CNA Certification Test: A Detailed Look at the CNA Exam

After successfully completing an approved nursing assistant program, candidates must take a state-issued exam to become certified nursing assistants (CNA). While the exact content of these exams vary, there are commonalities to review.

CNA certification exams are generally split into a written test and a hands-on clinical skills test. Application requirements and test content varies depending on the state.

CNA Certification Exam Information

Although certified nursing assistant (CNA) exams differ in each state, they all consist of written and clinical skills sections. Each section verifies a candidate's knowledge of care giving techniques, patient communication skills and safety procedures. Successful examinees are qualified to provide basic patient care in their state of residence.

Written Test

The written portion of a CNA exam generally consists of multiple-choice questions, although some states also include reading comprehension questions. These questions cover topics including:

  • Hygiene
  • Nutrition
  • Infection control
  • Restorative services
  • Appropriate workplace conduct

Candidates are also asked psychosocial care questions about the emotional, mental, cultural and spiritual needs of patients. Additionally, questions test candidates' knowledge of patient communication, patient/client rights and ethical behavior.

Clinical Skills Test

The clinical skills section of a CNA exam is hands-on and requires candidates to demonstrate common CNA tasks. Some of the skills tested may include:

  • taking and recording patient blood pressure
  • feeding, bathing and dressing a patient
  • assisting a patient with a bedpan
  • helping with range of motion exercises
  • providing catheter care

Candidates are also tested on whether or not they employ proper hand-washing techniques before and after contact with a patient. Patient interaction and communication skills are also assessed.

Application Info

Each state has its own qualification requirements, application processes and fees for taking a CNA exam. Most states require candidates to be 18 or older and have successfully completed a state-approved nursing assistant course, though not all states have educational requirements. In some states, aspiring CNAs can apply to take the test online, while other states require that forms and application fees be mailed. Retake policies for applicants who do not pass the test can also vary. If candidates are unable to pass within the allowed number of retakes, they might be required to complete additional training before taking the test again.

While specifics vary by state, those taking a CNS certification exam can expect a written test that covers topics including nutrition, hygiene and psychosocial care, and a hands-on clinical skills test that will cover tasks such as recording blood pressure, assisting a patient with a bedpan and proper hand-washing technique.

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