How Is the CNA Test Structured?

The Certified Nursing Assistant exam is divided into two sections, a written examination and a clinical skills test. You must successfully pass both sections to earn certification. Each state has different rules regarding the CNA exam, so make sure you research your state’s requirements.

We’ve broken down the exam to help you best prepare:

CNA Exam: The Practical Section

On-the-job skills make up the practical portion of the CNA exam. The test proctor will observe you while you demonstrate skills routinely used by CNAs. This is a very important part of the exam. It’s a great idea to say aloud each step as you complete this portion of the test.

Your score is generated based on how well you perform the tasks. You’ll likely demonstrate these skills on a mannequin or with a fellow exam student. Some of the skills that may be tested include:

  • Personal Care: Bathing and grooming patients is an important part of a CNA’s job. These skills will be assessed in the clinical portion of the CNA exam.
  • Use of Restorative Devices: You need to know how to use and help others use mobility aids, such as walkers, crutches, and prostheses. You’ll also need to have knowledge of devices that generally improve a patient’s functions or lifestyle, such as catheters or other bowel and urinary control or training fixtures.
  • Mental Health Needs: Knowing how to address a patient’s mental health needs, and how to interact with patients who have schizophrenia, dementia, or psychosocial disabilities, is crucial, especially if you plan to be a CNA in a facility that specializes in nursing care for the mentally disabled.
  • General Nursing Skills: Maintaining a clean environment, washing hands (yours and patients’), recognizing symptoms and abnormalities in routine; all of these are required of CNAs regularly, and should be performed by rote.

CNA Exam: The Written Section

  • The following are some questions from a sample of the written portion of the CNA exam:A resident [of a nursing home] who is lying in bed suddenly becomes short of breath. After calling for help, the nurse aide’s next action should be to:
    – ask the resident to take deep breaths
    – take the resident’s vital signs
    – raise the head of the bed
    – elevate the resident’s feet
  • When a person is admitted to the nursing home, the nurse aide should expect that the resident will:
    – have problems related to incontinence
    – require a lot of assistance with personal care
    – experience a sense of loss relating to the life change
    – adjust more quickly if admitted directly from the hospital
  • The doctor has told the resident that his cancer is growing and that he is dying. When the resident tells the nurse aide that there is a mistake, the nurse aide should:
    – understand that denial is a normal reaction
    – remind the resident that the doctor would not lie
    – suggest the resident ask for more tests
    – ask if the resident is afraid of dying

Some questions are designed to test the intuition and empathy of the exam-taker, and there may not be an actual right or wrong answer. Other questions are more straightforward. Either you know the answer, or you don’t.