The 10 Best Ways to Study for the NREMT Exam

If you are wondering about the best way to study for the NREMT exam, then you have come to the right place. It is never too early to start studying for this exam.

You won’t be surprised to read, in that case, that the best way to prepare for your exam is to start studying on the very first day of your EMT course—and carry on studying until the night before your exam.

The most successful NREMT candidates are the ones who treat this process as the cumulative task that it is and begin preparing for their exams early. If that isn’t you, then you can make up lost time, but the earlier you start studying, the easier you will find the NREMT cognitive exam.

In addition to getting on top of preparations early, I have made a list of ten great ways to study for the NREMT exam.

Turn to the NREMT

Before you can take the exam, you need to understand exactly what you are getting yourself into, the theory behind the exam, and the method by which it will be given to you.

Who could possibly provide better information regarding this exam than the administrator itself? For that reason, the first thing (and probably also the last thing) you should do is go straight to the source, the NREMT. Read these pages carefully so that you can prepare yourself fully for the exam that is coming your way. You will definitely thank yourself.

If you are an EMT candidate, then I would recommend reading each tab except the ’Linear Exams’ tab, as that page does not apply to you.

Your Textbook is Your Friend

Your best study resource, at least as a first option, is your course textbook. Upon

discovering how many EMT textbooks are out there – all of which have slight differences of opinion on certain matters – many EMT students panic and wonder if their course is using the right book. The answer is a resounding yes. Whatever book your course is using will prepare you well for the NREMT exam.

The reason for this is that the NREMT specifically chooses questions that have the

benefit of consensus. You will never be asked a scoring question that is controversial among the textbooks. Instead, you will be asked questions that are agreed upon within the wider world of EMS.

Make Flashcards and Use Them

Each person learns just a little bit differently, but it is clear that all learners must engage with the material that they are trying to absorb. One great way of engaging with material is to make your own flashcards and use them to quiz yourself and your classmates.

Sure, there are many sites – free and paid – where you can find pre-made flashcards. Those can be a great resource as well and I recommend using them. However, I will offer you two points to consider when using those resources:

First, be very sure of who has written those resources. If you use a paid or reputable site, then you are good to go. But if you are using a free resource such as Quizlet, remember that anyone can make flashcards and quizzes and thus the reliability of those resources is not guaranteed.

Second, pedagogically-speaking, there is great merit to physically writing (or typing) your own flashcards. We are all familiar with the concept that a student has to be exposed to the same information multiple times in order to absorb it. Add to that the fact that many people learn very well through kinesthetics (in other words, by doing or touching something), and it becomes obvious that the act of writing something down actually helps to cement information in the brain.

Pass Your NREMT Exam On The First Attempt

Study Regularly and Often – But Don’t Cram

You’ve probably heard this stern warning in past classes: don’t cram for a test. This is advice that should be taken seriously.

This has to do with how our brains process information. As we discussed earlier, repetition is key to learning and retaining new information. This is as true of facts as it is of physical skills. However, how we go about repeating encounters with new information makes the difference between truly retaining the information and not.

A 2016 study showed that while repetition is critical to learning, it actually has to be spaced repetition in order to make an impact on the learner. In other words, if you look at a flashcard five times in a row, you may hold on to that information for a little while but it won’t stick in your brain for long. However, if you look at that same flashcard every day over the period of a few weeks, you will not only be able to memorize that information but retain it long-term.

This knowledge should inform the way in which you study for the NREMT exam. Start studying as early in your class as you can and expose yourself to each topic repeatedly. That doesn’t mean that you should study every topic every day – not only would that be impossible but it would be unproductive. It means that you should continue to return to older topics periodically throughout your EMT class, even as you learn new material.

Take Practice Tests

It is important to keep in mind that the NREMT cognitive exam is a skill unto itself. That means that you need to be in complete mastery of the covered material but you also need to learn how to take the test effectively.

Like any other skill, the best way to learn how to take the NREMT exam is to take as many practice and simulation tests as you can. For this, I recommend finding an online resource such as EMT National Training or EMT Prep. The advantage to programs such as these is that they offer practice tests, flashcards, study tools, and more. They will expose you to many test questions, which will allow you to hone your test-taking skills as well as your mastery of the course material.

Use Your In-Class Tests as a Resource

All of the practice tests in the world will do you no good if you don’t understand why an answer is correct or incorrect. 

For that reason, make sure that you are using your in-class quizzes and tests as a resource in your studying. Instead of simply looking at a question that you answered incorrectly and moving on, take the time to figure out why the correct answer is what it is and why you got it wrong.

For instance, did you just not know the answer? Then that is a topic then you need to study more. Did you misunderstand the question? Then next time, you need to slow down and read more carefully. Maybe you missed the answer because you didn’t think the question through (or thought about it too much). Then you will need to spend time with that question – perhaps with the help of classmates or an instructor – and figure out where your thought process went wrong.

Target Your Efforts

EMT students often approach the NREMT cognitive exam with a kind of bewilderment about what it will be like. Fortunately, the smart EMT student realizes that the NREMT does not make its testing procedures much of a mystery. If you poke around the NREMT site as I suggested at the top of this list, you will find that they pretty much tell you what is going to be on the test.

An EMT candidate can expect these topics to be represented in the following proportions on the cognitive exam:

  • Airway, Respiration & Ventilation 18% – 22%
  • Cardiology & Resuscitation 22% – 24%
  • Trauma 14% – 18%
  • Medical/Obstetrics/Gynecology 27% – 31%
  • EMS Operations 10% – 14%
  • All sections, except EMS Operations, have a content distribution of 85% adult and 15% paediatrics

Take a look at those percentages carefully. This table shows you that you can afford to pick and choose when it comes to what topics you focus your studying on. For instance, EMS Operations questions will only represent 10% – 14% of the total questions on the cognitive exam. This means that you should spend proportionally less time studying EMS Operations topics.

Does this mean that you won’t see a question about the volume of a certain-size oxygen tank or what kind of ambulance looks like a van? No, of course not. However, you are guaranteed to receive more questions about Medical/Obstetrics/Gynecology than EMS Operations and you will do yourself a big favour by dedicating more study time to those topics than the topics that will show up less frequently on the exam.

Pass Your NREMT Exam On The First Attempt

Make Sure Your Practical Skills Are Strong

Many students, upon realizing that the end of the course is rapidly approaching, ask to spend more time studying for the written exam than the practical exam. On occasion that is a good idea but more often than not, the student would be better working on their hard skills.

This is true for two reasons. Of course, the practical skills get used frequently on an ambulance and therefore need to be in great shape. The second but less obvious reason is that if the EMT candidate knows their practical skills inside and out, they can rely on that information during the cognitive exam as well. Not only will the candidate understand how the skill or piece of equipment works, it is likely that the candidate will also be able to apply that information to the written test.

Find the Best in Your Class and Study with Them

Some people are just good at taking tests and others excel in the art of studying. These are the people you should gravitate toward as study buddies.

There is a very firm rule when it comes to studying with these people, however. Do not let them do all the work. It is very easy to get into a group study situation in which the people who are doing the best in class answer all of the questions, but that’s not the point of reaching out to these classmates.

Instead, take a shot at answering questions during study sessions. Try to offer explanations about your rationale. Review practice tests and in-class tests together and ask questions about why the answers are correct. When everybody participates, study groups can be beneficial for all involved.

Relax

A stressed test-taker is a sloppy test-taker. Don’t work yourself up too much about the cognitive exam. The night before the test, review the topic that gives you the most trouble. Go to bed early and get a good night’s sleep.

Above all, keep in mind the fact that you have a total of six opportunities to take this exam. If you fail the first time, then you can try again.

The NREMT cognitive exam is only one of a series of steps into your EMS career and, though it may be an important part of the EMT certification, it is only there to ensure that the next generation of EMTs meets the standard necessary to provide excellent patient care. It’s nothing to stress about – it’s just part of the process. Good luck!

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