Dr. Jan Olson Reviewed By: Dr. Jan Olson
Authored By: Dave Evangelisti
CNA Skills Test

If you are preparing to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA), you may be wondering how to pass the CNA skills test. This can be a nerve-racking experience for many CNA students because, in order to pass this portion of the test, you have to prove your abilities as a nursing assistant in front of an evaluator.

With the right preparation, however, you can go into the CNA skills test with confidence.

The hardest part of the CNA Skills Test for many students is the unknown. You will be tested on 5 randomly chosen nursing assistant skills out of a list of 30 necessary skills.

You will not know in advance which skills will be tested until the day of the skills test. This means that you must learn all 30 skills in order to be prepared to pass the skills test and become a certified nursing assistant.

The CNA skills test is reflective of what is learned in your CNA training. However, covering skills once in training does not fully prepare you for demonstrating the skill in front of a highly trained evaluator. Taking time to study each of the 30 skills thoroughly provides the best opportunity to pass the skills test the first time with confidence.

CNA Skills to Know

CNA Skills Test

1. Know the CNA requirements for your state

While studying all 30 skills listed above is one of the most important steps on how to prepare for the CNA skills test, it is also crucial that you understand the CNA requirements of your state. Every state has slightly different requirements and knowing those will help you to best prepare for becoming a certified nursing assistant.

2. Be prepared on test day

You should show up for your skills test ready to perform your selected skills and be dressed in appropriate professional attire and presentable.

  • Wear standard scrubs
  • Wear non-slip shoes
  • Nails should be clean and short, so as not to pose infection risk or impact performance of a skill
  • Hair should be tied back and out of your face
  • Wear minimal jewlery

Remember, you are guaranteed to be taking the handwashing portion of the skills test, so leave your rings at home. 

3. Arrive early on test day

It is recommended that you arrive at your CNA skills test about 20 minutes early. This will give you plenty of time to get where you need to be without minimal stress.

4. Be polite

A person is evaluating you. Being polite will go a long way. This means a polite greeting when you arrive, eagerly listening to any instructions, and asking questions politely should they arise.

5. You can make corrections

If you miss a step, you can go back and make a correction only if you catch it in the middle of performing the skill. If you remember that you missed something after that portion of the exam is complete, you cannot go back and correct it. Be honest and speak up right away if you remember a step that you should have done but did not.

Preparing for any test can be overwhelming, but the CNA skills test can be incredibly stressful. If you are wondering how to pass the CNA skills test, it is essential to give yourself plenty of time to study, get the right preparation materials, and put in the effort to practice. With the proper preparation, you can ace your CNA skills test come exam day.

Unlike many standardized tests, you can't just memorize facts to pass the CNA skills test. Learning how to pass the CNA skills test and become certified requires much more than that. It's so different because you have to show that you understand the definition of a term, and you must also demonstrate mastery of the skill. That may mean investing in extra resources to help you prepare.

A great place to start in finding extra resources is a comprehensive guide like the CNA Recommended Courses and Products from Test-Guide.com. This will give a comparison of some of the top resources available. With this resource, you will get to see what each is ranked as well as the top-selling points of each.

In addition to these courses and products, you may also want to consider taking CNA classes. Many of the CNA requirements vary by state. So if you're wondering how to prepare for the CAN finding, your state's regulations and deciding on your specific area of concentration is the best place to start. 

A great resource to help you narrow down your CNA class search is this CNA Classes page. Here you will be able to choose your area of study, your concentration, and your zip code to get the most up to date and accurate information on your region.  

Another great resource to help you prepare for the multiple-choice portion of the CNA exam and the skills test is to take a free practice test. This will help you get a feel for the exam and the material that will be covered. A comprehensive resource that you may find helpful is this article on Free CNA Practice Tests.

Another helpful study tool to help you prepare for the CNA skills test is to use flashcards to quiz yourself on the required information. This is a great place to start to understand the basic knowledge required to perform each of the tasks you may be tested on in the CNA skills test.

If possible, many students also like to practice in study groups. When students study together, they can help ensure each skill is being remembered and performed correctly and take turns assessing and being assessed. Completing each task with another person, intently watching is also a great practice that will help you succeed when being evaluated on test day.

While the skills you will be tested on will be assigned at random, there is one skill that every state requires. This skill is handwashing. It is the first step to any other procedure you will do as a CNA; therefore, mastering it is crucial. 

Even if you pass all four other skills, it is an automatic fail if you do not pass the handwashing skills assessment. One of the most important things you can do to prepare for the CNA skills test is to practice the proper handwashing technique.

To become a certified nursing assistant, you will have to do three major things.

  1. Take the required courses from an accredited state-approved school.
  2. Pass a written test that consists of answering 60-100 multiple-choice questions. This number varies by the state you live in.
  3. Pass the CNA skills test.

For more information, check out our guide on how to become a CNA

How many steps can I miss and still pass the CNA skills test?

While a 70-80 percent is a passing score depending on your state, you must complete all of the crucial steps in the skills test correctly to pass. Because executing them correctly is vital, you must be ready for all 30 skills.

Remember, they will be chosen at random, so all tasks are fair game. Missing even one could result in failing the CNA skills test.

How many times can I take the CNA skills test?

This answer varies by state, but for most, you may take the CNA skills test up to three times within 2-years of completing your state approved CNA course work.

Since you only have three chances to succeed, you must take the time to prepare for your CNA and be ready for any skill that comes your way.

Is the CNA skills test hard?

Yes, and no. If you diligently study all of the 30 possible skills that could be on the CNA skills test and practice performing each, you should pass easily.

The hard part is actually putting in the time to memorize the multiple steps required and practice physically doing each of them.

The good news is that you are entirely in control of how well you do on the exam by the effort you put into your preparation.

Do I need to bring anything with me for my CNA skills test?

On test day, it is essential that you dress like you are already a practicing CNA. It will also be helpful to bring a watch with a second hand as you will need to keep track of time to perform some tasks.

How much does it cost to take the CNA test?

In most states, when you register for the CNA exam, your fee will cover both the written and skills test portion. The fee varies by state but is usually around $80-$100. If you have to retake the CNA test, you will have to pay an additional fee.


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