Onlike Review Courses Will Help Test-takers

Vol. 15 •Issue 14 • Page 29
Onlike Review Courses Will Help Test-takers

How should you prepare for an online certification exam? With an online prep course, of course.

When the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) announced that registered health information technician (RHIT) and administrator (RHIA) exams would be administered at computer testing centers, I decided to create an Internet-based review course for my Alfred State College graduates that would prepare them for the RHIT exam content and new testing format.

In the Old Days

When Alfred State College’s health information technology/medical records (HIT) program was taught on campus, graduates returned to campus in September each year to participate in a 1-day free review class that was facilitated by HIT faculty. The goal was to provide an overview of course content and answer questions about content that was particularly challenging. With the RHIT exam administered each October, this was a workable schedule for graduates.

In the years just prior to changing the HIT program to an Internet-based delivery format, faculty observed that many graduates had not even begun preparing for the RHIT exam by the time they arrived for the review class—even though, as students, they had been repeatedly advised to begin studying several months prior to taking the exam and to spend a minimum of several hours each day, 5 days each week, in preparation. The students’ lack of preparation was especially frustrating because during their last semester of study, graduates were required to submit a study plan for RHIT exam preparation in an attempt to emphasize to students the need to organize their study time before taking the exam.

Once AHIMA announced that the exams would be administered at computer testing centers with immediate exam results made available to exam takers, and because our HIT program had already transitioned to an online format using the Blackboard course management system, the online RHIT ExamPrep “course” was developed.

Built From Pools

The goal in developing the RHIT ExamPrep using Blackboard was to provide Alfred State College graduates with an “anywhere, anytime, online” learning format that would allow them to adequately prepare for the RHIT exam and to practice taking computer-based exams so they became more comfortable with this format.

“Building” the RHIT ExamPrep was begun by creating test pools that contained hundreds of multiple choice questions, organized according to content areas that would be covered on the exam. Luckily, since I had been teaching and writing multiple choice exam items at Alfred State College since 1984, I had on file huge pools of exam questions (hundreds of them for each content area) from which to select. (This is a case of never throw away a test you created because you never know when you’ll need to use those questions again!) Test pool creation was facilitated by my academic department secretary, who entered all of the exam items into the Blackboard test pools. Once the test pools were created, they were reviewed to ensure that answers selected for each question were correct.

Note: The coding questions are reviewed each year to update coding answer keys. Every effort is made to create perfect answer keys. If an answer key error is identified, it is corrected immediately. (RHIT ExamPrep registrants can notify the course builder via e-mail about any possible answer key errors.)

Next, the portion of the RHIT ExamPrep that students would actually view was created. The most significant section of the “course” is titled “practice exams,” and it contains folders that organize tests based on content associated with each domain covered on the RHIT Exam.

For example, the I. Domain: Healthcare Data folder contains practice exams for the following content areas: (1) Data Structure, Content and Use, (2) ICD-9-CM Coding Clinical Classification System, and (3) CPT/HCPCS Clinical Classification Systems. The student clicks on the I. Domain: Healthcare Data folder and is presented with three exams to take and retake. Each exam includes between 20 and 25 multiple choice questions, which are retrieved from the corresponding test pool.

When the student clicks on the same exam a second, third, etc. time, they are presented with a new set of questions. Coding exams include actual coding scenarios for which coding manuals must be used. (Even though the RHIT exam does not require the use of coding manuals, practice exams require the use of coding manuals to answer questions.) The “practice exams” section of the RHIT ExamPrep also includes a mock RHIT exam that can be taken repeatedly. (Its test pool does not contain hundreds of multiple choice questions as yet, but that is a goal.)

And That’s Not All

Other sections of the RHIT ExamPrep include announcements, review guides, faculty information, getting started, discussion and Web sites. A welcome announcement provides an overview of the content of the RHIT ExamPrep and is especially useful for guest users who access the RHIT ExamPrep to preview the “course.” The “review guides” section contains clickable links for RHIT exam preparation resources that can be purchased directly from publishers and state associations. (Alfred State College does not sell the review guides, nor does the College receive a percentage of those sold by publishers and state associations.)

In addition, this section encourages graduates to join AHIMA and provides a link to the RHIT exam application. The “getting started” section contains a student user manual for Blackboard and the RHIT domains, subdomains and tasks document. “Faculty information” contains the course builder’s e-mail address, Web site and professional background. A discussion board is available so that registrants can communicate with one another and the course builder. Web sites of interest are also listed in the “course.”

Progress to Date

The RHIT ExamPrep debuted in 2002, and since then 51 Alfred State College graduates have been registered (for no charge) by the Center for Community Education and Training (CCET). (Alfred State College has had a 100 percent pass rate on the RHIT Exam since 2001.) After the first year of use, it was decided to make the RHIT ExamPrep available to any HIT program graduate (for a modest $25 fee to cover administrative costs), and as a result CCET has registered 143 individuals. It was also determined that registrants would remain activated in the RHIT ExamPrep “course” for as long as it takes them to feel prepared to take the credentialing exam, and if they did not pass the exam, they would not be removed from the “course” (unless they requested that).

In 2005, the Coding ExamPrep “course” was created to provide an Internet-based review class opportunity for graduates of Alfred State College’s Coding and Reimbursement Specialist program. The Coding ExamPrep is organized similar to the RHIT ExamPrep, and online patient records and coding answer keys are also available.

Alfred State College’s graduates receive free access to the “course,” and others can receive access after paying a $25 fee to cover administrative costs. Registrants remain activated in the “course” until they contact CCET to report that they passed their coding credentialing exam (e.g., CCA, CCS, CCS-P, CPC-A, CPC, CPC-H-A, or CPC-H). The goal of providing the ExamPrep “courses” online is to provide access and opportunity for graduates of coding and RHIT programs so they can be successful on credentialing exams.

• Preview the Coding ExamPrep and the RHIT ExamPrep at Username: guest-greenma, Password: mag (Alfred State is transitioning the ExamPreps to their new server, where you will be able to login with the guest-greenma username and mag password later this year.)

Michelle A. Green is a SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor at the State University of New York, College of Technology at Alfred. She also authors textbooks and is the 2000 recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.