Hitting it Out of the Park with Item Writing

Hitting it Out of the Park with Item Writing

This presentation will provide an in-depth overview of the process used to write traditional multiple-choice items and priority items included on the NCLEX examination. It will include a discussion of the NCLEX detailed test plans and the use of NCLEX-style terminology. Various priority setting frameworks in item writing will also be explored. The participants will develop items with the assistance of Nursing Education Specialists during the forum. This presentation will provide participants with the strategies for success when writing items for their own assessments.

Learning Objectives:

  • Describe the NCLEX® detailed test plans.
  • Understand the critical components of NCLEX® style multiple choice items.
  • Use strategies to construct NCLEX® style items that assess a student’s critical thinking skills.

Laurie F. Fontenot, MSN, RN

Who: Laurie Fontenot, MSN, RN – Nursing Education Specialist for Ascend Learning, Assessment Sciences Education: Master’s of science in nursing degree with specialty in nursing education, Southeastern Louisiana University (Hammond, La.).


  • 35+ years nursing experience in critical care, mental health and academic settings
  • Extensive clinical background in critical-care nursing and psychiatric-/substance-abuse nursing with emphasis as nurse administrator/leader in acute-care settings
  • Over 20 years’ experience as nurse educator/Dean of Nursing and Allied Health in community and technical colleges
  • Licensure-exam item writer, National Council State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN)
  • Presenter at multiple conferences with focus on item writing, curriculum development, faculty development and LPN-to-ASN articulation.

Specialty practice: Psychiatric nursing Research interests:

  • Mental-health issues
  • Collaborative-testing practices
  • Civility
  • Retention and progression of nursing students
  • Articulation practices (LPN to RN, RN to BSN)

Carrie B. Elkins, DHSc, MSN

Carrie B. Elkins, MSN, DHSc is a Lead Nurse Educator with ATI Nursing. Dr. Elkins has been a nurse educator for more than 10 years in traditional BSN and Web-based RN to BSN and MSN programs. In her current role with ATI Nursing, Dr. Elkins leads a team of Nursing Education Specialists who focus on content development, item writing, and alignment of content with NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN test plans. Dr. Elkins has been an invited presenter on nursing education-related concepts locally, nationally, and internationally. Additionally, Dr. Elkins has been an invited presenter on nursing education-related concepts locally, nationally, and internationally including topics such as writing NCLEX© style multiple choice items, writing alternate item formats, Next Generation NCLEX©: clinical judgment and item types, integration of public health content in nursing curricula, enhancing cultural awareness in nursing, creating public health nurses of tomorrow, improving rural health preparedness, disaster preparedness and response as part of public health nursing courses, hands-on disaster experiences for public health nursing students, how to create tabletop disaster exercises for public health nursing students, and environmental and health implications of the methamphetamine crisis in rural areas.

Cindy Morris, DNP, RN, IBCLC

Cindy Morris DNP, RN, IBCLC is a content expert with Ascend Learning. Dr. Morris has been a nurse educator for pre-licensure students for the past 13 years. In her current role with Ascend Learning, Dr. Morris develops content designed to enhance learning and comprehension for nursing students. She contributes to the development of standardized tests by constructing and reviewing test items which align with the NCLEX-RN and PN test plans. These products and standardized tests are utilized by schools nationally and internationally to prepare students for the nursing licensure examination. Prior to her employment at Ascend Learning, Dr. Morris provided didactic instruction and clinical supervision at a diploma school of nursing and an ADN program. She has expertise in maternal newborn, pediatric and adult-medical surgical nursing. Dr. Morris also has a special interest in providing evidence-based breastfeeding support to mothers and babies in her continued role as an internationally certified lactation consultant (IBCLC). She has been published in a peer-reviewed journal and has presented locally and nationally to laypersons and medical professionals. She is currently working with legislators to promote the licensure of IBCLC’s and improve access to their services in her home state.

Norma Jean Henry, MSN/ED, RN

Norma Jean Henry MSN/ED, RN is a nursing education specialist for Ascend Learning. Norma Jean has worked in various clinical areas including adult medical-surgical, critical care, and mental health nursing. She is certified as a suicide prevention provider. She entered into nursing education as a PN educator and has clinical and classroom experience teaching in PN, ADN, and BSN programs in Kansas and New York. She has worked with Ascend for the past 8 years and helps develop various ATI Nursing Education products including the PN and RN Content Mastery Series, Real Life Video Series, and HealthAssess Series. She is currently assisting with the coordination of the new Engage Fundamentals product. Norma Jean is a presenter for ATI at item writing workshops.