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Slaying the NREMT Exam Dragon

Slaying the NREMT Exam Dragon

It’s that time of the year when students’ thoughts turn to final exams.  If you are an EMS student, specifically that means it’s time for preparing for the NREMT written exam.  This can be the most challenging exam that a student takes in their educational career.  This article will provide some steps that will help you to be prepared for your exam.

A few things to keep in mind about the structure of the NREMT exam.  From the NREMT website...

“There is no minimum percentage of correct questions needed to pass a CAT exam. Exam scores are based on the characteristics of the questions you get right and wrong, not how many you get right.”

Each question is important.  A computer adaptive exam, as is the NREMT exam does not give you a passing score.  Only a pass/fail indicator. 

Again from the NREMT website, “Your performance on the previous question determines what question you will receive next. This means you are not able to go back and answer questions or change your answers.”

As you progress through the exam, it will seem that each question gets progressively harder and harder.  This is inherent to the design of the exam.  Do not let the seemingly increasing difficulty throw you. 

Now…on to the testing tip!  First….SLOW DOWN!  Yes the exam is timed and will shut off when you least expect it, but that is no need to rush.  It has been my experience that if a student has a 90 minute time limit for an exam, they will complete it, on average, in about 45 minutes.  I’ve even had students who have completed a 90 item exam in less than 20 minutes.  Needless to say, they did not like the score that they earned.  Each word in your question is important!  Make sure that you slow down and read each item and possible answer through at least twice. 

Secondly, evaluate thoroughly what the question is asking.  This directly relates to step one in that you must understand what is being asked of you in the item.  Most of the items will be based upon an emergency scenario. Be sure that you know where the scenario places you in the course of treatment and base your answer selection on that.  For example, if the scenario tells you that you are progressing through the rapid head to toe assessment, you can safely assume that you have already cleared the scene for safety and that you have applied the proper PPE.

Third, look closely at any questions that deal with airway and breathing.  Many of the questions that are displayed will have an airway and/or breathing component embedded within them.  This is a critical skill and you must be able to deal with it appropriately by implementing the correct treatment.

Last, be very careful as to what you study resources that you use.  For most of them, they will repeatedly ask you lower level, memorization type of questions that you will never see on any NREMT exam.  Two that, as an EMS educator, I can recommend are “Success for the EMT Basic” (2nd edition) by Mistovich and any of the online study guides from the EMS educators at Limmer Creative.  (Full disclosure, neither EKU Paramedic Program no Bill Young has any financial interest in either of the recommended resources).  Both of these will provide you with high level, scenario based questions that not only tell you what the right answer, they, more importantly, explain the “why” behind the right answer.  While going through these study resources spend more time on the areas that you are weak and less time in the areas of strength.

Keep in mind that the best chance of passing the exam is adequate preparation for the test.  No amount of tips, tricks or hacks will help you if you don’t STUDY beforehand.  Relax and do you best!

Author Bill Young is the program director of the EKU Emergency Medical program. CAAHEP-accredited since 1978, EKU offers top quality degree programs in emergency medical care.

Published on May 09, 2016

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