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Placement Test

 This course will be available on-line in the fall of 2002.  To qualify for the on-line option, students must score 70% on the pretest. Enrollment in the on-line course is limited to 15.  See Alberta Jaeger in the Counseling department for further information.  If an on-line student fails a course quiz, they must attend the next in-class session.

Pharmacology Clinical Calculations Course – 2003

68-106-01x and 02x

     The Pharmacology Clinical Calculations Course is a mathematics review course for those students who are currently registered for Foundations of Nursing or Nursing Seminar and who did not successfully complete the Pharmacology Placement exam.  It is designed to assist these students to safely calculate, prepare, and administer medications.

     The course is self-paced. There will be a review of basic math concepts and an introduction to the formulas and skills necessary to solve drug dosage problems that occur in the practice of nursing.

     It is a 2 non-credit course.  The student does not receive credit towards his/her degree.

Prerequisite:  Not achieving a passing grade on the pharmacology placement test by August 30, 2003.
Corequisites: Current enrollment in Foundations of Nursing or Nursing Seminar

Course Objectives:
By completion of this course the student will be able to:

  1. Utilize components of basic mathematics and safe nursing practice in  the calculation, preparation, and administration of oral and parenteral medications.
  2. Calculate and interpret Centigrade and Fahrenheit temperatures.
  3. Utilize the metric, apothecary, and household system in calculating medications. 
  4. Calculate conversions between the metric, apothecary and household systems.
  5. Perform calculations necessary for safe preparation of oral and parenteral medications.

Teaching Strategies: Discussion, group work on content, self-study workbook and tests. Each scheduled class period will consist of discussion and group work and
individual testing on the unit.  Class attendance with text is mandatory. Students are expected to have read chapters and solved practice problems before coming to class.  Areas of confusion or misunderstanding will be discussed.

Evaluation Methods: Students must  achieve an 85% on each unit quiz and on the final exam. Successful completion on one unit is required before the student may progress to the next unit. All unit quizzes must be completed before the student may take the final exam. Five (5) retakes are permitted for each unit quiz and the final exam.  All quizzes and the final exam must be completed by the last class day. (This year 11/1/2003)

Text: Deborah Gray Morris,  Calculate With Confidence, 3rd  Edition, Mosby: St. Louis, Missouri, 2001.

Format:  Mon. Section 1: 12:30 PM to 2:25 PM
                         Section 2:  On Line Course.
                         Section 3:  8:30 AM to 10:20 AM.

Place:    Section 1:  N 123
              Section 3:  N 227

The course runs for 8 weeks, finishing November 1.

Week Topic Assignment Web Sites
1 Math Review Unit One
Basic Math
Math Help
2 Quiz1. Unit 1 
Metric System, Temperature Conversion, Apothecary /HH Systems, Conversion Problems
Chapters 6,7,8 Tutorial for Nursing Students

3 Quiz Review.  Retakes as needed. Dosage calculations Chapters 13, 14 Ratio & Proportion
Abbreviation Quiz
4 Quiz2. Chapters 6-7-8,13-14 
Administration of Medications.
Chapters 9, 10, 11, 12
5 Quiz review. Retakes as needed. Calculation of medication doses.  Chapters 15, 16, 17 Solving Percent Problems
6 Review of previous materials. Retest as needed. Insulin and Basic IV Chapters 18, 20 IV Calculation
IV Problems
7 Final Exam - all material to chapter 18.
8 Review Final - retakes as needed. Heparin and Critical care calculations. Chapters 21, 22 Titration
9 Review for retakes.



    In addition to Basic Skills testing, all students in the nursing program will be required to take the Pharmacology Clinical Calculations Placement test.

    The Nursing Program requires the student to be proficient at using arithmetic in very practical ways.  Medications, weights, temperatures are expressed using a variety of systems of measure in this country and you must be able to  convert between systems.  Many students come to college with the ability to apply their basic knowledge of arithmetic to this special area of nursing.

    The Pharmacology Clinical Calculations Placement Test is designed to identify whether the student has the basic arithmetic knowledge and proficiency to carry out clinical calculations.

    A passing score of 85 % is required on this test.  If the score is below 85 %, the course Pharmacology Clinical Calculations Lab (68-106 a two noncredit course) must be taken prior to or in conjunction with Foundations of Nursing (68-101).

     The Pharmacology clinical Calculations Laboratory course is scheduled during September and October.  The  final examination is given at the end of October to enable students to begin administering medications as part of their clinical practice.  The student must pass the Pharmacology Clinical Calculations Laboratory course to meet course objectives for Foundations of Nursing.

     On the following pages you will find the abbreviations, conversions, and formulas which you need to memorize to take the placement test.  Also, you will find some examples of how to calculate medication dosages.  If you feel you need more review, the course textbook is Gray: Calculate with Confidence, 3rd  Ed, Mosby, 2001 and is available in the college bookstore.  Material tested on is the first 17 chapters and temperature conversions on the inside of the back cover.   You may also review on the internet at: or other resources listed on the course calendar page.  The following are a list websites to use for reviewing concepts.

Dimensional Analysis

  Practice Test

  Math Tutorials and Practice Test

  Good site for review and equivalency tables – links to other sources


     You may use scrap paper while completing the test.  ALL scrap paper must be handed in to the media desk at the completion of the test.  Calculators are permitted. Bringing information about pharmacology calculations and conversions into the testing center is considered cheating and anyone doing so will be immediately withdrawn from the nursing program.



MEDICATION ADMINISTRATION: Drugs are administered as solids in the form of tablets, capsules, or pills. As liquids they are administered orally in syrups or elixirs.  Intravenously and intramuscularly they are administered as solutions.  When the strength of the drug supplied by the manufacturer is different from the dose prescribed by the physician or advanced nurse practitioner, dosage calculation is needed.

For instance, if you want to take 600mg of Tylenol, and each pill supplied 300mg, you would have to take 2 pills. However, if these pills were labeled in grains you would have to convert grains (gr) to milligrams (mg) before you would know how many pills to take.  If 1gr=60mg, then 600mg. would be equal to 10grains (600/60).  If each pill
provided 5gr (300mg), you would then take 2 pills to get 600mg.

     If you were giving liquid Tylenol to a baby, and were told to give 50mg that is supplied by a liquid containing 100mg/1teaspoon, you would give ½ teaspoon.  In the hospital, you would need to know 1 teaspoon = 5ml, so you would give the baby 2 ½ ml.

     If the medicine was to be given by injection, and you are to give 50mg. which is supplied by a solution containing 100mg/ml, you would draw up ½ ml to give the correct dose.

     Some drugs such as Penicillin are prescribed and measured by units, which just expresses a standard of strength. For example, a pill can contain 5,000 units or 10,000 units of medication.  Units are used in drug conversion problems in the same way weight measurements are used (5 units/tablet or 5units/ml, etc.).

     For some people, visualizing the dose prescribed and the amount of medicine in the pill or liquid is clearer when expressed as a ratio.  In the above example of the liquid Tylenol, you would identify the ratio of the prescribed medication (50mg) to what is available (100mg) as 50:100, or ½ and give ½ of the teaspoon.  An equation that expresses this is:

Ratio of medication available = Ratio of the medication prescribed

100mg:1tsp::50mg:x tsp.

     Percentage strengths are used to understand intravenous solutions.  Percentage (%) means parts per hundred.  A percentage solution represents the number of grams of drug per 100 ml of solution.  For example, 100ml of a 1% solution will contain 1 gram of drug or solute.  50ml of a 1% solution will contain 0.5gm. of drug or solute.


   C…………………Centigrade or Celsius
   g., gm., G………..Gram


Liquid volume  Dry weight volume
½ oz  15 ml 
1000mcg. 1 mg.
1 oz  30ml
1000mg 1 G
15 m 1 ml (1 cc)              
1gr. 60mg. (0.06G)
1 tsp  5ml  
15gr. 1 G
2.2lb 1000G (1 kg)

General Information Regarding the Placement Test:

1. You may take the test only once..
2. Time to take the test: 60 minutes
3. Passing score: 17 of 20 questions (85%)
4. Guessing does not affect the score.
6. You may use scrap paper while completing the test.  ALL scrap paper must be turned in with your answer sheet.

Calculators may be used during the placement test.  Conversion tables must be memorized. Bringing information about pharmacology calculations and conversions into the testing center is considered cheating and anyone doing so will be immediately withdrawn from the nursing program.

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Created 5/15/00
Ann B. Fives, RN, MS

Revised 6/03/02 by Helen W. Jones, RN, APN, C. PhD.