A Guide to Preparing for Nursing School Exams
Nursing students will eventually encounter a certification exam applicable to any number of available nursing programs. The most common nursing career options include a nursing aide, LPN, or RN program. Nursing graduates come to learn that a formal nursing education begins outside of the classroom. Therefore, it's important to fully grasp and master the techniques learned in one of the many thousands of nursing schools in existence. While online nursing programs may prove alluring, conflicts between traditionally trained nursing graduates from a regular LPN program and a graduate from an online LPN course may present problems for certain applicants. In fact, online RN programs prevent full-scale, intensive training, which may present problems when visiting the certification table. A passing grade on the certified licensure examination will open the gates to nursing occupations and other various nurse job opportunities.
Nursing students must familiarize themselves the American Psychology Association’s (APA (PDF)) style of writing, especially when it comes to nursing practice papers. Nurses are responsible for documenting physical health assessments for each patient under their care. This ensures that the facilities competent staffing addresses problems involved with the patient under acute or critical care. Without the proper documentation of the patient, the facility will not know how to address any further problems if new or existing conditions persist. Critical-care facilities rely on thorough documentation to assure its patients remain under the best care it can provide. General considerations for APA style regarding nursing resource citations include: alphabetical citations by the first author's last name, all secondary lines from the first point of entry must have an indentation of five spaces, allowing entries to have double spaces with no extra space between nursing sources.
Prospective nursing graduates should find the test plan, or exam blueprint, included in the certification program's exam handbook. The exam blueprint dissects the exam's content and provides statistical data outlining the assigned percentage. This indicates how the subject matter is weighted on the certification exam. Prospective nursing graduates should familiarize themselves with the patient problems listed under a subsection entitled “Clinical Judgment.” This subsection includes signs, symptoms, laboratory values, blood gases, potential medications, and adverse side effects. The outline accentuates the procedures and general nursing interventions related to the patient's problems. Conduct a self-assessment to see which problems need special attention in order to improve future test scores.
Prospective nursing graduates should get acquainted with the exam reference list, or the “Study Bibliography,” as noted in the certification program's exam handbook. The “Study Bibliography” consists of a reference list used by item writers to confirm the correct answers to the exam questions. Locate the laboratory values and medications directly related to a particular condition using the listed resources in the “Study Bibliography.”
Sample Exam Questions
Nursing examinations require more application than analysis or recall-oriented exams. Some may require the test-taker to provide and apply the information to a real-life patient situation without stating the problem. For example, a question might specify vital signs, symptoms, and laboratory values for a specific person and then ask the nursing student what he or she would anticipate and do in that particular situation. This ensures that the students can identify the potential problems displayed by the patient. Since nurses rely on their knowledge gained throughout the nursing program, the test must reflect and test that knowledge in the same way clinical settings provide no room for error. Real-life patients suffering from a heart attack cannot tell the nurse the actual problem. In fact, nurses can only read the patient's vital signs and symptoms and then determine what the patient is facing. Practicing the application of information to patient situations will prove beneficial when preparing for the exam. Check out these sample test questions and this RN examination study guide for more information.
Conduct a Self-Assessment Exam (SAE)
A number of organizations provide online self-assessment exams, including the CCRN and PCCN exams. Each self-assessment exam provides sample questions written by the same volunteer staff who wrote the certification exam content. Each SAE test question includes explanation for correct and incorrect answers. These guides will help prospective nursing graduates practice application-oriented exams.
Examination Review Classes
Similar to preparatory standardized tests classes, nursing exam review courses will help prospective nursing graduates to pass their licensure exams. Various companies offer these courses throughout the United States. Students may also opt to attend the annual AACN's NTI Conference or the biannual Trends Conference, both scheduled in May. These preparatory courses provide the necessary hands-on, application-oriented practice that potential nursing graduates need in order to pass their examinations.
Socially adept students should form a small exam study group for the sole purpose of sharing ideas and providing feedback in regards to their test performance. Candidates who share their resources and knowledge with each other can help reinforce the information needed to pass their examinations. Consider scheduling a practice test at the same time, arriving at the testing center together, while supporting each other every step of the way. Avoid detracting from the coursework and maintain focus on passing the nursing exams.
Certified Nurses as Mentors
Seek out certified nurses to find out what study tools and tips they used to pass their nursing exams. Schedule a time to shadow a nurse who works in a critical-care unit for exposure to various patient types. Talk to the critical-care manager or educator and ask for assistance in providing a clinical setting within the same facility or office. Clinical settings will help improve decision-making skills, the key to passing nursing examinations.
Test Score Reports
Graduates retaking the nursing examinations should review the original score report received after taking the exam and then identify the areas needing the most improvement. Focus all studies on these vulnerable areas, including the most heavily weighted subject areas listed within the test plan (PDF). Plan the course of study in conjunction with weight of the subject matter. Always factor in time and practicality into the equation while preparing for these nursing exams.