Skills timing is a complex subject. A question I often hear is….how much time do I have to do the clinical skills. And the answer is…it depends! It depends on the skills you get. Some skills are short and will take less time to perform. Others are longer and will require more time. The combination of skills that you are assigned to perform will determine the amount of time you are given.

How timing calculations work for the exam

The computer will assign you a specific set of skills when you register for the exam. This set of skills will be called a care plan. There will be 3 specific skills on your care plan. When you begin your exam, the Nurse Aide Evaluator (NAE) will give you the care plan and tell you to perform the skills in the order listed. You will then be told how long you have to perform the skills on your care plan. There are 11 sets of skills (specific skills combinations) for the exam. All skills sets will range between 31-40 minutes in allowable time.

The testing companies have performed extensive research into how long each skill should take for someone with your level of experience. This information is found in our skills book, on the sidebar on each skills page. This is an generous estimate – it likely won’t take you nearly as long to perform the skill. The following graph will show how much time the test gives you for each skill:

How do they come up with the timing?

Hand washing is graded during the first skill. You won’t be TOLD to do this, you are supposed to know to wash your hands before patient care. The test automatically calculates in 3 minutes timing for hand washing. Each skill has an expected time range. They will take the maximum time in each range for the skill you are to perform. Example: Feeding is 8-11 minutes – they will grant you 11 minutes of time. They input the maximum time for each of the 3 skills you are assigned to do. Finally, they give you 5 minutes of transition time, to review the care plan or think about your skills. Added together, these 5 items make up your total time requirement for your exam.

Example: Jenny is taking her CNA exam today. She receives a care plan with the following skills:

  • Measure and Record Pulse
  • Change Position to Supported Side Lying
  • Provide Foot Care

The timing requirements would be computed this way:

So, Jenny would have 39 minutes to complete these 3 skills. Each skill set for the exam is different. Every skill set will contain 3 skills to perform. Since every skill set is different, there will be a different amount of time designated for each skill set. In the example above, Jenny was given 39 minutes to do her skills. But Robin, another testing candidate, only has 31 minutes, because she has a different set of skills to do!

What if I time out?

You will receive a 5 minute warning when you are approaching your time limit. Most candidates will complete their skills well before their time expires. But it is NOT an automatic failure if you don’t! You just won’t get credit for any tested checkpoints that you did not complete. What those uncompleted checkpoints are will determine whether you pass or not.


There is no way to know the EXACT amount of time you will have for the skills test until you start your exam. You will receive your skill set when you begin your exam. In general, you will have 31-40 minutes to complete the skill set. The NAE will give you the exact amount of time before you begin. The NAE will also give you a 5 minute warning once you near the end to help you manage your time.

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