Use of Crib Sheets and Exam Performance in an Undergraduate Nursing Course

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Ann Malecha, PhD, RN, CNE
Pinky Budhrani-Shani, PhD, RN
College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University, Houston, TX, USA

Purpose: A correlational study was conducted to assess the outcomes of allowing baccalaureate nursing students to use authorized crib sheets during exams.

Methods: Senior nursing students (N=86), enrolled in a community health nursing course, received a blank crib sheet (10 cm X 15 cm index card) one week before each unit exam (n=2) and the final exam. The students were allowed to write on the front and back of the index card and then use the card during the exam. Use of the card was not required. The crib sheet was collected after each exam and the students immediately completed a post-exam survey developed by the researchers. The survey included five scaled questions assessing the benefits of using the crib sheet across the domains of Exam Confidence, Exam Preparedness, Test Anxiety, Assistance during Exam, and Recommend for Future Exams. Other survey items collected data on amount of time spent creating the crib sheet and number of times crib sheet was used during exam. One open-ended question requested additional written feedback.

Results: This study is ongoing and the last data point of the study will be collected during the final exam in December 2016. Preliminary results indicate that all students created and used the crib sheet for the first 2 exams of the semester. Data to be analyzed includes mean time to create the crib sheet, mean number of times used card during exam, and Spearman rank order correlations will examine relationships between confidence, preparedness, anxiety, assistance, future use, and grades for unit exams 1 and 3 and final exam. Preliminary qualitative data indicates an emerging theme that creating the card “helped me memorize,” and “I accidentally learned while making the card.” All study results will be presented in July 2017.

Conclusion:  There is a growing body of evidence that the use of student-prepared testing aids (cheat sheets or crib notes) can have a positive impact on student outcomes such as test anxiety and exam performance. Some researchers have suggested that the actual preparation of a crib sheet can help students to organize course content, reduce the need for memorization, and focus on conceptual knowledge and learning. A review of the literature indicates faculty-approved crib sheets during exams are becoming more common in the disciplines of math, engineering, psychology, and other sciences. This study will be one of the first to report on the use of authorized crib sheets with nursing students.