Do I Have to Take All of These Tests?

Standardized testing overshadows most of the years students spend in school. From kindergarten language tests to the SAT/ACT tests in high school, it seems that there is always some sort of standardized assessment on the horizon. Unfortunately, the SAT or ACT is not the final test in your educational journey. For students pursuing a post-secondary education in the health care field, there are often more tests required.

The good news is that you don’t have to take them all! We’ve compiled some of the most common exams and explained who should take them, what they cover and what field they are for.

Medical College Admissions Test

The most common test for potential health care students is the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Think of this as the SAT/ACT of the medical community. The MCAT is offered about 25 times a year and requires intense studying. By covering the knowledge of the core classes medical schools require, it’s a great way for admissions officers to predict how well you’ll do in medical school. The AAMC reveals that a score of 30 or greater gives students a 70% chance of getting into medical school, without taking into account other requirements, such as GPA. For 2018 testing dates and more information on preparing for the MCAT, start your research here.

GRE General Test

Anyone contemplating graduate school should be familiar with the GRE General Test. This test has several great features, including the ability to retake it and send only your best scores to colleges. It also allows you to skip questions and return later, change your responses and answer in any order you want. The GRE focuses on verbal and quantitative reasoning and analytical writing. For those worrying about the math section of the GRE, it uses the foundations of high school math in the quantitative reasoning section. For more information about what the test measures, check here.

National Council Licensure Examination

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is a standard exam each state uses to ensure nurses are ready to practice after they have completed their nursing degree. Some of the areas covered in this exam include safe, effective care, physiological and psychosocial integrity and health promotion. The NCLEX has several varieties, including one for RNs and LPNs. The tests require you to answer a minimum number of questions and may cut you off early if you have answered enough to pass or fail. To find out if you’re eligible for the NCLEX, you’ll need to check the requirements of your local board of nursing/regulatory body.

Test of Essential Academic Skills

For students looking at entering the health science fields, the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) is most likely part of the admissions requirements. This test is multiple choice and has questions in several areas, including reading, math, science and English and language use. The majority of the questions are in reading and science. TEAS results are used to predict a student’s fortitude in these areas and therefore in the allied health field.

Certified Nursing Assistant

One of the great things about becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is the ability to get started quickly. The requirements vary by state, but all include completing the CNA Exam. The exam consists of two parts: a written exam (WE) and a clinical skills test (CST). You must pass both sections with a 70% or higher to receive your certification. Some of the skills tested may include hand washing, indirect care, bed baths and vital signs.

Dental Admission Test

For those considering the dental field, there’s an admissions test for that, too. The Dental Admission Test (DAT) helps admissions officers assess their applicants just like the GRE and MCAT do. It’s a series of four tests, all multiple-choice and all offered only in English. The tests are Survey of the Natural Sciences, Perceptual Ability, Reading Comprehension and Quantitative Reasoning. Both the imperial system and the US system of measurements are used.


Most specialties within the health care industry will require a certification or an advanced degree. Certifications are a culmination of experience and testing. When you begin researching your career choice, you’ll want to check to see the state and national requirements for education, licensure and certifications.

Not all certifications are created equal, and much like you research colleges and universities, be sure to take the time to research the organizations supporting the certifications. You want to make sure they are respected and widely accepted.

Most of these tests have books, workshops and preparatory materials available for purchase through a variety of websites and companies. Studying is incredibly important for these exams, as many require a waiting period in-between retests.

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