You’ve spent the money on your EMT class, you’ve worked hard, and now you are wondering what you’re about to face on the NREMT cognitive exam. If you are finding that you are anxious about this process or don’t know what to expect, know that you are in good company.
Many EMT students, be it because they don’t love taking tests or haven’t taken one in a while, find the cognitive exam to be a worrying prospect.
In this article, we’ll take the mystery out of the process and talk about what resources are out there to get you ready.
- Please note: If you’re serious about passing the NREMT exam, you can find online EMT and Paramedic practice tests that will try to help you pass the examination on your first attempt. Just visit EMT-National-Training today for more information.
What is a Computer Adaptive Test?
The CAT strikes fear into the heart of many an EMT student but it really shouldn’t. A Computer Adaptive Test is a fairer, more precise test than the linear tests that you may be used to. The way it works is this: the computer has access to a bank of many hundreds of questions that it may ask, each of them rated at a different ability level.
In other words, some of the questions might be so easy that you could have answered them long before your EMT class, while some of the questions might be hard enough to make a seasoned Paramedic scratch her head. The computer will start by asking you a question – let’s say it’s a level 3 question, with 0 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest.
Let’s say you answer that question correctly. The computer might try a level 4 question next. You may get that one right too, so it might give you a level 5. If you answer that one incorrectly, then it might try you on another level 3. This process will continue, with each question representing a different ability level, until the computer becomes 95% confident about which level of question represents your ability level.
The advantage to this kind of test is that it is not about your score. In fact, you won’t even receive a score on your test. Instead, the CAT measures your ability – your average level of understanding of the material. If you are found to be at or above the passing standard, then you will pass the exam.
Because no single test will be identical, this is also a test that makes it very difficult to cheat on. That means that the playing field is level and that the standard of EMTs coming out of this kind of exam is assured. No one gets a free pass.
What Should I Expect on Exam Day?
First of all, the NREMT uses Pearson VUE centers to administer its exams. These centers are not outposts of the NREMT but are rather independent providers of all kinds of exams. You could easily end up taking your test next to someone taking an accountancy or nursing exam.
For that reason, what you are allowed to bring into your exam will be limited. In most testing centers, you will be asked to surrender your bag, wallet, watch, etc. You will be allowed a dry erase board for taking notes but that’s about it.
You won’t need any computer expertise to take this test. You will sit down, click start, and then you will be off and running.
From your perspective, the NREMT exam should look like any other multiple-choice test. You will be asked a question and will be presented with four possible answers. It is important to remember that each question will only have one correct answer.
Now, you’ll notice that I said that from your perspective the test should look like other tests you have taken before. That is because there are a couple of behind the scenes activities going on that you won’t be aware of when you take the test. These two items can freak students out, but I urge you not to get anxious about these, as they both work in your favor.
The NREMT has a very lengthy process for writing and vetting test questions. Each question is written by a committee of experts, including doctors, EMS professionals, and educators. Once the question has been approved by the committee, it (and other questions like it) will be put into the exam question bank to be vetted.
In order to determine whether a new exam question is a good one – well-written, fair, leveled appropriately – the NREMT needs to present these questions to real NREMT exam candidates. On every EMT exam, up to ten of the total questions asked will be questions like this. Do not let this concern you! These questions do not count against your score whatsoever. You are just helping the NREMT to gather data about the new questions.
Why do I bother telling you about these at all? Well, it’s because at some point on your exam you may well come across a question that seems wrong or just plain stupid. Shake your fist at the computer, assume it is a vetting question, and move on.
Similarly, it is possible that you will come across a question that really does seem like it has two correct answers. I know I told you earlier that every question only has one correct answer, and that is absolutely the case with questions that affect your score. The NREMT exam will sometimes include questions that are designed to catch large-scale cheating. It does this by using questions that genuinely do have two correct answers and tracking the number of people in a given region who answer one way or the other. If too many people answer the same way, then there might be a problem. Once again, if you really think there are two correct answers, then choose the best one and don’t worry about it. That question might well be an anti-cheating measure, in which case it won’t count against your score.
On the NREMT EMT test, you should expect to be asked somewhere between 70 and 120 questions. The length of the test depends on the computer’s ability to gain 95% confidence in your ability level, so you should not read too much into having a very short or a very long test. What you should expect is for the test to cut out suddenly and without ceremony.
One minute you will be answering a question and the next…the computer will tell you that the test is over. Many students find this to be very disconcerting. It is common for candidates to leave the exam feeling uneasy, but don’t sweat it. Either you passed or you didn’t, and you will have multiple attempts to take the test.
How Should I Prepare?
It sounds a bit cynical, but the truth is that passing the NREMT exam is as much about learning how to take the exam as it is about mastering the material. There is no question, you must understand each topic well. But you also must know how the read the test.
In another article, I will talk about how to read answer the questions like a pro. For now, though, let’s have a look at good study guides and options.
Your first study route should be to turn to the textbook that you are using on your course. It is important to realize that the NREMT does not favor the content of one textbook over another, even though they don’t all agree with one another. For that reason, your textbook is a reliable and useful resource as you study. Read your book carefully. Make flashcards. Take the quizzes that are provided in your book.
Another excellent study option can be found online. EMT National Training is a subscription website that offers practice tests, study guides, simulation tests, and more. The advantage to a program like this is that the more practice tests you take, the more prepared you will be to take the NREMT exam. This is true because practice tests will not only help you to master content but will also help you to learn the skill of taking the test. I have said it to hundreds of EMT students: take practice tests, take practice tests, take practice tests, and do it from as many resources as you can.
For those who are more technologically inclined, there are a couple of apps which serve as a wonderful pocket resource. My favorite is EMT Prep, which offers exam-style questions, test simulations, and gives feedback on incorrect answers. Another popular one is EMT-B Pocket Prep, a resource which provides prep questions and daily study reminders.
Some students swear by the workbooks that can be purchased to accompany their textbook. There are many workbooks out there, and they are a low-tech solution for the need to take practice tests. Many learners also do better by physically writing text down as opposed to typing, so if that is how you learn, a workbook might be a good idea for you.
Lastly, it is important to remember that a huge number of EMT questions that are answered incorrectly are done so because the examinee is missing the basics. When in doubt, go back to your ABCs. For that reason, I highly recommend that you return to your CPR textbook and review it very carefully. While CPR is not covered specifically on the test, you can be certain that the ABCs, AED use, and oxygen administration will be, so whether you trained with the AHA or the Red Cross, go back and study those texts.
If you’re ready to get serious about your test prep, sign up to get your Online EMT and Paramedic Practice Tests at EMT National Training.
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