How to Beat the Skills Portion of the CNA Exam

Your decision to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA) is an excellent choice that offers you job security, numerous options for practice and a highly flexible schedule. If you are a current CNA student or are considering the benefits of a CNA program for your career, the CNA skills test may be intimidating or at least a little nerve-racking. However, the adage of “practice makes perfect” certainly applies to the skills testing portion of your CNA exam and can ultimately assure your successful certification. Follow these simple tips to help you prepare and feel confident in your manual skills test.


Practicing Indirect Care

Depending on your state of location, you may be given three or five skills out of a possible 25 to perform as the state examiner observes. Before you begin each skill, start with the following steps to ensure that indirect care is performed correctly such as:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water for 20 to 30 seconds as exactly instructed in class before and after each skill
  • Introduce yourself and acknowledge the patient by his or her formal name
  • Take a few moments and explain to the patient exactly what you are going to do and why
  • Always wear gloves if a chance of contact with bodily fluids is possible
  • Ensure that your patient is always safe and privacy is maintained
  • Performing Direct Patient Care

The CNA test is timed and allows you 25 to 30 minutes to complete the three to five skills of the exam. Relax and do not be alarmed. This amount of time is sufficient to perform the skills slowly and thoughtfully. Remember, the state examiner’s number one concern is that you care for patients in a safe manner. Although you may spend a considerable amount of time performing in the skills lab, you may want to practice at home with family members for the test and perform patient care such as:

  • Making an occupied and unoccupied bed
  • Positioning a patient in bed
  • Positioning a patient in bed and performing a back rub
  • Transfer a patient from bed to a chair and back to bed
  • Ensure you do not leave the patient unattended during care.
  • Side rails must always be up and lock wheels when appropriate.
  • In addition, practice safe body mechanics that protect your back and keep you safe.

Skills Test Tips on Vital Signs

Purchase an inexpensive stethoscope and cuff to practice taking blood pressure at home. Be careful when practicing with friends or family and only inflate the cuff three times each practice session to ensure safety. Practice by feeling for and locating the brachial artery before you place the cuff on the arm.

Always count the respirations and pulse for one full minute. Be sure to support the wrist when assessing the pulse and that the patient is in a comfortable position. When finished with the equipment during the skills test, always clean ear pieces and the bell of the stethoscope with alcohol swabs and put the equipment away.

Practice Provides Confidence and Reduces Stress

As you practice your skills on a regular basis, you may relax more and feel less stress when performing your skills test. During the test, always monitor your patient for safety, comfort and ensure their privacy as part of patient rights. Using universal precautions is vital to your passing grade and use gloves when necessary. Above all, relax and take a deep breath before you begin.