Test Tip Tuesday

5 Secrets to Passing the CNA Clinical Exam - Part I
#4 will probably fail you

So, you are getting ready to take the CNA State Exam…how exciting! I bet you are probably a bit nervous, and maybe even a little scared. That’s completely normal! Taking a test can be very stressful…especially when you are being watched closely! No one likes being watched while they are performing skills! But, don’t panic quite yet….we are going to help you with that!

Every Tuesday, a blog that goes over a testing tip or a specific action you can take to help you pass the state exam. We will explain how the test works, how it’s graded, what to expect and how to pass in the coming weeks. All you have to do is look out for our blogs to improve your chances of passing the test the FIRST time!

So, on to today’s subject: 5 Secrets to passing the CNA Clinical Exam


  1. Follow the Care Plan – EXACTLY
  2. Don’t touch the patient until you have washed your hands
  3. Follow the Principles for every skill – IMPORTANT
  4. The test is really about the patient
  5. Make corrections as soon as you realize you made a mistake


This is a really big topic that needs more than 1 lesson, so I am going to break this down into 6 individual blogs (one topic is so big it needs TWO blogs) to fully explain each topic. Let’s start with #1 on the list:


1. Follow the Care Plan - EXACTLY

No matter what you were taught in class. No matter how many videos you have watched. Read the care plan they give you during the test. Then read it again, slower. Pay attention to what they want you to do on THIS patient. Your test is all about following the care plan – we will be providing the ACTUAL testing care plans (used in Prometric testing in many states) in an upcoming email. Make sure you OPEN the daily emails!!

So, let’s say you get this care plan for the state exam. This care plan tells you to provide flexion/extension exercise to the right hip, knee and ankle. Let’s stop there for a second. Now, looking at the patient, you notice they have TWO legs. So, if they HAVE two legs, shouldn’t you exercise both? We all know exercise is good for you. Is this a trick? You might even think you will get bonus points for going above and beyond! Surely, they want both legs exercised, right?

But wait…in class you learned there are THREE exercises that can be performed for range of motion: flexion/extension, abduction/adduction and rotation. Why does this care plan just tell us to do flexion/extension? Is this a trick? Are they seeing if I know the other exercises? Maybe I should do all three, so the evaluators know that I know how to do them. 

No. No, you won’t get bonus points. No, the nurse is not interested in whether you know all the exercises. No, they are not tricking you. Just…NO. Remember that CARE PLANS are individualized based on the needs of THIS patient. The nurse wrote this care plan for a REASON. Maybe the patient has a blood clot in the left leg that we don’t want to dislodge. By exercising that leg, the blood clot might break free and travel.

Just because you know HOW to do certain things doesn’t mean EVERY patient needs THOSE things done. Imagine for a second…all surgeons know how to take an appendix out (they learned that in med school before they specialized). But that doesn’t mean that they are going to take the appendix out of EVERY person they do surgery on! That would be silly….and dangerous. We only do what THIS patient needs done – medicine is not a one-size-fits-all industry. Just because you know HOW to do something, doesn’t mean it should be done on THIS patient.

care plan process

So, how do we know what THIS patient needs?? THE CARE PLAN! The nurse assesses the patient, decides the best actions to take and then writes them down in a care plan to keep everyone on the same page. The entire team follows the plan. Plans change as the patient changes, so follow the plan. 

That is what the test is grading you on…following the care plan. You MUST follow the care plan EXACTLY during the exam. Any change you make is likely to fail you. So, don’t do extra exercises (THIS patient doesn’t need them – or they could injure the patient). Don’t exercise other body parts (THIS patient doesn’t need them – or they could injure the patient). Don’t do more repetitions than the care plan tells you to (THIS patient doesn’t need them – or they could injure the patient). In other words, follow “The Care Plan, the WHOLE Care Plan and Nothing But the Care Plan!” if you want to pass the clinical test.

Want more information on the care plan? Click here to watch our video on following the care plan for the state exam!

So, now that you know WHAT to do…let’s look at HOW we are going to do tasks. Next up…infection control! Look out for next week’s blog to learn how washing your hands at the wrong time will fail you.

See you next week!

Miss Patti

Test Tip Tuesday: Where is the ID Band?

Test Tip Tuesday: Clinical Exam Wash hands in the Opening 

You might also be interested in: