Tips for Administering Exams on iPads in a Clinical Setting

August 5, 2015 Kristen Hicks

Administering exams in a clinical setting comes with its own set of unique challenges. Bringing iPads into the classroom can help ease some of them. Working on an iPad as you walk through a room filled with cadavers, for example, is certainly easier than dealing with a pen-and-paper test in the same setting. Conducting successful clinical exams when iPads are new to your program takes some getting used to and involves some trial and error, so you’ll benefit from approaching them with a focus on best practices and a plan to implement them.

In their recent webinar on using iPads in clinical settings, Kathy Day and Elizabeth Spudich discussed a few techniques that helped them deliver exams to their health sciences students effectively and efficiently, in spite of the challenges that arise in clinical settings.

Five Tips for Successful Clinical Exams

1. Consider the room layout and required movement.
When exams have a physical or hands-on component, you can’t count on the convenience of having students sit still at desks while they take their exams. You have to factor in the need for movement within the space available to you. To avoid any confusion during test taking, Day and Spudich made sure each station of the exam was clearly marked with the number of the corresponding test question.

In addition—just to cover all bases—they printed out the stem of the relevant question for each station so students could double-check that the question on their screens corresponded to the station. With ExamSoft on their iPads, the students had an easy time going through the questions in whatever order they needed to based on their place in the station rotation. Students had no trouble accessing the right question at the right time without confusion.

2. Decide between fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice questions.
Multiple-choice questions are easier to fit into a timed clinical exam, but fill-in-the-blank questions produce better exam analytics. If you can afford to allow your students about an extra minute a question switching to fill-in-the-blank questions can pay off in terms of your data and analysis after the exam.

3. Do question prep in advance.
Many clinical exams involve time-sensitive materials. If you’re preparing for OSCEs, you probably don’t have to worry too much about last-minute prep, but if your test involves biological materials, you won’t know what you’re working with until right before the exam. To keep from having to throw your exam together in a rush, you can identify the main categories you want the test to cover and then write potential questions that address those categories.That way, once you have access to the materials for your exam, you’ll have a list of questions prepared that will only need slight tweaking.

4. Provide secure exam review right after the test.
One of the benefits of computer-based testing is that, with the right testing software, you can see the results of the exam very soon after it’s complete, which is especially valuable for clinical exams. With non-clinical exams, students have the questions and full context in front of them whenever they review the correct answers after the test. With clinicals, this is not the case. It’s more valuable for students to see the results when the materials from the exam are still fresh in their minds.

With ExamSoft, you have the chance to go over the exam with your students when they can still remember what they saw and heard at each station. As a result, they get more effective feedback, and you get the chance to catch any confusion or issues early.

5. Analyze test results to help improve future tests.
Another benefit to getting data early is that you can easily identify issues with any of your questions. You can analyze which questions your students consistently had trouble with and figure out where the problem might be. Was something confusing about the specimen? Was something off about the question? Was the topic not well covered in class? Your analysis is key for making sure that you address any issues and improve future clinical exams for greater success.

To get a complete view of Thomas Jefferson University’s experience in administering clinical exams with iPads, view the whole webinar. If you’d like to know more about how to apply these practices in your own clinical exams, get in touch and let one of our specialists walk you through it.


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