Dr. Jan Olson By: Dr. Jan Olson
CNA Exam Overview

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If you want to be a Certified Nursing Assistant, you’ll first need to take and pass the CNA exam.

Some states use the NNAAP (National Nurse Aide Assessment Program) while others use other exam providers.Whichever program you plan to use, we’ve covered everything you need to know in order to pass.

Summary: Learn what is on the CNA exam. If you want to practice, take our CNA practice test.

The CNA exam is used by federal and state institutions to validate your skills and join the nurse’s aide registry, so that you may seek employment as a nursing assistant.

You must pass the exam to become CNA certified.

The exam itself is made up of a traditional written test and a practical skills test.

The written test will be similar to other exams you have taken in the past. The amount of questions you are asked will depend on who the provider of your exam is (between 60 and 75).

The skills portion is where you will demonstrate your clinical skills in a realistic scenario.

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Depending on which state you live in, you will take the CNA exam through one of three major providers. The providers are as follows:

NNAAP Prometric Headmaster
Alabama Alabama Arizona
Alaska Arkansas Montana
California Connecticut New Hampshire
Colorado Delaware North Dakota
District of Columbia Florida Nevada
Georgia Hawaii Ohio (STNA)
Guam Idaho Oklahoma
Louisiana Michigan Oregon
Mariana Islands New Mexico South Dakota
Maryland New York Tennessee
Minnesota Oklahoma Utah
New Hampshire    
North Carolina    
North Dakota    
Rhode Island    
South Carolina    
Virgin Islands    

The NNAAP CNA exam is the most common provider, as it serves over 25 states. It’s made up of the following:

  • Written Exam: 70 multiple-choice questions (10 are non-scored). 2 hour time limit.
  • Skills Exam: Live demonstration of various CNA skills.

On the written exam, there are three main sections:

Topic % of Exam # of Questions
I. Physical Care Skills    
A. Activities of Daily Living
1. Hygiene
2. Dressing and Grooming
3. Nutrition and Hydration
4. Elimination
5. Rest/Sleep/Comfort
14% 9
B. Basic Nursing Skills
1. Infection Control
2. Safety/Emergency
3. Therapeutic/Technical Procedures
4. Data Collection and Reporting
39% 23
C. Restorative Skills
1. Prevention
2. Self Care/Independence
8% 5
II. Psychosocial Care Skills    
A. Emotional and Mental Health Needs 11% 6
B. Spiritual and Cultural Needs 2% 2
III. Role of the Nurse Aide    
A. Communication 8% 4
B. Client Rights 7% 4
C. Legal and Ethical Behavior 3% 2
D. Member of the Health Care Team 8% 5


You can practice for this exam by taking our CNA practice test.

The Skills portion of the NNAAP exam will take place over 25 minutes, in which you will be asked to complete five randomly selected tasks chosen from the list below:

  • Hand Hygiene (Hand Washing)
  • Applies one knee-high elastic stocking
  • Assists to ambulate using transfer belt
  • Assists with use of bedpan
  • Cleans upper or lower denture
  • Counts and records radial pulse
  • Counts and records respirations
  • Donning and removing PPE (gown and gloves)
  • Dresses client with affected (weak) right arm
  • Feeds client who cannot feed self
  • Gives modified bed bath (face and one arm, hand and underarm)
  • Measures and records blood pressure
  • Measures and records urinary output
  • Measures and records weight of ambulatory client
  • Performs modified passive range of motion (PROM) for one knee and one ankle
  • Performs modified passive range of motion (PROM) for one shoulder
  • Positions on side
  • Provides catheter care for female
  • Provides foot care on one foot
  • Provides mouth care
  • Provides perineal care (PERI-CARE) for female
  • Transfers from bed to wheelchair using transfer belt

You can learn more about the skills portion by visiting guide on the CNA skills test.

The Prometric CNA exam is fairly similar to the NNAAP.It’s made up of the following:

  • Written Exam:60 multiple-choice questions. 90 minute time limit.
  • Skills Exam:Live demonstration of various CNA skills.

The major topics covered are:

Topic Percent of Exam
Role of the Nurse Aide 18%
Promotion of Safety 18%
Promotion of Function and Health of Residents 24%
Basic Nursing Care Provided by the Nurse Aide 26%
Providing Specialized Care for Residents with Changes in Health 14%


The skills portion of the Prometric exam is very similar to the skills exam for the NNAAP exam. You can practice for this exam by using our free CNA practice tests.

Like the other providers of the exam, Headmaster also uses 2 aspects to their exam:

  • Written Exam:75 multiple-choice questions. 1.5 hour time limit.
  • Skills Exam:Live demonstration of various CNA skills.

On the written exam, there you will find the following topics:

Topic Number of Questions
Safety 7
Infection Control 8
Personal Care 9
Mental Health 4
Care Impaired 4
Resident Rights 5
Communication 7
Data Collection 7
Basic Nursing Skills 9
Role and Responsibility 7
Disease Process 4
Older Adult Growth & Development 4

The skills portion of this exam is also similar to the other two. Start practicing with our CNA practice questions.

As you can see, there is some overlap between all 3 exams, the main differences being how the information is presented and how each topic is approached.

Requirements will vary from state to state. However, many states will require you to take a state-approved CNA program through an accredited institution before you can take your exam and become certified.

Some other requirements could include:

  • Minimum number of CNA training hours
  • Background check

The cost of taking the CNA exam will vary from state to state. However, you can expect to pay around $90 to $100 to sit for the exam.

The cost of CNA programs will also vary. Most schools charge tuition fees per credit hours. This means that you may pay $1k-$5k to enroll in CNA classes.

The score needed to pass the CNA exam will differ depending on your state and the test provider.

However, it is safe to say that you need at least a 75-80% to pass.

Preparing for any exam can be difficult, but this exam can feel especially daunting, as it is often the first step in your medical career. Luckily, there are several things you can do to make sure you are fully prepared on test day:

  1. Research your exam provider, and understand the kinds of questions that will be asked of you
  2. Know when your test date is, and plan your study sessions over a period of time
  3. Take advantage of CNA practice exams – this is the best way to test yourself and familiarize yourself with course content.

Will I have to take the skills test and the written test?

Yes. You must take both sections of the exam in order to pass.

Are the questions on the written portion multiple-choice?

Yes. All of the written questions are multiple-choice.

Who needs to take the CNA exam?

The CNA exam is for people who are beginning their career in the medical field and who wish to become a nursing assistant. Many CNAs go on to become certified nurses, doctors, and specialists.