Evidence-based nursing (EBN) requires thinking reflectively and using clinical inquiry to answer clinical questions. For students to be successful in passing the NCLEX-RN, they must apply these same skills in multiple-choice (MC) tests.
How can faculty members help students be successful test takers? What contributes to testing errors on MC tests? As Ireland stated, "evidence-based nursing[horizontal ellipsis] uses problem solving methods to integrate the best research evidence with client preferences, values, and clinician expertise."
New information about pacing strategies, decision trees and teaching critical thinking using EBN, active learning, and concept mapping are just a few of the new research-based initiatives. When identifying the impact of test anxiety on nursing students, studies found that students exhibiting high levels of anxiety had their test performance adversely affected and their ability to learn impeded. Three areas have been identified to improve NCLEX-RN performance: knowledge base, anxiety control, and test-taking skills.
Moving students from memorization to experiential learning can also improve the student's ability to critically think.4 Individual faculty advisors are able to identify academic concerns, testing anxiety, and outside factors impeding learning ability.
Student success on tests have been shown to be influenced by pacing strategies.
Age, experience as a licensed practical nurse, gender, personality, and life issues were not predictors of NCLEX-RN success, whereas GPA and hours of study before the test were reliable predictors of NCLEX-RN success. Research in test taking has identified some important concepts to help nursing students be successful.
Instructors recognize that students must be prepared to take the NCLEX-RN but that the priorities for the faculty are not to teach to the test but to teach so that the student is prepared to take the test. Critical thinking has become the focal point for the NCLEX-RN.7 When the former director of the NCSBN was interviewed in 2008, she stressed that nursing knowledge will always be important but performance and priority setting have become more sophisticated.
There are 3 areas identified in the literature to guide faculty members in helping their students be successful on the NCLEX: content mastery, test anxiety, and test-taking skills.
Critical decision making is the basis for professional nursing and is measured by the NCLEX-RN. A major challenge of nurse educators is to prepare entry-level practitioners for successful completion of this examination by developing critical thinking and critical synthesis skills.
By implementing an evidence-based plan that addresses content knowledge, test anxiety, and test-taking skills, nurse educators can promote student success. Incorporating evidence-based strategies allows nursing faculty to promote a positive learning environment with positive student outcomes.