You would have to look very hard to find someone that’ll argue the fact that respiratory therapy students get stressed out easily during school. There is literally pressure from day one about making good grades, finishing all your projects and homework, and showing up for clinical rotations on time.

Needless to say, life definitely isn’t easy for respiratory therapy students. That’s we are going to discuss some of the best tips for surviving Respiratory Therapy school.

While it’s impossible to eliminate 100% of that stress, there are a few things we can do in order to decrease it quite a bit. Let’s take a look at some of the ways to help make your life easier while in RT school. 

Here are Some of My Best Tips for Surviving Respiratory Therapy School:

1. Know why you’re here.

What’s the reason you decided to go to respiratory therapy school in the first place? I’d bet it’s something along the lines of: You want to better yourself. You want to enter a career that’s fulfilling, and one that will enable you to provide for your family. 

You must figure out YOUR reason because that’s what will motivate you to keep pushing when the going gets rough. So know your WHY and always keep that in the back of your mind.

2. Study a little bit every day.

You should strive to do some type of respiratory therapy studying every single day while in the program. Diving into the books for huge chunks of time is necessary sometimes, but that’s not always the case. Often times, it’s much easier to break up the material and study in small spurts rather than trying to tackle it all at once. Your brain will learn more of the information by consuming it every day, even if it’s just a little bit.  

3. Prepare your books and materials.

Make sure to prepare your books, notes, and all other materials the night before. Whether it’s for class or clinicals, having your things organized and ready to go will make your life easier. 

4. Don’t skip classes.

I mean, this should go without saying, but it’s very important that you attend each class so you don’t miss something important. 90% of the battle is just showing up. If you need to miss a class for a legitimate reason, be sure to ask a classmate to take notes for you or possibly record the lecture so that you can take your own notes.

5. Buy your textbooks as early as possible.

This way you won’t be running around like a chicken with its head cut off at the last minute trying to find the required books that you need. And, if you’re a super overachiever, you can get a head start on your studies.

6. Don’t procrastinate.

In other words, don’t put things off. Always start your assignments as soon as you are given the necessary details. This will help you avoid lots of stress later on. There is nothing worse than trying to finish your work in a hurry, or worse, losing points for submitting a late assignment. Simply starting early and avoiding procrastination could be the difference between a pass and a fail grade.

7. Take lots of notes.

I mean a lot of notes, the more the better. You will obviously use them for the exam you will soon take, but you can also keep them to study for your final exams, and then even for the TMC Exam. Get in the habit of taking good notes now because once you develope this skill, it’s something you will use over and over again in the future. 

8. Rewrite your notes.

This tactic may not be for everyone, but science has proven that just by rewriting your notes, you can almost double the amount of information your brain is able to remember.

There are many ways to take notes in class. You could hand write them, type, or use a voice recorder, but whatever you choose, your notes are of no real use if you do nothing with them. It is a good idea to revise and rewrite your notes as soon as you get home. This helps to reinforce what you learned and also gives you a higher chance of retaining the information.

9. Stay organized.

If your stuff is cluttered, then your brain is also going to be cluttered. This goes for your notes, backpack, and even your schedule as well. Taking a few minutes to be organized can help you stay on top of upcoming exams, due dates for assignments, and clinical rotations. And more importantly, you will also be able to see when you have some free time to have a few drinks hang out with your friends.

10. Crush it one night per week.

Try to set aside one night per week with absolutely no distractions that you can sit down, focus, and study your tail off. This weekly intense study session will help you get into the routine so you’ll be ready when it’s time to start preparing for your board exams. 

11. Ask for help.

If you don’t know something, it’s okay to ask for help! See if your friends or classmates can help you out. If not, then usually your instructor will be happy to. I’m a Registered Respiratory Therapist myself and I still have to ask for help sometimes. And that’s perfectly okay! Always accept help when it’s available.

12. Don’t stress over the little things.

If it isn’t important then don’t worry about it, you can deal with it at a later date. Focus on the task at hand and remember not to worry about the things that are out of your control. Control what you can control, move on, and don’t stress over the little things.

13. Form a study group.

If you find yourself struggling to study on your own, you could always join a study group or form one yourself. Study groups are an excellent source of support and a great way to form connections with your classmates. This isn’t for everyone. Personally, I preferred to study on my own but some of my classmates had great results from studying together in a group. Do whatever works best for you.

14. Cramming is okay.. sometimes.

I may receive some criticism for this one, but sometimes in school, you’re just going to have to cram for a test the night before. That’s just part of it. I know in my program, we had multiple tests every week, along with clinicals, homework, and projects, among other assignments. 

So yeah, sometimes you just have to cram the night before. This isn’t a good long-term strategy to retain the information, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

15. Get some rest.

What I mean is, don’t stay up all night before class binge-watching ‘Orange is the New Black’. It’s already hard enough to focus and pay attention during class. Add sleepiness to the mix and it’s darn near impossible. Go to bed at a decent hour and your body and mind will thank you that next day.

16. Write down the critical information first.

This tip applies to your tests in RT school, as well as the board exam. Look over the most critical and important information minutes before the test, then as soon as it begins, write down this important information on your scratch paper so you will have it to use throughout the remainder of the exam. This is a great test-taking strategy I used that helped me earn A’s on most exams in RT school. 

17. Take your time.

Slow it down, my friend! You won’t get bonus points for being the first person to finish the exam. Take your time on each and every question. Read each answer carefully and thoroughly and make sure you fully understand the question before answering it.

18. Don’t know it? Skip it.

When you come to a question that you don’t know the answer to, don’t spend too much time trying to work it out. Just bookmark it and move on to the next question. You can always come back to the ones you skip after you have answered the rest of the questions.

This is also one of my many hacks for taking the TMC Exam from our course, Hacking the TMC Board Exam.

19. Still don’t know the answer? Pick C.

This is scientifically proven to work 100% of the time. Just kidding. This is just something I always do. I keep my guesses consistent by choosing the same answer on each of the questions that I absolutely do not know.

Now, for the most part, you should be able to narrow the choices down to two choices, then you can select the best of the two. This tip ONLY applies to the questions that you just absolutely do not have a clue about.

20. Read back through your exam.

Once you have finished your test, don’t be in such a hurry to hand it in. Take a moment to go over it, make sure that you have answered all of the questions and you are happy with the answers. It’s worth spending a few extra minutes of your time to make sure that you didn’t make any boneheaded mistakes.

21. Don’t change your answers.

After you finish your test and you are going back over it for one last review before submitting, do not change any of your answers. I’m a little indifferent to this one because there were times when I did change some of my answers and it worked out well for me. But more times than not, it did more harm than good after changing my answers because usually, your first instinct is normally spot on.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the best tips to get through respiratory therapy school, you should be able to lower your stress levels and earn better grades on your exams.

Although stress is frustrating, it can be useful to give you that push of motivation that you need in order to get things done. Whether you are still considering a career in respiratory therapy or you are halfway through your program, follow these twenty-one steps to help survive respiratory therapy school and you’ll be on your way to graduation before you know it.

Bonus Tip: Don’t try to go at it alone, because there’s no need for you to! It is our job to help you pass RT school and then pass the board exams.

So definitely take advantage of the resources that we have provided for you here on this website. To start, you can download a copy of our Free Cheatsheet.


The following are the sources that were used while doing research for this article: