How To Pass The CNA Exam

As a prospective CNA, you’ll no doubt want to pass your state’s nurse aide evaluation on your first attempt. The evaluation comprises of both written and skills components, which test your clinical skills and conceptual knowledge through 75 to 100 multiple choice questions and 3 to 6 assigned skills. Many candidates pass the written exam on their first try, but the skills test can be problematic if you fail to practice beforehand. Following is a list of tips and best practices that will help you prepare for success.

Choose The Right School

Passing the state board exam and acquiring CNA certification all starts with the school you attend. One of the best ways to guarantee success is to do some research before enrolling in a CNA class. Firstly, make sure the school has the state’s approval to conduct the training. Then, you can focus on other critical factors such as the school’s pass rate, instructors’ experience and whether they offer special exam preparation as part of the training. Verify the school’s claims with the pass rates recorded by your state board.


Most nurse aides agree that the skills test is the most challenging component of the nurse aide evaluation. However, one of the best ways to succeed is to practice. Most states recognize 25 to 30 clinical skills. The skills test evaluates 3 to 6 of those skills; Handwashing and infection control along with 3 other skills issued at random – this varies by state.

The skills are relatively simple, but following the steps is critical to passing the exam. Therefore, you should never underrate the benefits of practice and more practice. After performing the skills several times with friends and family, the steps will become second nature.


Review your course notes. It is crucial that you attend all your classes and clinical practice. Gather notes from the classes you missed and review all the material. Your notes will be helpful for the written exam, but it will also help you prepare for the clinical skills evaluation. Watch skills videos carefully and pay attention to the steps. If your course facilitator does not provide skills videos, you can purchase them online or search for helpful ones on Youtube.

If you’re worried about the questions on the written exam, you can download a sample test in the candidate handbook offered by the testing provider in your state. Prometric and Pearson Vue are two of the leading providers that offer sample tests and full practice tests for nurse aide students.

Reviewing videos and course content helps to reinforce the skills and solidify the importance of each step in your mind. When you put the skills to practice, you’ll feel confident and less anxious during the evaluation.


Preparation is the key to success. However, don’t try to do all your preparation the day before the exam. In fact, all you should wrap up your review and practice early, so you can spend time relaxing the day before the scheduled test. Let advanced preparation cure your anxiety and use the day before to relax and relieve stress. Stress, debilitating stress, will do more harm than good during the skills component as you could easily skip a step and fail the exam. Go shopping, take a long walk, go to the spa or try some other relaxation technique to loosen up before the test. Most of all, make sure to get a good night’s rest before you take the test.

Words of Wisdom

Here are some other words of wisdom from Registered Nurses and Certified Nurse Aides who took the exam:

“Don’t beat yourself up if you fail the first time around. Pick yourself up, practice the skills and visualize your success.” Katy T, Arizona

“Pay attention to the little things, as those determine your eventual success. Those “little things” include patient safety, infection control, and patient privacy. Therefore, locking wheels on the bed, washing your hands and changing gloves, and closing the curtains are critical tasks that you should not forget.” Dave T, New Jersey.

“When the evaluator assigns the task, think about the outcome and work from there – always keeping the patient’s safety and comfort in mind.” Nicole B, New Jersey.

“Perform the skills exactly as you learned during the training. The skills test is no place for shortcuts. Verbalize the steps if you’re unsure, and it will keep you focused on the task. If you leave out a step, simply go back and do it again and say out loud what you’ve done. Most of all relax and believe in yourself.” Jamie P, Texas.

The CNA state exam can be challenging, but following these simple tips will help you succeed and start a rewarding career as a Certified Nurse Aide.

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