How to Do Well on the CNA Skills Test

How to Do Well on the CNA Skills Test

Over 1.3 million nursing assistants work in our healthcare system today, playing an essential role in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other medical facilities. Nursing assistants will always be in high demand, making this a stable industry to enter.

To become a certified nursing assistant, you won’t have to go through years of classes at an expensive university. Many CNAs simply take state-certified courses and CNA tests.

What kind of testing should you expect to become a CNA? You’ll have to pass the CNA written exam and the CNA skills test. Today, we’re going to talk about the CNA skills test. What is it, what’s on it, and how can you prepare for it? Read on to find out.

What Is the CNA Skills Test?

The CNA skills test is one of two that you will need to pass after completing your state-certified CNA course and before receiving official certification. While both require preparation, many students find the CNA skills test more nerve-wracking because it involves performing tasks in front of an evaluator.

The purpose of the CNA skills test is to demonstrate that you have a working knowledge of the skills needed to provide the services of a certified nursing assistant. During the testing period, you will need to demonstrate proper handwashing, and four additional skills picked at random. A passing score will vary based on your state.

When you’re in the middle of executing a specific task, you can revisit a step you forgot without penalty. However, once that portion of the exam is over, you cannot do it again if you realize that you forgot a critical step after the fact. Therefore, you should always be open and honest as soon as you realize you’ve forgotten a step.

What Is the Format of the CNA Skills Test?

As we mentioned, the CNA skills test will require you to demonstrate proper handwashing and four additional skills specified by your evaluator. While this sounds simple enough, those four skills are selected from a list of approximately 30 skills, and you won’t know which ones you’ll need to demonstrate until the day of your exam. Before heading in for your test, let’s look at what you should know.

What Subjects Could Come Up on the CNA Skills Test?

In addition to handwashing, the following skills could come up during your CNA skills test:

  • indirect care

  • taking blood pressure

  • taking body temperature

  • taking and recording pulse

  • measuring and recording respiration

  • measuring output from a urinary bag

  • ambulation with a gait belt

  • feeding

  • mouth care without dentures

  • mouth care with dentures

  • mouth care for unconscious patients

  • bedpan toileting

  • hand and nail care

  • foot care

  • wheelchair transfers

  • changing position in a bed

  • changing sheets of an occupied bed

  • male perineal care

  • female perineal care

  • catheter care

  • partial bed bath

  • dressing patients with low arm mobility

  • applying support stockings

  • supine, prone, and lateral body positions

  • Sim’s position

  • Fowler’s position

  • shoulder range of motion exercises

  • elbow and wrist range of motion exercises

  • hip, knee, and ankle range of motion exercises

Remember, in addition to these skills, all CNA test takers will need to demonstrate proper handwashing techniques, so make sure to include handwashing in your study sessions.

How Much Does It Cost to Take the CNA Skills Test?

The CNA skills test cost will vary from state to state. Many facilities will allow you to pay for both the written exam and the skills test simultaneously. Together, these tests often cost approximately $100.

If you only need to take one or the other, you can expect the skills test to cost more. Many states will allow you to take the written exam on a computer, but the skills test must always be completed at a designated testing center.

What Should You Bring to the CNA Skills Test?

When you take your CNA skills test, make sure you look as professional as you would on the job. That means you should wear clean, tidy scrubs and non-slip, closed-toe shoes. You should also trim and clean your nails, so they don’t pose an infection risk or impair your ability to complete tasks. Finally, you should wear minimal or no jewelry— because handwashing is guaranteed to be on your CNA skills test, we recommend leaving your rings and bracelets at home.

You may also need to bring someone along to act as your patient. If you bring a friend or family member, make sure that they understand that you need to stay focused and that they should keep their talking and distractions to a minimum. If possible, consider asking someone from your CNA classes who knows what to expect and how to behave.

How Can You Prepare for the CNA Skills Test?

Now that you know what to expect from the CNA skills test let’s talk about how you can prepare. While written materials can help you remember each step of a given task, you will also want to ensure that you’re practicing these skills directly. It’s just as important that you can perform the tasks well as running through a mental checklist to complete each step in order.

Check Your State Requirements

Unlike many other tests required for certification, the CNA skills test is not offered by one testing board or organization. As a result, they can vary slightly from state to state. Make sure you check your state requirements, as some states may have additional skills that could come up on test day.

Create a Study Schedule

There are a lot of skills to know, and while you learned how to execute them during your CNA courses, it’s time to master them. Make sure that you start preparing at least several weeks before test day, so you have plenty of time to practice the less familiar skills. Remember that cramming doesn’t help develop long-term memories and isn’t an effective way to study.

Buddy Up for Skills Practice

With the exception of handwashing, most of the CNA skills require a patient. Talk to the other students from your CNA courses and find at least one willing to practice these skills with you. While you can also practice on someone who isn’t becoming a CNA, working with others familiar with these skills can ensure you learn how to do them correctly.

Manage Study Stress

Taking the CNA skills test is daunting because you don’t know exactly what to expect on exam day. Stress can impact your ability to form and retrieve memories, making test prep difficult. It’s important to check in with your stress levels while studying and make an effort to keep stress under control.

How Can You Prepare for the CNA Written Exam?

If you’re preparing for the CNA skills test, you’re probably also gearing up to take the CNA written exam. We have some quick tips and prep materials to make studying for the CNA written exam a breeze.

Get Familiar With the Material

Most CNA written exams consist of approximately 60 multiple-choice questions. (If you take the oral exam, there may be more questions.) Get familiar with the material by using free online CNA study guides, which cover all the subjects that will come up on the written exam.

Use CNA Flashcards and Practice Exams

As you familiarize yourself with CNA study guides, you can also put your knowledge to the test using CNA flashcards. Flashcards provide a fun and engaging way to refresh your memory and get used to the material in a variety of ways.

Flashcards aren’t the only study materials that will put your knowledge to the test. You can also take CNA practice tests to get used to the formatting of the CNA written exam and determine which subjects need more of your attention before test day.

Study Smart and Pass the CNA Skills Test

To become a CNA, you’ll have to first complete your CNA courses, the CNA written exam, and the CNA skills test. Use this guide to start preparing for the skills test so that you can breeze through each step on test day.

Looking to prepare for the CNA written exam as well? You’re in the right place. Look at our complete list of free online CNA study materials and study the smart way!

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