In late October, educators came together at EdAccred’s third Better Together: Success Strategy Talk. During the session, “Certification Examination Prep Strategies,” surgical technology and surgical assisting educators shared strategies for preparing students for certification examinations and discussed how past test performances can be analyzed to improve scores. Take a closer look at some key tips and strategies attendees shared.

Know Your Students

  • Face-to-face time with students is extremely important — whether in-person or virtually via Zoom or other teleconferencing platform.
  • Use a digital classroom such as Google Classroom to meet students where they are. Recognize that students are individuals with busy lives; they need flexibility and the ability to take their learning with them throughout their day.
  • For students who are English language learners (ELL), teachers can enter quizzes into their learning management system (LMS) and utilize its Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) features to read the questions aloud to the student.
  • Fast-paced or rapid-fire questions are effective to keep students on their toes, but no student can keep up this level of focus for more than two hours, especially on a teleconferencing platform.
  • Learn what motivates your students. Some do their best in a competitive group environment, some do better studying on their own.

Engagement Tools and Resources

  • BoardVitals is a medical specialty board certification preparation subscription service, and several educators shared that they use Perkins grant money to cover the subscription fee. CST and CSFA examination-specific questions are available. Educators who have utilized this resource shared that they see increases in their examination pass rates.
  • Use an LMS such as Canvas or Moodle to create mock examinations.
  • Use Kahoot! and Jeopardy-style formats to help make learning fun and allow students the ability to create their own questions and games.
  • Use the Journal of Medical Insight (JOMI) for anatomy and physiology and medical terminology review.
  • Take advantage of Elsevier’s education portal Evolve, and Centage’s portal, MindTap, for practice examinations and tutorial activities.

Exposing Students to “the Language of the Test”

  • When it’s time for certification examination review, do weekly quizzes comprising only questions students would see on a specific certification examination.
  • Expose students to longer examinations — the CST examination, for example, is 175 questions long!
  • Mimic the whole testing experience. If your institution is a testing center, do a complete mock examination experience.
  • Follow the examination content outline. Instructors and students should focus on how the questions are concentrated.
  • Have students retake practice examinations until they score 100%.
  • Assign students a project to create a practice examination based off the content outline. Have them write one question for each item on the outline with multiple-choice answers, and require that they cite the source where they found the information.
  • Recognize the inherent bias toward fluent native English speakers in the test questions. Students who are ELL are really learning two or three new languages — English plus medical language, plus test question format language.

Get Competitive

  • Form a statewide competition with other surgical technology programs to practice examination questions.
  • Create a Jeopardy or Kahoot! game where students compete for bragging rights, small prizes, or even extra text or reference books.

Week Before and Day of Examination Tips

  • Suggest that students to familiarize themselves with the location of the test center as well as the actual location of the test room a week before the examination. Suggest that they complete a “dry run” so there are no surprises on test day.
  • The morning of the examination, provide students with a hot breakfast and pep talk prior to testing.

Tips to Further Assist Students

  • Invite a guest speaker to talk with students about test anxiety and discuss how to combat it.
  • Convert all tests to computer format to give students more practice taking tests virtually.
  • Consider renewing your certification by taking the examination, rather than submitting CEs, for current first-hand experience with the certification examination.