Western New Mexico University: Preparing Nursing Students for National Board Examinations


Located in Silver City, New Mexico, Western New Mexico University has served as a comprehensive, regional, rural, public coeducational university since 1893 and caters to a student body diverse in age, culture, language and ethnic background. In 2009 more than 3,000 students were enrolled at WNMU in more than 70 areas of study. With a growing number of courses offered through Extended University for online students, more than 100 courses are offered online each semester.

WNMU is accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools and by the New Mexico State Board of Education. The School of Education is nationally accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). WNMU’s programs in social work, nursing, occupational therapy assistant and economic development are nationally accredited. The School of Education and Child Development Center have also received their respective accreditations.

Preparing Students for Success

The Department of Nursing at WNMU has the responsibility of preparing students for the Nursing Board accreditation exam and relies on Questionmark to get their students ready for it.

“We follow the same format as the Nursing Board accreditation exam, also using multiple choice and some matching questions,” says Sean Souders, support analyst at WNMU. “We’re helping our students by preparing them for what’s to come, so that there are no surprises.”

Currently the department of nursing is made up of 65 students, who all take electronic exams throughout the semester. Tests are administered four days a week for 16 weeks. “Right now the students take exams in proctored classes, where we are able to use the delivery system to take one group and schedule all their tests at the same time,” said Souders. “That translates into fast delivery, reliability and ease.”

Better Questions

Aside from preparing students for the Nursing Board accreditation exam, Questionmark exams also allow faculty to score the exams and focus on item analysis and question statistics to improve their questions.

“Clear and up-to-date results mean the ability to create better questions,” Souders adds. “When we were doing these exams using paper and pencil, not only were students not quite prepared for their computerized Board certification exam, but the faculty wasn’t able to see the statistics behind each question and improve it if it was weak or faulty.”

Question Banks

Faculty and staff at WNMU have created a shared question bank organized by topics; each class is a topic, with several subtopics.

“The subtopics are basically the subjects that fall under a particular, broader topic— for example the topic might be Nursing 101 and the subtopics would be Diabetes, and Electrolytes,” says Souders, who sometimes oversees the entry of the questions into Questionmark. “Each professor has a different way of entering questions, but all of the questions are geared to match the difficulty level of the Nursing Board accreditation exam.” The questions are either created by the professor or are uploaded by faculty and staff from the RTF-format textbook item question banks.

Souders says the questions are easy to maintain, as is the software. “Unlike some other tools used on campus, Questionmark puts us at ease. It keeps all of our questions secure and is extremely organized and easy to administer—a couple of clicks and you’re done.”

Results that Work

Aside from possibly implementing Questionmark Secure, Souders doesn’t believe WNMU will change much about the way they use Questionmark. “We have a great system going here and we are always happy with the product and the results that come from it,” Souders remarks. “It’s running smoothly and effectively, so I don’t suspect we will be changing much in the future—we’re sticking to what works.”