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As we roll into another exam season, the Facebook study groups are lighting up with posts from students who find perfectly reasonable questions totally outrageous. They label the NREMT as “ridiculous” and “out of touch with the street.” Why? Because they are poorly prepared for what to expect.

Notice we didn’t say taught poorly (although that can sometimes be the case). Often, educators present a linear, step-by-step approach in class backed by skill sheets and then wonder why students don’t think any other way.

Students get into NREMT preparation mode about this time each year and heads explode all over the country. They haven’t thought anywhere near as much as they have memorized.

Two things exacerbate this situation:

1. Educators who tell students how difficult the NREMT is as a motivator for study—ignoring the negative consequences of creating a monster and increased anxiety. We are hearing of an increasing number of students who don’t test or test once unsuccessfully and don’t go back.

2. Educators who tell students that there is a different way to think for the NREMT and that it is unlike class or the street.

Source: NREMT.org

In point 1, the answer is simply to stop. Present the NREMT as challenging but achievable with work and study. Approximately 70% pass on the first attempt. The NREMT isn’t a stick to beat students into studying. That doesn’t work.

As for different thinking required to pass the NREMT, it is just plain false. The NREMT is different than the street in only one (logical and understandable) way. It only gives you four choices about a single moment in time while the street is dynamic with unlimited choices. The result is students fighting the question by saying, “I wouldn’t do any of those.” or “I was taught in class to do (something else),” rather than thinking about what is best in the given situation.

The ability to reason like this is further hindered by a lack of prioritization and critical thinking practice in the classroom and our reliance on rote memorization without application.

Students—does this make sense? Educators—how can we make our class more applicable to the street and the exam? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

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