Individuals aspiring to be Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) must complete educational requirements and pass the Emergency Medical Technician test. Examinees must complete an accredited EMT course prior to registering for this exam. Completion of the course helps to ensure that test-takers are well-versed in the content of the exam.
The EMT test is split into two parts—a multiple-choice cognitive exam and a psychomotor skills portion, which includes hands-on practical tasks. The psychomotor skills part is conducted at the state level and may vary from state to state. However, the cognitive exam is a nationwide requirement.
The cognitive exam was developed by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians to demonstrate that the examinee understands entry-level information and concepts that are fundamental in performing the tasks required of EMTs.
The cognitive exam is computer-adaptive, meaning that the difficulty of questions is determined by the examinee’s responses to preceding questions. Test-takers can expect to answer anywhere from 70 to 120 questions, of which between 60 and 110 questions will count toward the final score. The exam also has 10 pilot questions that do not affect the final score. The total amount of time given to complete the exam is two hours. The questions will continue until the computer is 95% sure that you are either at or above the competency standard for passing or that you cannot meet the required level of competence to pass the exam.
Sections of the exam include: Airway, Respiration and Ventilation, Cardiology and Resuscitation, Medical and Obstetrics/Gynecology, Trauma, and EMS Operations. There are also questions specific to geriatric and pediatric patient care.
Questions on the EMT test involving airway and breathing concepts will vary. You will need to know the basic airway anatomy and how each part functions. It will be necessary to use airway function as part of patient assessment and recommend proper ventilation treatment in a particular emergency situation. Additionally, you’ll need to know how to perform basic emergency respiratory care.
Throughout the EMT test, you will be held responsible for knowing how the cardiovascular system usually functions and what to do if it doesn’t do its job sufficiently. There will be questions on the anatomy of this system and therapies that can help in emergency situations. Patient assessment will play a huge role in decisions you make about emergency care, and you will need to use information about each situation to determine the best care route.
These questions will cover all of the procedures related to the emergency care system. You’ll need to know how to assess an accident scene and the best practices for transporting the sick and injured. Knowledge of procedures for dealing with situations such as hazardous materials and traffic will also be important. The handling of major disasters and terrorism are covered in this section, as well.
As an emergency medical care provider, you will need to be able to assess and care for people with a variety of medical emergencies. A medical emergency is one that has been caused by an illness or a condition, instead of an injury to the body. This type of question on the EMT test may require you to deal with anything from an elderly gentleman with pneumonia to a mother-to-be in active labor. Your future patients could be of any age and in any physical condition, so questions about all sorts of medical emergencies can be expected.
Traumatic emergencies result from some sort of injury to the body from an outside source. Of course, there may be an interaction between the injury and existing medical conditions present in the patient. You’ll need to know about all sorts of events outside the body that can cause different types of traumatic injuries, as well as the best form of emergency care for each one.
Passing the cognitive portion of the EMT test is a big professional milestone, as you cannot secure a position without the required certification. Additionally, failing the exam multiple times can result in required remediation or having to complete the entire EMT course again. For many people, this can make taking the EMT exam incredibly stressful. However, a great way to ease worries and anxieties is to prepare as much as you can beforehand and to know what to expect when you arrive to take the exam.
Examinees are given two hours to complete the test, so it’s a good idea to prepare to be at the testing site for the full allotted amount of time, and to arrive early. Plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early. This will give you extra time in the event that you cannot locate the testing site, or if you encounter any questions during registration. You can also use this time to determine where the restrooms are and familiarize yourself with the layout of the testing facilities.
You will need to present two forms of identification, including a valid, government-issued form of identification when you arrive at the testing center. These are the only items required on the day of the exam. When you register to take the test, you will be provided with information regarding the acceptable forms of ID.
The EMT exam is taken on a computer, so there is no need for pencils, scratch paper, or a calculator. All of the resources you need will be found on the computer itself. Reference materials and electronics (including cell phones, tablets, smart devices, and other devices) are also prohibited from the testing room. It’s a good idea to leave any personal items at home, as many testing centers may not have space to store these items securely while you take the exam. Be prepared to be patted down, sleeves rolled up, and hair pulled back to ensure unauthorized materials are not entering the premises.
Taking EMT practice tests is one of the best ways to ensure you are prepared to pass the exam on test day. Many practice tests have questions that span the range of difficulty you can expect to find on the actual exam, which gives you a good idea of how you will perform even with the computer-adaptive nature of the test. EMT practice tests give you an idea of the content, structure, and format of the exam—which is a great way to ensure you know what to study to be prepared.
In addition to EMT practice tests, many students find that alternative study materials, such as EMT flashcards and EMT study guides can help to reinforce the concepts and information they are learning. Seeing the material across different formats can often help you retain it better. Also:
Use practice questions and flashcards after studying the section thoroughly.
Review material again based on learning gaps from questions.
In addition to studying using a variety of study aids, it’s always a great idea to simulate the testing experience before arriving on test day. The EMT test is a timed test, and simulating it can give you an idea of how you will perform under pressure.
It’s also a good idea to have a study partner, classmate, or friend structure questions in the order of increasing difficulty for simulated tests. This process can give you more of a feel for what it will be like to take the computer-adaptive exam.
Read through all chapters of the sections that will be covered in the EMT textbook to familiarize yourself with the content.
Read the information a second time, paying attention to the details.
Make highlights and notes in your book or in a notebook.
Review the EMT Candidate Handbook for the most up-to-date information regarding the exam and certification process.
While it may be tempting to take the EMT test as soon as you have completed the educational requirements, this can often be a mistake, since failing it repeatedly can result in remediation and/or additional education requirements. Candidates are given six chances to pass the EMT cognitive examination. After three failed attempts, though, they must submit official documentation that verifies they have completed remedial training completed by an approved instructor or taken a course accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Pre-Hospital Continuing Education (CAPCE). Candidates then have an additional three attempts to pass; if they still have not passed, they are required to repeat the entire EMT course.
Given these policies, examinees cannot waste any opportunity to take the test. It is worth taking some time to review existing study materials and practice tests before scheduling your exam to make sure you know everything required.
Like many other clinical exams, the EMT exam covers a comprehensive variety of patient care topics and clinical knowledge. Essentially, this content is not something that can be learned in a few cramming sessions. It is built upon completion of the required education and ample studying before taking the test. It’s always a great idea to create a study plan for the weeks leading up to the test that allows for plenty of time to brush up on all of the required information. This process will help you perform far better than if you try to cram everything in a few days before the test.
Some of the questions on the EMT exam can be complex. It’s crucial that you read through them carefully so that you know exactly what information is being requested in the answer. While some individuals tend to rush through the questions because it is a timed test, it’s important to remember that it is computer-adaptive, so the better you perform on each question, the shorter the exam will be. Therefore, it’s often better to take your time and read through each question several times than it is to rush and answer as many as you can.
The EMT test has an $98 application fee, which must be paid each time an applicant registers for the cognitive skills portion of the test.
You must be at least 18-years-old to take the EMT test. Applicants must also have completed an approved EMT training course within the previous two years of their test date.
Yes, you can cancel or reschedule your exam at least 24 hours before your testing time by calling 866-673-6896 (M-F, 7 am-7 pm CST) or logging into your account. The fee to cancel or reschedule is $25.00, with an additional $10.00 fee if you reschedule or cancel by phone. If you do not cancel on time or do not show up on the day of your scheduled exam, you will have to re-register and pay additional application fees.
Usually, examination results will be posted to your National Registry account within two business days of completing your exam.
After passing your initial exam, you must renew your NREMT certification every two years. You can do this by either taking the exam again or accruing 40 hours of continuing education credits.
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