Test Preparation for Nursing Assistant/Nurse Aide Exam (page 2)
Passing the CNA certification exam is a rite of passage to your new career, and it allows you to use the CNA credential after your name. Passing may mean more job security and a better salary, and it may be the boost to inspire you to further your nursing career.
Like all good things, passing the exam does not come easily. You do have to work for it. But you don’t have to work alone. The LearningExpress Test Preparation System is here to help. In just ten easy-to-follow steps, you will learn everything you need to prepare for the exam and help you perform your best. You’ll be in control. Being a “good test-taker” requires more than just knowing your material. It means being prepared.
Here is how the LearningExpress Test Preparation System works: Ten easy steps lead you through everything you need to know and do to get ready to master your exam. Each step includes both reading about the step and one or more activities. It is important that you do the activities along with the reading, or you won’t be getting the full benefit of the system.
- Step 1: Know the Potential Test-Taking Blockers
- Step 2: Get Information
- Step 3: Conquer Test Anxiety
- Step 4: Make a Plan
- Step 5: Learn to Manage Your Time
- Step 6: Learn to Use the Process of Elimination
- Step 7: Know When to Guess
- Step 8: Reach Your Peak Performance Zone
- Step 9: Get Your Act Together
- Step 10: Do it!
If you have several hours, you can work through the whole LearningExpress Test Preparation System in one sitting. Otherwise, you can break it up and do just one or two steps a day for the next several days. It is up to you—remember, you are in control.
Step 1: Know the Potential Test-Taking Blockers
Activities: Think about tests you had difficulty with in the past. Then take a look at the list of test-taking blockers and see how many of them applied to you back then. Now make your own list from the suggestions for correcting them, place it on your desk or refrigerator, and start making changes. For example, if you were a negative thinker, write, “Think Positive: I WILL pass my certification exam!”
Part A: Test-Taking Blockers
Test taking is challenging because of the many pitfalls that can keep you from doing your best.
- Having a negative attitude: Thinking that you will do poorly can actually cause you to fail. Think positive. Stand in front of a mirror and say, “I will pass my nursing assistant certification exam!” Post signs around your home and car that say, “I WILL pass!” Write your name with the letters CNA after it.
- Not taking ownership of your career: Teachers don’t fail students; students fail on their own. Take ownership of your career. While others may help you, it ultimately remains up to you to pass the certification exam.
- Not preparing for the exam: Don’t be over-confident. Even straight-A students can fail exams if they have not prepared.
- Preparing at the last minute: Everyone is pressed for time these days, but you need to make adequate time to prepare for your exam. Weeks are better than days, and days are better than hours. Squeezing several weeks of studying into one night only increases test anxiety. Save that last night for a quick review and a good night’s sleep.
- Not practicing: The more you practice nursing assistant exam questions, the better you’ll be at answering the ones on your certification exam. Use and reuse the practice exams in this book. You will increase your comfort level and keep getting better at answering multiple-choice questions and performing job-related tasks.
Step 2: Get Information
Knowledge is power. Therefore, first, you have to find out everything you can about the nursing assistant exam. Once you have your information, the next steps will show you what to do with it.
Part A: Straight Talk about the Nursing Assistant Exam
Why do you have to take this exam? One of the major objectives of OBRA was to better the quality of care given to residents of long-term care facilities. Thus, OBRA requires that all nursing assistants who wish to work in a long-term care facility complete a training program and pass an exam to ensure they have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide adequate care. Individual states may or may not require certification to work in acute care facilities (such as hospitals), so you need to check your state’s requirements before embarking on the certification process.
It is important for you to remember that your score on the written exam does not determine how smart you are or even whether you will make a good nursing assistant. There are all kinds of things a written exam like this can’t test: whether you are likely to show up late or call in sick a lot, whether you can be patient with a trying client, or whether you can be trusted with confidential information about people’s health. Those kinds of things are hard to evaluate on a written exam. Meanwhile, it is easy to evaluate whether you can correctly answer questions about the job duties of a nurse aide.
This is not to say that correctly answering the questions on the written exam is not important! The knowledge tested on the exam is knowledge you will need to do your job, and your ability to enter the profession you have trained for depends on your passing this exam. And that’s why you are here—to achieve control over the exam.
Part B: What’s on the Test
The certification exam tests the skills, knowledge, and attitudes needed to perform as a nursing assistant. These areas include communications, client rights, legal and ethical issues, the healthcare team, grooming and dressing, hygiene, hydration and nutrition, elimination, comfort, rest and sleep, infection control and handwashing, safety, emergencies, therapeutic and technical procedures, data collection and reporting, prevention, self-care and independence, mental health and emotional needs, and spiritual and cultural needs.
The passing score varies by state, but the range is usually from 70 to 80 percent on the written exam. The acceptable score on the clinical skills portion of the exam also varies by state from 70 to 100 percent. Check with your state agency to obtain information about its specific requirements.
Step 3: Conquer Test Anxiety
Having complete information about the exam is the first step in getting control of the exam. Next, you have to overcome one of the biggest obstacles to test success: test anxiety. Test anxiety can not only impair your performance on the exam itself; it can even keep you from preparing! In this step, you will learn stress management techniques that will help you succeed on your exam. Learn these strategies now, and practice them as you complete the exams in this book so that they will be second nature to you by exam day.
Combatting Test Anxiety
The first thing you need to know is that a little test anxiety is a good thing. Everyone gets nervous before a big exam, and if that nervousness motivates you to prepare thoroughly, so much the better. Many wellknown people throughout history have experienced anxiety or nervousness—from performers such as actor Sir Laurence Olivier and singer Aretha Franklin to writers such as Charlotte Brontë and Alfred Lord Tennyson. In fact, anxiety probably gave them a little extra edge—just the kind of edge you need to do well, whether on a stage or in an examination room.
Stress Management before the Test If you feel your level of anxiety rising in the weeks before the test, here is what you need to do to bring the level down again:
- Get prepared. There’s nothing like knowing what to expect and being prepared for it to put you in control of test anxiety. That’s why you are reading this book. Use it faithfully, and remind yourself that you are better prepared than most of the people taking the test.
- Practice self-confidence. A positive attitude is a great way to combat test anxiety. This is no time to be humble or shy. Stand in front of the mirror and say to your reflection, “I’m prepared. I’m full of self-confidence. I’m going to ace this test. I know I can do it.” If you hear it often enough, you will come to believe it.
- Fight negative messages. Every time someone starts telling you how hard the exam is or how it is almost impossible to get a high score, start telling them your self-confidence messages. If the someone with the negative messages is you, telling yourself you don’t do well on exams or you just can’t do this, don’t listen.
- Visualize. Imagine yourself reporting for duty on your first day as a certified nursing assistant. Think of yourself helping patients and making them more comfortable. Imagine coming home with your first paycheck. Visualizing success can help make it happen—and it reminds you of why you are working so hard to pass the exam.
- Exercise. Physical activity helps calm down your body and focus your mind. Besides, being in good physical shape can actually help you do well on the exam. Go for a run, lift weights, go swimming—and do it regularly.
Stress Management on Test Day
There are several ways you can bring down your level of test anxiety on test day. They will work best if you practice them in the weeks before the test, so you know which ones work best for you.
- Deep breathing. Take a deep breath while you count to five. Hold it for a count of one, then let it out for a count of five. Repeat several times.
- Move your body. Try rolling your head in a circle. Rotate your shoulders. Shake your hands from the wrist. Many people find these movements very relaxing.
- Visualize again. Think of the place where you are most relaxed: lying on the beach in the sun, walking walking through the park, or whatever makes you feel good. Now close your eyes and imagine you are actually there. If you practice in advance, you will find that you only need a few seconds of this exercise to experience a significant increase in your sense of well-being.
When anxiety threatens to overwhelm you right there during the exam, there are still things you can do to manage the stress level.
- Repeat your self-confidence messages. You should have them memorized by now. Say them silently to yourself, and believe them!
- Visualize one more time. This time, visualize yourself moving smoothly and quickly through the test answering every question correctly and finishing just before time is up. Like most visualization techniques, this one works best if you have practiced it ahead of time.
- Find an easy question. Skim over the test until you find an easy question, and answer it. Getting even one circle filled in gets you into the test- taking groove.
- Take a mental break. Everyone loses concentration once in a while during a long test. It is normal, so you shouldn’t worry about it. Instead, accept what has happened. Say to yourself, “Hey, I lost it there for a minute. My brain is taking a break.” Put down your pencil, close your eyes, and do some deep breathing for a few seconds. Then you will be ready to go back to work.
Try these techniques ahead of time, and see if they work for you!
Step 4: Make a Plan
Activity: Construct a study plan. Maybe the most important thing you can do to get control of yourself and your exam is to make a study plan. Too many people fail to prepare simply because they fail to plan. Spending hours poring over sample test questions the day before the exam not only raises your level of test anxiety, but also will not replace careful preparation and practice over time.
Don’t fall into the cram trap. Take control of your preparation time by mapping out a study schedule. On pages 26 and 27 are two sample schedules, based on the amount of time you have before you take the written exam. If you are the kind of person who needs deadlines and assignments to motivate you for a project, here they are. If you are the kind of person who doesn’t like to follow other people’s plans, you can use the suggested schedules to construct your own.
Even more important than making a plan is making a commitment. You can’t review everything you learned in your nursing assistant course in one night. You need to set aside some time every day for study and practice. Try for at least 20 minutes a day. Twenty minutes daily will do you much more good than two hours on Saturday—divide your test preparation into smaller pieces of the larger work. In addition, making study notes, creating visual aids, and memorizing can be quite useful as you prepare. Each time you begin to study, quickly review your last lesson. This act will help you retain all you have learned and help you assess whether you are studying effectively. You may realize you are not remembering some of the material you studied earlier. Approximately one week before your exam, try to determine the areas that are still most difficult for you.
Don’t put off your study until the day before the exam. Start now. A few minutes a day, with half an hour or more on weekends, can make a big difference in your score.
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