How to Pass Your Multiple-Choice CNA Test
6 Important Tips to Get You Through the Exam

Certified nursing assistant's busy life

How are your test-taking skills? Do you start to worry when it’s time to show how much you’ve learned? Does your mind go blank? Do you find yourself making mistakes even when you know the correct answers?

  1. Read the question
  2. Think of the answer before you read the options
  3. Watch out for exceptions
  4. Choose the best answer among the options
  5. Be careful with “***** of the above”
  6. Come down to two choices

All CNA candidates must pass their state’s written examination to get the credentials they need for a job. All the exams are multiple choice; each question has four choices for the correct answer.

Many candidates find testing stressful even after they have studied. But we’re here to help. Here are two bits of good news:

  1. The correct answer is guaranteed to be one of the choices. You don’t have to come up with it all by yourself.
  2. There are ways to help you choose the correct response, even if you’re nervous or unsure of the answer.

Here are six tips to get you through your exam. We’ll use some questions from CNA Plus practice tests to demonstrate these points.

How to Pass Your Multiple-Choice CNA Exam

  1. 1

    Read

    Read the question! Yes, this seems obvious. But when you’re in a hurry or think you already know the answer, you risk missing important information.

    Look at one of the questions most commonly missed by CNA Plus users:

    Mrs. Shumway has an order for I&O. You have picked up her breakfast and note she drank half of a 6 oz. glass of juice, 4 oz. of milk, and 8 oz. of coffee. You document
    450 cc
    240 cc
    920 cc
    685 cc

    Did you choose 450 cc? Correct! Or did you think the answer should be 540 cc? If so, you missed “she drank half of a 6 oz. glass of juice,” which equals 3 oz.
    3 + 4 + 8 = 15 oz.
    There are 30 cc in an ounce.
    15 × 30 cc = 450 cc.

    This question is important for two reasons: First, it tests your ability to calculate liquids for an accurate input. Second, it is a reminder to read every question carefully. Remember, the correct answer is always one of the choices.

  2. 2

    Think

    Think of the answer before you read the options. To help minimize confusion or error, read the question and decide what the correct response should be before you look at the options. If you’ve been studying, you may already know the answer. Keep your answer in mind as you read every choice. Knowing the right answer is the best way to succeed.

    Here’s an example:

    The most comfortable position for a resident with a respiratory problem is
    Fowler’s
    Prone
    Supine
    Lateral

    When you have studied, factual questions are easy to answer. You know that Fowler’s position is the correct answer. You can quickly respond with confidence and move on to the next question. If your answer isn’t among the options, reread the question and then the choices. You may have missed a clue.

  3. 3

    Watch out

    Watch out for exceptions! When a question says “All are true EXCEPT” or “Which is NOT correct,” you should pay even more attention to the choices. You can quickly forget that you’re looking for the wrong answer and end up choosing one of the three correct ones.

    Look at this question:

    Which of the following is not true of blindness?
    Always identify yourself before touching a blind person.
    Ask if a blind person needs help before you give assistance.
    Diabetes is an important cause of blindness.
    Most legally blind or visually impaired people have no sight at all.

    All the statements are correct except the last one. Were you able to stay focused on which option is NOT true? (Most legally blind or visually impaired people can detect light and usually shapes or images as well.)

  4. 4

    Choose

    Choose the best answer among the options! Sometimes, a question will require you to select the most appropriate answer from the four choices. The ideal answer in a perfect situation may not be the correct response. Read each choice carefully and treat it like a true-or-false statement.

    Try this question:

    As the nurse aide begins his or her assignment, what should the aide do first?
    Check all the nurse aide’s assigned residents.
    Start bathing a resident who starts physical therapy in one hour.
    Assist a resident who needs assistance getting off the toilet.
    Collect linen supplies for the shift.

    Here, you’re being asked to think in a critical way. Although the “perfect situation” answer is to check on all assigned residents, remember that resident safety always comes first. Naturally, you will first help the resident get off the toilet! This question is about prioritizing, not about how a shift is supposed to start.

  5. 5

    ***** of the Above

    An “all of the above” or “none of the above” choice requires you to consider each of the remaining three choices individually. Don’t jump to the conclusion that the “all” or “none” option is automatically correct.

    See what we mean with this example:

    Intake and Output deals with
    Solid foods
    Liquids
    Mashed or pureed foods
    All of the above

    The answer is “Liquids.” Input and output measure fluid balance, not the amount of food eaten. This question illustrates the need to look at each option as a true-or-false statement. All three choices must be correct for you to select “all of the above.” Be sure to take the time to read everything carefully!

  6. 6

    Guessing?

    Guessing? If you don’t know the answer, you’ll need a strategy for making a good guess. Usually, one or two options are obviously wrong, so you can eliminate those right away. Then look at each remaining option to see how well it fits with the question. You should be able to come down to two choices. Compare them and see if one makes more sense.

    Can you figure out the correct response to this question?

    Which of the following statements might strongly support that a client is considering suicide?
    “It would be better if I were dead.”
    “I don’t really care what you think.”
    “We all have to go sometime.”
    “I think I need to see a psychiatrist.”

    If you haven’t studied mental health, each of these statements might seem plausible. But even if you can’t recall everything from your CNA classes, common sense suggests that a client considering suicide might be beyond asking to see a psychiatrist. Of the three remaining statements, the first one seems to be the strongest and the most concerning. Even without much knowledge, this is a good—and correct—guess.

A few more bits of advice from experts:

  • Don’t spend too much time on any one question. If you have the time, mark the question and return to it after completing the other questions. You may find that the correct answer will occur to you after a while. You may even find that answering some of the other questions will help suggest or motivate the right answer to this one.
  • If you have studied, your first instinct is usually correct. Don’t change your answer unless the question involves a numerical calculation. Always review numerical calculations to check for careless mistakes you may have made in the computation.
  • When a choice says “always” or “never,” it is less likely to be correct.
  • Breathe and stay positive. Don’t get sidetracked by stress. One question at a time.

The best tip for taking the written examination? Study, study, study!

Start early and do a little bit every day. Take the CNA Plus practice tests several times. Each time, the questions and the choices are randomly shuffled, giving you the chance to learn. Furthermore, the questions should be similar (and sometimes identical!) to those on the actual examination.

For taking the written portion of your CNA examination, knowledge and confidence are your best friends. Once you’re prepared, everything will be easier. Good luck!

Take a free CNA practice test

Same type of questions that you'll see on the actual exam

Start now