Multiple choice is the most popular format for most standardized tests and allows testing on a large amount of information in a relatively short period of time. While many dread this type of exam, there are advantages to it that include ease in grading and the ability to test the knowledge base of a person with less developed writing skills or problems with expressive language.
Certification Exam Do’s
Do read each question and response choice so that you mark your answer only after you are sure you understand the concept being tested in the question. Answering a question quickly could lead you to choose a response that contains correct information about a given condition but might not be the correct or best response for that particular question.
Do be wary of options that include extreme words, such as “always,” “never,” “all,” “best,” “worst,” or “none.” Seldom is anything absolute in healthcare.
Do recall and jot down a few facts about the information if you are really stumped. Doing this might be enough to facilitate retrieval of information you need to respond to the question. Your testing site will provide writing materials that you can use during the examination. You will be required to turn these in prior to exiting the testing site.
Do remember that if the answers cover a wide range of numerical values, a value at or near the middle is often correct.
Do make sure that the extra information usually found in a particularly long answer is pertinent to the question and not simply there to distract you.
Do read the shortest answer with care before you reject it. While the short option gives little detail, there may be enough information in it to make it correct.
Do notice if two answer choices look similar. In most cases, one of these items is the correct answer.
Do note when two answers convey the same information or have the same meaning. Usually both are wrong.
Do read each query as if it were a true-false question, eliminating all the answers that are false.
Do expect to answer about 60-70 or more multiple-choice questions per hour. This means you have less than a minute, on average, to spend on each question. Some questions will take only a few seconds, while others will require more time for thought. Check yourself at 15or 20minute intervals to determine if you are progressing at an acceptable rate.
Do expect that the topics you studied will be presented in random order.
Certification Exam Don’ts
Don’t forget that the computer-based test sites accommodate the needs of a number of different test candidates. Although the sites are generally quiet locations, people will be moving in and out of the test area. Use earphones or earplugs that are provided by the testing center if you are easily distracted.
Don’t be misled by the close-to-correct choice that often precedes the correct answer.
Don’t assume that an answer is correct because this is what you have observed in your current nursing practice. Again, let evidence-based practice guide your choice of response.
Don’t dismiss an option because it seems too obvious and simple to be correct. If you are well prepared for the exam, some of the questions will appear quite straightforward.
Don’t pick an answer just because it seems to make sense. You are answering from your knowledge of the exam content, not from your general knowledge and logic alone.
Don’t be taken in by the use of unfamiliar terms in the question. If you have studied the subject, few words should be unknown.
Don’t get bogged down on one question if you are unsure or stumped about an answer. A better strategy is to move on and finish all the questions you can answer and come back later to process the problematic questions. The computer-based tests have a mechanism to highlight questions you want to revisit.
Don’t change an answer unless you misinterpreted the question. If necessary, when looking over the questions again, change an answer only if you can logically justify the change.
Don’t respond to self-defeating thoughts that can creep into your mind, such as, “I did not study enough,” or “this test is too hard.” Recognize the time and energy you have put into your preparation.
Test time. Whether you are preparing for a certification test or a hiring test, the thought of an examination strikes fear in many people’s hearts. The fear is so common that psychologists even have a diagnosis called test anxiety. However, testing does not have to be that way. Evaluations are simply an instrument to determine if you were effectively taught the information intended, or if you have the knowledge base necessary to do the job. That’s all! If the purpose of testing is so simple, then why do so many people become so anxious when test time comes? Several factors play into test anxiety and why so many people have such fears of testing. However, these can be overcome. With the assistance of this guide, you too can be better prepared and calmer on examination day.
Test obstacles are issues that complicate test taking. If we view test taking as simply an avenue to determine the individual’s comprehension of the material, then test obstacles are barriers to the process. There are many issues that may create test obstacles. We will discuss a few.
Mental test obstacles can sometimes be the greatest hurdles to overcome. Mental preparation for a test can be as important as intellectual preparation. So often, many
people have failed an exam before they even begin. Issues that arise out of mental obstacles are:
• feeling unprepared
• feeling incompetent
• fear of taking tests
• fear of failure
Overcoming these obstacles can be your greatest asset when testing. Not allowing yourself to be beaten before entering the testing area can make the difference between success and failure on the exam.
Improper rest, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise can be some of the physical obstacles to overcome. When preparing for tests, always ensure that you get plenty of rest the night before, have a well-balanced meal before the test, and ensure you have a regiment of proper exercise. Physical obstacles are typically the easiest to overcome; however, they are the most overlooked.
The emotional obstacles are often the most vague with which to deal. Much like mental obstacles, emotional obstacles can cause a person to do poorly on an exam well before they enter the room. Stress related issues that can interfere with test taking are:
• family concerns
• work-related concerns
• financial concerns
Emotional issues can cause a person to lose focus, cloud decision-making skills, and become distracted. Overcoming these obstacles requires a conscious effort to ensure that emotions do not interfere with the test.
PREPARING TO TAKE A TEST
Before the Test
1. Start preparing for the examination. For certification exams, start the first day of class.
2. For certification classes, plan reviews as part of your regular weekly study schedule; a significant amount of time should be used to review the entire material for the class.
3. Reviews are much more than reading and reviewing class assignments. You need to read over your class notes and ask yourself questions on the material you don’t know well. (If your notes are relatively complete and well organized, you may find that very little rereading of the textbook for detail is needed.) You may want to create a study group for these reviews to reinforce your learning.
4. Review for several short periods rather than one long period. You will find that you are able to retain information better and get less fatigued.
5. Turn the main points of each topic or heading into questions and check to see if the answers come to you quickly and correctly. Do not try to guess the types of questions; instead, concentrate on understanding the material.
During the Test
1. Preview the test before you answer anything. This gets you thinking about the material. Make sure to note the point value of each question. This will give you some ideas on how best to allocate your time.
2. Quickly calculate how much time you should allow for each question. A general rule of thumb is that you should be able to answer 50 questions per hour. This averages out to one question every 1.2 seconds. However, make sure you clearly understand the amount of time you have to complete the test.
3. Read the directions CAREFULLY. (Can more than one answer be correct? Are you penalized for guessing?) Never assume that you know what the directions say.
4. Answer the easy questions first. This will give you confidence and a feel for the flow of the test. Only answer the ones for which you are sure of the correct answer.
5. Go back to the difficult questions. The questions you have answered so far may provide some indication of the answers.
6. Answer all questions (unless you are penalized for wrong answers).
7. Generally, once the test begins, the proctor can ONLY reread the question. He/she cannot provide any further information.
8. Circle key words in difficult questions. This will force you to focus on the central point.
9. Narrow your options on the question to two answers. Many times, a question will be worded with two answers that are obviously inaccurate, and two answers that are close. However, only one is correct. If you can narrow your options to two, guessing may be easier. For example, if you have four options on a question, then you have a
25% chance of getting the question correct when guessing. If you can narrow the options to two answers, then you increase to a 50% chance of selecting the correct choice.
10. Use all of the time allotted for the test. If you have extra time, review your answers for accuracy. However, be careful of making changes on questions of which you are not sure. People often change the answers to questions of which they were not sure, when their first guess was correct.
After the Test
Relax. The test has been turned in. You can spend hours second-guessing what you could have done, but the test is complete. For certification tests, follow up to see if you can find out what objectives you did well and what areas you could improve. Review your test if you can; otherwise, try to remap the areas of question and refocus your studying.
Test taking does not have to be overwhelming. The obstacles to testing can be overcome and conquered through solid strategies and preparation. Initiating an effective plan, following it, and mentally preparing for a test can be your greatest tools to test success.
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