CNA Skills? Passing your test to earn your Certified Nursing Assistant qualification is only the first step in a great career, but it’s also the largest one. CNA certification can open doors to positions only available to those who have completed all qualifications and maintained active certification; this includes the CNA essential skills test. Let’s take a look at a few tips for what you can do to improve your chances of passing.

What Is the Skills Test, Exactly?

The skills test is part of your certification examination to attain your CNA certification. You must complete training at a state-approved school before you can undertake your examination. The first part of the examination involves a written test. Every state’s test is different and may have anywhere from 60 to 100 questions. The second part of the test is the skills test, in which you actively demonstrate approximately five nursing skills in front of an evaluator. This shows your skills in practical action.

Will I Know Ahead of Time What Skills I’ll Be Tested on?

Usually, no. The only skill that’s always included on every CNA skills test is hand washing. All others will be selected at random, so you have no way of guessing ahead of time and practicing only those five skills. There are approximately 30 skills total that you could be tested on, including but not limited to:

List of CNA Skills

  • Feeding
  • Indirect care
  • Mouth care
  • Denture-specific mouth care
  • Specific mouth care for unconscious patients
  • Foot care
  • Elastic support stocking application
  • Hand and nail care
  • Blood pressure measurements
  • Body temperature measurements
  • Pulse measurement and recording
  • Respiration measurement and recording
  • Urinary bag output measurement
  • Catheter care
  • Bedpan toileting management
  • Bed changing, including occupied beds
  • Bed position changing
  • Resident dressing – weak arm
  • Both male and female perineal care
  • Wheelchair transfers
  • Partial bed bathing
  • A range of motion exercises for key groups – shoulder; elbow and wrist; and, hip, knee, and ankle
  • Body positions – prone, supine, lateral, Fowler’s, and Sim’s
  • Gait belt ambulation

So I Have to Memorize All of Those for the Test?

cna skills-woman in her desk thinking doing some writing

Yes. These are all critical skills that you’ll use in your everyday work as a CNA. Rather than test you on all the skills, examiners make sure you’re ready to respond to any situation in a crisis by giving you a random selection of skills to demonstrate. Not only do you have to be prepared by knowing them all, but you also need to react coolly and calmly under pressure to demonstrate the exact skills required in an evaluation environment.

Can I Study Just by Reviewing Requirements?

It’s always good to study by using resources on hand. Review your class materials and read up on any information provided. Google tips for how to be successful in your CNA exam. Many other CNA students post helpful videos online, with either practice demonstrations or live recordings of their actual evaluations. Watch these videos to get a better idea of what you’ll be facing on evaluation day.

Practice Makes Perfect

While studying is great, practice is even better. If you have access to an environment where you can implement practice exercises, take advantage of it. You can also ask other students to help you practice, and take turns acting as the patient is acting out specific scenarios. Practicing this way turns the concepts you studied into something real, cementing the steps necessary to complete each task until you’ve perfected the process.

Review State-Specific Requirements

cna skills-woman with her laptop reviewing in her laptop while writing

While making use of available resources, don’t forget to crosscheck any information and skills required against your state’s specific requirements. Each state has its own nursing licensing and certification boards, with its own unique requirements. While some expectations may be universal for CNA candidates, individual states may have specific requirements you should be aware of before your test.

Dress Appropriately

cna skills-woman wearing scrub suit

CNAs often scrub up for the job, and you should dress appropriately for your evaluation. If you don’t have access to a set of scrubs, wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move quickly with a free range of mobility. Avoid overly loose clothing items that may get caught in things or create unsanitary situations by dipping into places where they don’t belong.

Stay away from overly tight clothing, too, that may constrict your movement or be uncomfortable enough to distract you. Wear comfortable shoes that you feel safe standing in and moving in for long periods of time without pain or soreness.

Use Calming Exercises

cna skills-women doing breathing exercises

The day of your evaluation can be anxiety-inducing. You may have spent weeks studying, practicing, and preparing, only to forget everything on the day of the exam because your nerves are on high alert. Don’t let the stress chemicals in your brain turn you into a blank slate.

Use calming exercises such as controlled breathing, counting, or meditation to keep your cool and stay relaxed before it’s your turn for an evaluation. If you have anxiety, ADHD, or other similar conditions, you may want to use a fidget spinner or listen to soothing music to help keep yourself calm and avoid panic.

Do I Have to Retake the Skills Test for the Other States?

Because CNA certification requirements differ by state, if you move to another state, or even live in one state and work in another, you will have to re-certify by that state’s requirements. That means retaking the skills test as well as the exam and being aware of state-specific requirements that may trip you up or run counter to your prior experience. You may have to start from scratch learning your requirements, processes, and procedures to make sure you pass the exam again.

Trust Your Gut

Many times when you’re frozen in the middle of your evaluation, you can trust your gut to lead you right. You’ve likely got the information you need at hand, but consciously attempting to think of it is stressing you out and making you blank out. Trust yourself, trust your instincts, trust your gut – and good luck on your CNA test, and your pathway to a new career.