Pre-nursing students struggle to pass entrance exam

Katherine Avila, Correspondent

Only one out of nine incoming freshmen planning to major in nursing passed the recent pre-entrance exam required for admission into the program.

The pre-entrance exam is given to any incoming freshman who is not directly admitted into the nursing program because of low SAT scores. Marywood requires a combined score of 1450 or above, a 480 on SAT math, or a 21 on the ACT. Students who do not meet those requirements at the time of admission to the university are given a second chance with the PAX-RN, a national certified nursing entrance exam.

In order to be admitted to the nursing program at Marywood, students must score in the 85th percentile, which means that students interested in the nursing program must do better than 85% of the nation’s students who also took it.

The passing rate is set at such a high standard because it correlates with the expected rate of success in the nursing program at Marywood.

Chair of the nursing department, Dr. Mary Alice McCormick stated, “The score demonstrates higher critical thinking ability; that’s what we’re looking for.”

To prepare for the PAX-RN, Dr. McCormick advises students to buy review books and “eat them up.” The study guide books range anywhere from $20 to $30. Students admitted to the university in the fall have an entire semester to study the review books before they take the exam in December.

Students who do not pass the exam have two options: change majors or transfer to a nursing program at a different university.

“It’s difficult. Who knows at 18 exactly what they want to do? And if you want to be a nurse but you don’t pass, it’s dejecting,” said Dr. McCormick.

Alyssa Barrale is one of the students who did not pass the exam. Prior to entering college, she volunteered six hours a week in nursing homes and took nursing classes at her vocational technical school.

“I had more experience  coming into the program […] I think I should have picked somewhere else to go [to school] who would have taken me,” said Barrale.

Derrick Eyerman, the only student who passed the exam, said that the exam is challenging because it must be taken after only one semester of classes.

“You don’t learn a lot of [the material on the exam] until you take your nursing classes and after you start clinical […] which is in your junior year of nursing,” said Eyerman.

Despite the criticism from students, the nursing department will continue using the pre-entrance exam. According to McCormick, the PAX-RN provides a second chance for those students who did not meet the stringent admissions requirements upon acceptance into the university. 

“It’s a challenging profession, but it’s a worthwhile one when a patient hugs you and says thank you,” said McCormick. “You can’t put a cost on that.”