5 Steps to Better Prepare Students for Licensure Exams

March 18, 2015 Kristen Hicks

The day of their licensure exam will be one of the most stressful days of your students’ lives. Some students are natural test takers and won’t have much problem with the licensure exam one way or another. But some may gain mastery of the subject areas you teach without coming away from your program prepared to take a high-stakes exam effectively – not unless you help them anyway.

It’s your job to prepare them not just for the profession they aim to perform, but also for this test that they must pass in order to be considered fit for that profession. You can take a few key steps to help give your students an edge when test day comes.

Five Steps for Better Test Prep

Preparing for licensure exams isn’t just about equipping students with the right knowledge, it’s also about providing them with the confidence they need to keep their composure in the high-stakes environment. If your students walk into that room knowing what to expect logistically, they’ll tackle the challenge with more composure and do a better job of performing in a way that shows their actual level of knowledge.

1. Make all formative exams computer based.

Computer-based testing is the norm for licensure exams. Students who spend time throughout their years in higher education taking computer-based exams will come to their certification test familiar with the process. It won’t make them any more likely to know the right answers, but it will help alleviate some of the stress on game day.

2. Tag all your exam questions with the main topic areas covered on the test.

Computer-based testing makes it easier for you to collect data on student performance throughout each semester. You already know many of the main topics and competency areas the big test will cover. As long as you take the time during exam creation to embed your questions with specific learning outcomes tied to their licensure exam, your exam analytics will give you an early warning sign into what your students need help with.

3. Tag your exam questions according to the question types commonly used on the test.

This is similar to #2, but still worth mentioning on its own. Some students struggle with certain question types more than others. You have some idea of what to expect when it comes to the formatting of the exam and the way questions will be structured, so you can work similar types of questions into your own exams. Do the same sort of tagging that you do for the subject areas here and you’ll see which students could use some extra practice with particular question types.

4. Keep your students informed on their progress.

Those exam analytics aren’t just helpful for you. If you let your students in on the data, they can use it to improve their study habits and give more time to the areas they most need to work on. The real-time feedback that computer-based testing makes possible lets them see their progress over time, which can help boost the confidence levels students go into the big test with.

5. Provide practice tests that simulate the environment of the certification exams.

Computer-based testing is one part of the licensure exam experience that’s sometimes unfamiliar to students, but the larger experience is something unique in and of itself. You have to spend hours in a quiet room, focused on a challenging test, with limited access to bathroom breaks, snacks, or any outside stimulation.

Give students a few practice tests that emulate that environment. They won’t have fun, but they might find they head to the certification exam a little more prepared for what to expect from the experience. As an added benefit, that environment’s good for minimizing cheating.

The unspoken other steps are, of course, to keep doing everything you’re doing now. Equip them with the knowledge they need to get those answers right and most of the battle is won. Making smart use of computer-based testing and exam analytics just gives them a little extra advantage beyond that.


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