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Test Blueprints Establish Foundational Plans for Examinations in Nursing Education

Updated: May 1, 2020

Test blueprints serve as the foundational plan for what will be evaluated during an examination. Taxonomy systems are used by the faculty constructing the blueprint and can be tailored to make sense to the user(s). Bloom’s taxonomy includes 6 levels within the cognitive domain, which increase in complexity and include: knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. The content of the test blueprint should encompass the objectives and chief topic areas of the assigned material, along with various levels of complexity and how each topic will be weighed.

The blueprint acts as a faculty guide for the development of the examination and serves to review reliability and validity. In order to most effectively utilize the test blueprint, the user(s) must adapt the template to every evaluation, considering the emphasis they intend to place on each content section through different types of questions. Once the test blueprint is constructed, the faculty member can then begin composing the test with questions that correlate with each cell. The blueprint keeps the designer on track!

While we discourage "teaching to the test," we find that it is appropriate for students can to be given access to the blueprint to study, as it acts as a guide for learning. It can be tough for students to know where to spend their time and efforts. The blueprint can support students to tune into the aspects that require the most emphasis, as they are highly significant to the discipline (not just the test). For example, students should study and plan differently to engage in items that evaluate their skills to apply information than they would for items that evaluate their capacity to synthesize information. Students are able to use the blueprint to set an effective course of study and decipher high priority content areas, which are also most important for use in future practice. We believe the blueprint should be disbursed to the students at the beginning of the module and explanation should be given on how to use it.

Pause, Reflect, and Plan: What is your experience with creating and using test blueprints? Do you remember when you made your first one? Your most recent one? How have you grown in developing your blueprints? How do you feel about sharing them with your students? Is sharing blueprints something that you do in your classroom? Something that you plan to start doing? When you ask yourself each question, be sure to explore your why as well. It will help you to make a solid plan.


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