Certification Exam Test Taking Skills


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Skills for passing nursing certification exams - It\'s not all about what you know!

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  • To start us off lets spend a few minutes discussing how to prepare for a certification exam. In the end, what separates a successful exam applicant and an unsuccessful one is – knowing how to prepare for and take the test. There is an entire body of work around test taking skills. I’ve condensed them down to a few key points.
  • The first thing to understand is that a certification exam is based on a universal knowledge foundation for the specialty area. Questions are based on recognized resources available to an examinee. We have a reference list of those key resources in your handouts. What this means is that you must be careful not to base your answers on the specifics of your particular worksite or policies/procedures that might be different in a different facility. You need to think in universal principles and their application. Basically, the exam is about nursing principles applied to our particular patient population in the care environment of corrections.
  • Remember that exam questions have differences from your clinical practice. Unlike your clinical practice, there is only one best answer. The questions are set up for an ideal situation – in a real clinical situation you might not be able to be ideal. Although nursing values creativity – this isn’t the time to be brilliant – the exam is looking for conformity to accepted clinical practice principles. So, don’t get creative and read too far into the answer options. The questions are based on a high level of certainty. The questions are not set up for you to take risks.
  • Over the course of study in the area of exam performance three key areas have emerged which correlate with examinee performance. The majority of your performance is based on your knowledge base – this is as it should be. However, look at how much of the exam result is based on test taking skills and personal issues. We will wrap up the day discussing personal issues in test-taking. But first-up, lets take a few minutes to talk about how to develop your knowledge base and some skills in test-taking itself.
  • The test blueprint can be found in the application packet as well as on the NCCHC website (address on page 2). In your package on page #____ is a self-evaluation tool for you to determine which areas you need to focus more heavily on during your study time. You may want to work through the evaluation during the day as each speaker deals with a particular content area. This will help with the creation of a study plan. You need to create space in your schedule and space in your environment for your study. Get serious and map out a timeline to the exam date with regular periods of study. Consider it a training plan…than work the plan.
  • Think back to your college or nursing school experience to remember the methods that were the most helpful to you for studying facts. Did you use flashcards or cribsheets? I was an adult student with a family and a house to manage when I was in nursing school in the early 80’s. I would make flashcards to review while ironing (that was back when I ironed!) and would try to recall important facts while doing repetative tasks like vacuuming or dishwashing. If you are an auditory learner, create audio files of important content areas and listen while driving or on the treadmill at the gym. Consider all the ways you can slip in little bits of review. Frequent small review sessions have been found to be very fruitful for memory work.
  • Pair down the content to the most important facts you need to know – quality over quantity will reap big benefits Consider using memory aids such as Acronyms ( ATM machine: automated teller machine machine; CHF – Congestive Heart Failure ), Acrostics (Mom Carried Nell Every Place She Went – Cast Check – Movement, Color, Numbness, Edema, Pulse, Sensation, Warmth), ABCs (Airway, Breathing, Circulation), visual imagery (COPD vs Emphasema), or music to help you. The reference I provide on test taking by Hazzard is especially helpful with ideas in this area – and I have borrowed heavily from their work.
  • You will not have time to study everything so be wise about what to focus on. Use the self-evaluation tool and the review in this course to fine-tune your plan to focus on your week areas. Concentrate on learning principles and patterns of action. You want to be able to decide a best course of action rather than merely tell facts
  • Some good ways to do this are to consider actual or imagined cases and apply the facts to them. Group discussions in study groups are also helpful. You might make some friends here at the certification review and you can commit to each other to email regularly to discuss material. Practice tests are also great. We’ll do a few questions today and hope to have more materials available to you from the NCCHC website in the future. But, you can always create your own and share them among yourselves.
  • Think about your study tactics. You want to space out repition of the material. This is how you develop memory and recall. It habituates the path in your brain to the informaiton and makes it more readily accessible when you need it. Stay rested and consider the best time of day for you. When I was young – night was best. Now my brain is fried by 5pm and mid-morning is my most alert and productive time period for effective study. Be sure to factor in brief breaks to clear your mind and recharge Practice recall during odd moments. Focus on application of material to practical situations
  • Lets spend our remaining time talking about test taking skills themselves. You need to become an expert at the 4 option multiple choice question. Be sure you have identified the purpose of the test question and the key words. Know the components of a test question. This next slide shows them.
  • The stem is the beginning statement or question. The key response is the correct answer while the distracters are the three incorrect options. All questions on the certification exam are 4-choice multiple choice questions with only 1 correct answer. Here is an example
  • Stem Key – B Distractors – A, C, D
  • Here is a way to look at questions. Read the question through to see if you recall the information needed to correctly answer. Then read it through each response option to see if you recognize the correct answer. If you are still unclear which is the correct answer, look at each option to eliminate any that are clearly wrong. That increases your odds. Then make an educated guess from the remaining options keeping in mind that these are not going to be ‘trick’ questions.
  • Stem Key – B Distractors – A, C, D What are the key words in the stem? – tuberculosis and safety Why would these distractors by incorrect? A – Patient confidentiality issue B- Would still be infectious this soon C- This is the safest course D – Others would need to know for safety purposes
  • So, in conclusion, consider this like you might for training for an athletic event such as a marathon. You need to seriously consider your strengths and weaknesses, create a priority list of the content you need to work on, map out your training plan with sufficient time to develop your week areas while spending less on those areas you are strong in. Our day here together should get you on your way! MORE TEST TAKING TIPS IN HANDOUT ON PAGE _____
  • Certification Exam Test Taking Skills

    1. 1. Test Taking Skills Presented by: Lorry Schoenly, PhD, RN, CCHP
    2. 2. Certification Exams <ul><li>Based upon a universal knowledge foundation </li></ul><ul><li>Items selected from generally recognized resources available to the examinee </li></ul><ul><li>Specific to the type of specialty area </li></ul>
    3. 3. Certification Exams Different from Clinical Practice <ul><li>Only one best answer </li></ul><ul><li>Ideal, not real, situation </li></ul><ul><li>Conformity rather than brilliance </li></ul><ul><li>Dealing with a high level of certainty </li></ul>
    4. 4. Exam Performance <ul><li>Knowledge Base 60%-70% </li></ul><ul><li>Test Taking Skills 25% - 30% </li></ul><ul><li>Personal Issues 10% - 15% </li></ul>
    5. 5. Developing Knowledge <ul><li>Locate the Exam Blueprint/Study Guide </li></ul><ul><li>Evaluate your degree of understanding for each section </li></ul><ul><li>Determine best study time periods </li></ul><ul><li>Create a study space with your materials and supplies </li></ul><ul><li>Create a study plan based on the time till exam date </li></ul><ul><li>Work the plan </li></ul>
    6. 6. Developing Knowledge – Fact Memory <ul><li>Flashcard </li></ul><ul><li>Crib Sheet </li></ul><ul><li>Recall during repetitive tasks </li></ul><ul><li>Audiotape </li></ul>
    7. 7. Developing Knowledge – Fact Memory <ul><li>Concentrate on quality not quantity – most important facts </li></ul><ul><li>Use memory aides </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Acronyms </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Acrostics </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>ABCs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Imaging </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Rhymes/music/links </li></ul></ul>
    8. 8. Developing Knowledge <ul><li>Focus on weak areas </li></ul><ul><li>Learn principles and patterns for application </li></ul><ul><li>Study to decide, not to tell </li></ul>
    9. 9. Developing Knowledge - Application <ul><li>Apply facts and principles to cases </li></ul><ul><li>Study Groups - Group Discussion </li></ul><ul><li>Practice Tests </li></ul>
    10. 10. Developing Knowledge – Study Tactics <ul><li>Spaced repetition is key to learning </li></ul><ul><li>Sleep is important </li></ul><ul><li>Best time of day to study for you </li></ul><ul><li>Take breaks </li></ul><ul><li>Practice on recall </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on application </li></ul>
    11. 11. Test Taking Skills <ul><li>Become an expert at multiple choice questions </li></ul><ul><li>Read the direction to the questions carefully </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize the purpose of the test question </li></ul><ul><li>Identify the key word(s) in the test question </li></ul><ul><li>Recognize the components of the test question </li></ul>
    12. 12. Test Taking Skills Anatomy of a Question <ul><li>Stem </li></ul><ul><li>Key Response </li></ul><ul><li>Distracters </li></ul>
    13. 13. An inmate has just been diagnosed with infectious tuberculosis. Which action should the nurse take as a safety measure? <ul><li>Tell everyone that the inmate has tuberculosis </li></ul><ul><li>Isolate the inmate in a negative pressure room </li></ul><ul><li>Keep the inmate in population since antibiotics have been started </li></ul><ul><li>Advise only the medical staff of this inmate’s condition </li></ul>
    14. 14. Test Taking Skills – Educated Guesses <ul><li>Three Tries to Get an Answer </li></ul><ul><li>Recall Pass: Recollection </li></ul><ul><li>Selection Pass: Recognition </li></ul><ul><li>Exclusion Pass: Remainder </li></ul>
    15. 15. An inmate has just been diagnosed with infectious tuberculosis. Which action should the nurse take as a safety measure? <ul><li>Tell everyone that the inmate has tuberculosis </li></ul><ul><li>Isolate the inmate in a negative pressure room </li></ul><ul><li>Keep the inmate in population since antibiotics have been started </li></ul><ul><li>Advise only the medical staff of this inmate’s condition </li></ul>
    16. 16. Use the Test Blueprint <ul><li>Self-evaluation of strengths and weaknesses </li></ul><ul><li>Create priority content list </li></ul><ul><li>Map out a training plan for the length of time remaining </li></ul><ul><li>Consider this marathon training </li></ul>