Most nursing programs include standardized testing as a program and end-of-course evaluation method. After completion of standardized exams, many programs adhere to strict remediation policies with limited focus on preparing students for standardized exams. Making sure students are studying for these exams ahead of time is essential to their learning, ultimate success, and should be an important part of any nursing program.
When students understand and can apply the course content, they should perform well on standardized exams. It is the responsibility of nursing faculty to make sure students have all the tools and instruction necessary to be prepared for professional practice. Faculty are accountable for ensuring diagnostic content aligns with the course material. Because faculty are responsible for safeguarding student success prior to taking a standardized exam, it is imperative that faculty stress the importance of preparing for standardized exams early in the nursing program. This approach can decrease anxiety and stress for both students and faculty.
The most common practice in nursing education today is to deliver all the course content, administer the standardized exam, and remediate, excluding exam preparation. By shifting nursing education to include preparation for standardized exams in policies, students would approach the exam with more confidence. A comprehensive approach for standardized testing that includes preparation and remediation throughout the curriculum should be a best practice.
The literature abundantly supports preparing nursing students for NCLEX. Similar preparation measures used for NCLEX readiness can work for standardized course exams. Nursing faculty should require the use of educational support tools that foster active knowledge retrieval which improves long-term learning. “Every time a student retrieves knowledge, the knowledge is changed which in turn improves a student’s ability to retrieve it again in the future” (Glasgow, Dreher, & Schreiber, 2019). Adaptive solutions such as Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing (EAQ) is an excellent tool for students to use when practicing the retrieval knowledge. EAQ also provides faculty with an easy way to monitor students’ progress and performance with NCLEX-style questions.
Other things that should be included when preparing students for success on standardized exams is information on test-taking strategies. Test-taking strategies should be introduced early in the program and revisited throughout the program. Information about what to expect when taking a standardized exam should also be included. This might include the purpose of the exam, how the data is used, length of the exam, and grading expectations. Nursing faculty need to keep the conversation positive when speaking to students about all standardized exams, including NCLEX. Students value what the faculty value.
When students effectively prepare for standardized exams, they experience a decrease in anxiety. It is recommended that nursing programs include standardized exam preparation as part of the testing policy. For optimal student success, the literature supports the importance of nursing students studying and preparing for the NCLEX, the same practice of student success can be adopted for standardized exams. Since standardized exams help students prepare for the NCLEX, students and faculty should remember that standardized exam preparation is as equally important.
Glasgow, M.E., Dreher, M., & Schreiber, J. (2019). Standardized testing in nursing education: Preparing students for NCLEX-RN and practice. Journal of Professional Nursing, 35, 440-446.