So, some of you may be wondering after four years and obtaining a university degree, why on earth you have to write the Canadian Registered Nurses Exam (CRNE). After all, you've clearly written and been successful on many tests over the years.
According to the CNA (2010) each Canadian provincial and territorial regulatory authority i.e. College of Registered Nurses of BC (CRNBC) has the responsibility to ensure all nurses meet the competency criteria for safe practice. This also ensures that there is a common standard for entry level practice in Canada. The tool the regulatory authorities have chosen to utilize to determine these competencies is the CRNE.
The CRNE has been existence since 1970 and since that time has undergone many transformations. Many years ago the exam was a few days long, but for last several years the exam has consisted of two parts with approximately 200 questions each, one exam administered in the morning separated by lunch and a second exam. Now, the Canadian Nurse Association (CNA) has moved to only one exam consisting of approximately 200 questions, not including the experimental questions that appear on every CRNE. The CNA (2010) claims that "with 148 competencies to measure and a sound sampling approach for these competencies, an exam of between 180-200 questions is sufficient to make both reliable and valid decisions about a candidate's readiness to practice nursing safely, ethically and effectively" (p. 9).
Now, we here at PRIMED Ed. Assoc. think that there are positive and negative aspects to moving to a shorter exam. First, let’s discuss the benefits. A shorter exam, will probably lead to less exam fatigue. Take it from Laura and Marlene, having to go in after a lunch break to write the second half of the CRNE exam was not fun. We were exhausted and mentally drained. This is all we can really think of as being beneficial, except perhaps some may perceive a shorter exam as less anxiety provoking. However, most view a shorter exam as more anxiety provoking as what it really means is you have a smaller margin for error. For example, let’s say an exam consists of 400 questions, and you need to get 70% on the exam to pass (The CNA adjusts the pass rate for every test, but frequently it hovers around 70%), this means you technically get a score of 420 and pass. In other words you can get 120 questions wrong and still pass. Now, take and exam that’s only 200 questions total. In order to pass this, you need to get a score of 140, or only 60 questions wrong to be able to pass. So really, by making the exam shorter you have less of an opportunity to do well. If you had a longer exam or two sessions and a less than stellar morning performance, you could have a break refocus and attempt to do better on the second part of the exam.
This June 2010 will be the first time the CRNE will consists of an exam this short and concise in format. Now doubt, the CNA will be scrutinizing the results and feedback they receive about the new exam format. Owing to the fact, the exam has been changed many times recently; we suspect this is not the end of revisions to the CRNE. Only time will tell, what the future holds in the world of licensing international and Canadian nursing graduates.