just read. If you have additional questions, write them down too.
  • Look at the end of the chapters for exercises that require you to apply the material. For example, the Emergency Care EMT book has a feature in every chapter called “Critical Decision Making.” Whatever book you have, find the application or critical thinking feature and use it to test your knowledge.
  • If you’ve used an app or other exam prep product and have identified areas where your knowledge is weak, go back to your book and reread the corresponding sections, following the advice above.

If You Already Failed the NREMT

If you were a few points shy of passing and feel good about what you know, then you can use the textbook in the ways listed above to help you on your next attempt. Make sure you get some practice with NREMT-style questions too. (Our 25 Free Practice NREMT Questions is a good place to start.)

If you were more than a few points away from passing or feel overwhelmed by the exam, it’s unlikely re-reading the book is going to move the needle for you. The first thing you need to do is identify why you failed. The most common reason is not being able to apply your knowledge to the types of scenarios the NREMT gives you.

The solution is to use NREMT-style practice questions. But don’t just answer and move on. For each question, pause to identify why you did or didn’t get it right. You may start to find patterns in the types of questions you miss, which can further direct your study time.

Our Recommendation for NREMT-Style Practice:

Our famous EMT, AEMT and Paramedic PASS apps are a little more challenging than the NREMT itself. We did that on purpose. If you can succeed on PASS practice exams, you can succeed on the NREMT. Check out the PASS apps.


Know When to Use the Book – and Know When You Need More

The textbook is an essential foundation for acquiring knowledge during your EMT, AEMT or paramedic course. Used properly, it can make a big difference in your exams. But most students get the most out of their textbook during class. When class is over and the NREMT is looming, getting practice with critical thinking makes a bigger impact than re-reading.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Alexander Korkizko says:

    I would just like to say thank you for your amazing app. It helped me pass the NREMT exam the FIRST time. All you really have to do to pass is study your butt of and know your stuff. Simple as that.

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