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How to Pass the Skills Test on the CNA Exam

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The process of becoming a certified nurse's assistant or a certified nurse's aide involves taking a written test as well as a practical skills test. The skills test will require you to demonstrate the things you've learned in your training. It can be nerve wracking to have someone observe you while you perform job-related tasks, but it's a necessary part of the process. Set yourself up for success with plenty of preparation.

What You'll Do

You won't know exactly which skills you'll need to perform until the actual test begins, but you can expect the skills test to cover taking vital signs, using a gait belt to ambulate patients, measuring intake and output of patients, and catheter care. You might also be asked to care for a patient's nails, help a patient eat while seated or in bed, or help a patient perform a range of motion exercises. In short, expect to cover any and all aspects of patient care that you covered during your CNA training. The exam typically covers five CNA skills.

Study Guides

The proctor of the exam will usually read a patient "scenario" which will dictate how to treat a particular patient. A patient with a spinal injury, for example, might need different bed-changing or bathing procedures. To prepare for the exam, visit the Department of Health website in the state where you want to work and then look for a study guide or CNA candidate handbook you can download or view online. The handbooks typically outline the specific protocols that the test proctors will be looking for with each skill, so you'll need to know these inside and out.

Ways to Practice

The key to succeeding in the skills test is to practice, practice, practice. How you'll practice will depend on how you learn best. If you're a visual learner, make a set of flashcards or a list of the various steps you'll need to follow for each skill, and then go through them on a regular basis. If you're a kinesthetic learner, ask a fellow CNA candidate to practice each skill with you in person. If you're an auditory learner, make a recording of each step and listen to it numerous times before the exam. Your school might also offer review videos that you can watch to refresh your memory about certain skills. If not, check out the videos offered by another school.

The Day of the Test

As with all important exams, get a good night's rest and eat a good meal several hours before the exam. Arrive at the testing center a little bit early so you're not late. Make sure you are dressed in the attire indicated in the testing handbook. Some centers require scrubs, while others don't. Have your nails closely clipped and clean, and keep your hair tied back so it doesn't distract you. If you perform one of the steps wrong, let the proctor know you want to try again. In many testing centers, you're allowed to re-do a section as long as you stay within the allotted time frame. Also remember that you can't wash your hands too much, so wash them before and after every skill. Be courteous and friendly and rely on your CNA training to guide you.