CNA Certification & Passing the NNAAP Exam

Being a CNA is a very rewarding career choice for many. It requires a sense of compassion and patience as you are going to be dealing with a wide variety of people. You are going to be trained in many areas in order to help you learn what to do in certain situation s and how to deal with people. Certified Nursing Assistants are found working in many places such as hospitals, nursing homes, and private duty care and retirement homes. The exam tests your CNA skills and can be nerve wracking and there are however a few CNA study tips to help relax you so that you can focus more on passing rather than bombing the exam.

To become a fully certified CNA, every certified nursing assistant student must take and pass an exam, known as the National Nurse Aide Assessment program – NNAAP for short. Taking and passing this exam is seen as the final step towards gaining your CNA certification.

CNA examination is the last hurdle nursing assistant students must overcome to become certified and start their new careers.

In order to pass the exam, there are several things you can do to give yourself a head start. The first good bit of advice to passing the NNAAP exam is to simply have an understanding of how the test is actually structured. The exam consists of two parts, written and clinical abilities.  Most students are especially anxious about the clinical component in which they will be judged based on their performance in numerous clinical settings.

Both written and skills sections of the CNA certification exam are done on the same day, and CNA’s will need to take and pass both parts of the NNAAP in order to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, and to be listed on the Nurse Aide Register. The exam itself might vary slightly from state to state, as with the questions and format of the test. Generally speaking, though, the tests are very similar in all states, and most have an average of 70 to 100 multiple choice questions.

Written Exam

Generally considered by students as the easier part of the exam.  It causes less anxiety for students before the exam and is regarded as the less difficult part by those who have already taken the test.

The written part of the test consists of several multiple choice questions, covering the main ‘range’ of CNA knowledge that students are required to comprehend and fully understand. The oral part of the test contains 10 basic comprehension questions, in addition to several more multiple choice questions.

Normally, the written test will be the one you are given to take first. Make sure you go over your CNA certification training materials, because this part of the exam will go over many aspects of patient care, and procedures that you will already have covered in your CNA training classes. If you have kept up to date with your CNA classes, then no part of this test should come as a surprise to you as you will already have covered all of it in your CNA training. It is however, advisable, to make sure you review all your training material in the upcoming days before your exam, so everything is still fresh in your head.

A few tips to ace the written part of the CNA exam:

  • Take time to study your notes and textbook from your CNA class
  • Work hard during your CNA class, take the test no later than 3 weeks after class ends
  • During the time of your CNA class and after it ends, do at least 300 practice questions.  Go back to the questions you’ve answered wrong, read the explanations, this is where you really build your knowledge.  Many students find it difficult to be going over questions they’ve answered incorrectly, because it tends to make us feel down.  But, going over your incorrect answers is one of the most powerful ways of studying.  The more practice questions you do, the better.

Clinical Skills Test

After the written exam, comes the practical portion of the exam. Sometimes, you will be asked to bring an assistant along with you, although most facilities will provide one for you if you cannot bring your own. Your assistant will basically act as your test patient; upon which you can show the examiner your clinical ability.

Clinical abilities part of the CNA exam causes students the most anxiety.  In part this is due to a proctor looking at you directly and judging your actions, and in part due to the fact that such testing of live skills is something that most students have not done before.  Everyone has taken a written multiple choice exam in the life, but being tested on your actions live is not something that is commonly seen in most examinations.

Keep in mind that you should try to remain calm throughout the test. Try not to be too nervous, because the examiners are not there to fail you. They want you to pass the test, so remain calm and remember your training.

You could even practice at home on friends or family members, so when the day comes to do it on your test, you’ll have already done it numerous times before, and your CNA Certification exam should be a breeze!

The skills test is designed to test a CNA student’s ability to safely perform the duties that are required of a CNA. Candidates are given the chance to show their skills in a simulated hospital situation, while being monitored and evaluated by nursing staff and exam officials to gauge overall performance and ability.

Tips to ace the clinical skills component

  • Study your class notes
  • Find a friend or a family member to play your “patient” and practice the various techniques and maneuvers many times on multiple days.  It is not advisable to practice your clinical skills on one day or two consecutive days only.  You must practice them on multiple days.
  • Know especially well the following: proper hand washing, taking blood pressure measurement, measuring respiratory rate, temperature measurement, proper techniques of moving your patient.

Preparation for NNAAP

As with all tests, good preparation goes a long way.  Plan your preparation by creating a calendar-based study guide with each day having specific tasks that you must accomplish.  For every 7 days include one day of rest.  Rest in such cases will not be a waste of time, it will work to your advantage.

It is advisable to prepare the night before the exam, make sure you get a good night’s sleep and are fresh and ready to take the test the next day. The written exam can take up to 2 or more hours, so it’s imperative that you go prepared.

As with any test, having a little anxiety can be to your advantage, because it actually allows you to focus on the subject.  However, having too much anxiety may prove to be disastrous in consequences as it will prevent you from thinking clearly, your behavior will be far from professional and your general appearance will suffer as a result.  It is not advised to take any calming or anxiolytic medications prior to your test.  While they may seem to help calm you down, they will also diminish the performance of your brain and ultimately lead to a lower test score.

Avoid Procrastination

A great CNA study tip to keep in mind is to not procrastinate. Turn in work on time and practice as often as you can. Not keeping up with work can result in you falling behind and not doing your work at all. This means you are more likely to fail the exam because you did not study at all. Always be prepared for things and again, keep studying even if you feel you know everything.

Stay Ahead of the Game

Another CNA study tip to help you pass the exams is to stay if you are done with the current lesson and know it pretty well, look ahead and try to learn a little bit about it before the class actually starts on it. Try to learn it on your own and this also gives you more time to practice new skills and keep you prepared in case you don’t understand something.

Study Outside of the Books

Instead of just using the one textbook you were given at the start of the course, go to the library or turn to the internet for some research and other information on the topics. This can expand your knowledge beyond what you are being taught and can lead to more success when it comes to taking the test.


Another great CNA study tip is to practice. This allows you the added assurance when it comes time to test that you know what you are doing. The more you practice, the better you will become. This can lead to perfect scores come exam time and you will be glad you did this. While it can become very repetitious and boring, it pays off in the end.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

There are also a few things to remember when the day for the exam comes around. The first thing is to make sure that your fingernails are not extremely long. Make sure you are not wearing nail polish of any kind. Clear nail polish may be fine as long as it is not tinted.

Always remember to keep the bed rail up on the side that you are rolling the patient towards. If not, this can cause harm to the patient and can count against you. Try to keep in mind everything you learning in your CNA training. Never wear fake nails to the exam. They are not allowed even when you begin working in the field as they are flammable and can get caught on patient garments. They can also be a perfect breeding spot for bacteria.

It’s worth reviewing these points before your test. Although some may seem obvious, you’d be surprised how many people forget these simple things:

  • Come prepared! Remember things like pencils, pens, a watch, stethoscope, and if required, your Identification card.
  • Arrive early. It’s better to arrive at a test early so you can settle in, than having to rush because you are late.
  • Make sure you have a good breakfast and drink plenty of water. The last thing you want in your test is to become light headed because you have nothing in your stomach. Your brain also works better when fully hydrated, so take water with you if it’s allowed.
  • The examiners will be watching you closely. Often in exam situations, people get stressed out and begin to forget the absolute basics…. Remember to WASH YOUR HANDS before attending to your patient! The instructors will not remind you to do this, at this point in your CNA certification training you should know to do these things already, and it really should come natural to you.
  • If you make a mistake, ask the examiner if you can repeat the process and try again. It’s better to ask to do it again, and do it right, than to do it wrong and say nothing to the examiner. Showing the examiner, you are aware of your mistakes will score you more points than not being aware of it, or trying to hide it.
  • Keep a healthy amount of communication going with your patient. It’s important to inform them of what you are doing and why, and also talk to them to keep them calm if they are nervous.
  • Don’t forget to smile. Be positive. Remember, you are already a CNA, you just need to demonstrate this to the examiner.

Remembering these tips and remaining aware of what you need to do to gain your CNA Certification will make a huge difference to you when trying to pass the exam, and after successfully passing the Certified Nursing Assistant Exam, you can look forward to starting a great career as a fully qualified Certified Nursing Assistant.