7 FAQ’s From Nursing Students on the State Nursing Assistant Skills Exam

Most nursing assistant students have questions about the state skills exam and how to pass it. You might have learned there are several correct methods to perform nursing skills, yet sometimes a nursing instructor will still claim there is “only one way to perform a skill”. Understandably, this can be quite confusing. My advice is to read through these frequently asked questions from actual students and then put your fears to rest. The good news is there are many ways to successfully pass the state skills exam!

I have put together a list of the 10 most frequently asked questions by nursing assistant/CNA students to help answer some of your questions. Look at my other posts for additional help, including how to pass written tests. 

This information is current as of 2018 and will be updated as needed.

#1:  Do I have to bring in supplies for my skill all at once, or can I take several trips to gather supplies?

Often the supplies that you need to complete a skill will be difficult to carry in one load. Many skills, especially those that involve filling a basin with water, require you to make separate trips to and from the client’s room. When you go between the clean utility carts to a client’s room, you do not need to introduce yourself each time or explain what you are doing. However, it is recommended to gather as many supplies can comfortably take to the client’s room. The simple answer is- YES. You can take several trips to gather supplies.

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#2: Is gathering supplies timed, or does the evaluator stop the clock during the exam to allow me time to get the supplies I need?

During your skills exam, you have 30 minutes total to complete 5 skills. The evaluator will start a 30 minute timer at the onset of your test, not when you start one of your 5 skills. This means when getting your supplies, like a basin, soap, and towel, you are being timed. You will need to find a way to move through your skills quickly in order to not run out of time. Here’s a tip: if you find yourself spending unnecessary time trying to remember what supplies you need for a particular skill during practice, try to visualize the supplies you will use for the skill. Sometimes, students taking the state exam will forget to gather all the supplies they need, and then start performing the selected skill without the right equipment. If this happens to you, make sure to tell your evaluator that you made a mistake and will need to return to the clean utility cart to retrieve additional supplies. Notice if you need to take off your gloves and wash your hands before gathering more equipment.

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#3: Do I have to wear gloves for each skill?

Only certain skills specifically require you to wear gloves. However, you can add an extra step to a skill by wearing gloves when not otherwise instructed to do so. This might also look like providing privacy for every skill, even when not specially instructed to do so. As long as you still perform the skill correctly without the addition of a major change, you get a ‘yes’ for every step you complete correctly. The evaluator would mark ‘no’ for any step done incorrectly or incompletely.

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#4: Which skills will I be tested on at the state skills exam?

Every test taker (candidate) is given 5 skills to complete in 30 minutes. Each test taker will be evaluated on hand hygiene as the first skill, followed by a measurement skill. Examples of measurement skills are: urine output, weight, blood pressure, respiration rate, and pulse rate. Remember! You will need to state “wash hands” before recording these measurements during the test. The remaining three skills will be a random selection of the remaining skills found in your PearsonVUE booklet. There are 22 skills total.


#5: The nurse evaluator recorded a different pulse rate, respiration rate, urine output, blood pressure, or weight. What will happen next?

Never fear darling! There is a margin of error for each vital sign that you are tested on during the state skills exam.

Respirations: +/- 2 breaths

Radial Pulse: +/- 4 beats

Urine Output: +/- 25mL, or +/- 25cc

Weight (make sure to document lbs or kg!): +/- 2 lbs or +/- 0.9kg

Blood Pressure: +/- 8mm

#6: What if I need accommodations on the nursing assistant skills exam or have a learning disability?

If you would like to seek accommodations for a disability, then prior to scheduling your PearsonVUE written and skills exam go to: https://home.pearsonvue.com/test-taker/Test-accommodations.aspx and complete the necessary steps. The testing center that you select will be required to accommodate individual needs if they are approved by PearsonVUE in advance of your testing date. Unfortunately, the accommodation they provide to you on testing day might be different than you expect and will vary from person to person, even if the diagnosis (like dyslexia) is the same. There is fairly extensive documentation that you will need to provide in order to prove that you have a disability and PearsonVUE requires each person seeking accommodations to have seen a provider (doctor, counselor, psychiatrist, etc.) who documents your disability. After successful documentation has been submitted by the candidate, PersonVUE reviews your case and will communicate with you the accommodations they are willing to provide on test day.

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#7: How can I correct a mistake on exam day?

You can correct any mistake during the exam, as long as you are still demonstrating the skill. State the mistake you made, i.e. “I touched the inside of the sink while washing my hands”, and then explain or show the evaluator how you would correctly complete the skill. This does not mean you will need to start the skill over from the beginning. Just correct your mistake and explain yourself!

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