Getting Students Ready for Standardized Nursing Exams: A Necessary Step

Getting Students Ready for Standardized Nursing Exams: A Necessary Step

Most nursing programs use standardized nursing exams to assess students throughout their courses and at the end of each one. After taking these standardized exams, many programs have strict policies for addressing students who struggle, but they often don’t focus enough on preparing students for these exams in the first place. Ensuring that students are well-prepared for these exams beforehand is crucial for their learning and overall success. It should be a significant aspect of any nursing program.

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When students truly grasp and can use what they’ve learned in their courses, they are likely to do well on standardized exams. Nursing instructors have a responsibility to provide students with all the necessary tools and guidance to be ready for their professional journey. They need to make sure the topics covered in diagnostic exams match the course content. Since instructors are accountable for helping students succeed on standardized nursing exams, they must emphasize the importance of early exam preparation within the nursing program. This approach can reduce stress for both students and instructors.

Currently, a common practice in nursing education is to deliver the course content, administer the standardized exam, and then focus on remediation, often leaving out the exam preparation stage. By adjusting nursing education policies to include exam preparation, students would approach these exams with greater confidence. A comprehensive approach to standardized testing that integrates preparation and remediation throughout the curriculum should become a standard practice.

The literature strongly supports preparing nursing students for the NCLEX exam. Similar preparation strategies that work for NCLEX readiness can also be applied to prepare for standardized course exams. Nursing educators should insist on using educational tools that promote active recall of knowledge, which enhances long-term learning. As stated by Glasgow, Dreher, and Schreiber (2019), “Each time a student recalls knowledge, that knowledge is altered, improving the student’s ability to retrieve it again in the future.” Adaptive solutions like Elsevier Adaptive Quizzing (EAQ) can be highly effective for students to practice retrieving knowledge. EAQ also offers instructors a convenient way to monitor student progress and performance using NCLEX-style questions.

Another important aspect of preparing students for success on standardized exams is teaching them test-taking strategies. Conducting a nursing practice exam can give students an idea of what to expect during the real standardized nursing exam. Providing information about the exam format and expectations, including its purpose, data utilization, duration, and grading criteria, is essential. When discussing standardized exams, including the NCLEX, instructors should maintain a positive tone. Students tend to value what their instructors emphasize.

Preparing for the Next-Generation NCLEX® (NGN): Shifting from the Nursing Process to Clinical Judgment in Nursing

Effective preparation for standardized exams leads to reduced anxiety among students. Nursing programs should include standardized exam preparation as a fundamental part of their testing policy. To achieve the best outcomes for students, the literature underscores the importance of nursing students preparing for the NCLEX exam. This same approach can be applied to succeed in standardized exams. As standardized exams help students prepare for the NCLEX, it’s crucial to remember that preparing for standardized exams is just as important.


Glasgow, M.E., Dreher, M., & Schreiber, J. (2019). Standardized testing in nursing education: Preparing students for NCLEX-RN and practice. Journal of Professional Nursing, 35, 440-446.

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