*Original post released 8/6/2020
For many nursing programs, taking a standardized exam to assess their readiness and aptitude for success is necessary to gain acceptance. One such exam is the TEAS exam. This exam is created by the Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI) and is typically proctored by either PSI or ATI themselves. In this article, we’ll discuss the general setup of the exam, general test taking tips, and then tips directed specifically at success in each area of the exam.
Before heading into any exam, it’s vitally important to understand the setup of the exam, what content is covered, and how it’s scored. Knowing these things can ultimately be the deciding factor between passing or “failing” the exam. I say “failing” because often times, the score considered adequate in gaining or even being considered for acceptance is NOT a failing score. You may be required to make, for example, a score of higher than 70% to be allowed to submit an application to the program of your choosing. Know your program’s cutoff!
As far as how the TEAS exam is setup, you’ll be given 209 minutes (or 3.5 hrs) to take a total of 170 questions. There are four different sections on the exam which include: reading, mathematics, science, and English & language usage. In the reading section, there will be 53 questions to answer over a time limit of 64 minutes maximum. In the mathematics section, there will be 36 questions to answer over a time limit of 54 minutes. The science section contains 54 questions within a 63 minute time frame. Finally, the English section has 28 questions within a maximum of 28 minutes. YOU ARE NOT PENALIZED FOR GUESSING in this exam, so if you are running short on time be sure to select an answer for every single question. If you are able to eliminate 1-2 answer options, this greatly increases your odds of selecting the correct option; you’re making an educated guess, and this is perfectly alright on a timed exam that doesn’t penalize for wrong answers.
First you’ll need to register for the exam and schedule to take it in a proctored environment. Sign up to take the test sooner, rather than later, in terms of the score submission deadline for your program. This allows for time to develop a contingency plan should you need (or want) to take the exam again. If not, then you’ll at least have more time to relax or work on meeting other application submission requirements. Another piece of advice, after you’ve set your date for the exam, DON’T move it. Push yourself to be prepared for the exam by your original testing date and motivate yourself. You’ll be glad you did in the end.
Now that you’re registered for the exam, be sure to look for a test plan or outline of the areas covered in each section. Doing this will direct your study time more wisely and set you up for the best chance of success. Additionally, don’t underestimate the exam. It’s used to weed out applicants that may not be successful in a rigorous nursing program. Look into investing in good review resources and consider taking a practice/aptitude exam initially to gauge how much effort and time should be devoted to each section. The ATI site offers practice examinations for you to use. I would also encourage you to consider a physical review book and phone application to review. My suggestions (and the resources I actually used for the exam) are the physical book “Trivium ATI TEAS Study Guide” and the phone app “TEAS Mastery.” In fact, I loved the Mastery phone app so much that I went on to use it to help prep for the NCLEX. It’s a great way to review on the go, and you have the ability to re-set the questions after reviewing.
Again, I would suggest taking a practice exam prior to beginning your preparation to gauge your current level as well as help identify your areas of strength and weakness. I took a solid 3-4 weeks to prepare for the exam, while the ATI site suggests a 6-week study plan if you supplement with their preparation materials. It’s incredibly important to understand that each person’s study plan will differ in supporting their areas of weakness and maximizing their chances of success. So while I’m not going to tell you what or how to study specifically for each section, I will provide you with some tips to help with preparing for each section. Consider creating a study schedule and sticking to it. Devote a minimum of an hour per day for the duration you choose to prepare for this exam. You should take a MINIMUM of three practice exams – one initially, one mid way through your study schedule, and then one about a week prior to hone in on those final areas of weakness. I would avoid studying the night prior to prevent confusion (cramming last minute may make you question yourself more) and exam fatigue. Without further ado, here are a few targeted tips for each section of the exam.
The Reading Section:
- Take time to understand the different types of passages (Ex: informative, persuasive) because this may change your approach to answering the questions related to each.
- Consider skimming the questions, then reading the passage. You’ll know what information you need to be on the lookout for.
- DO NOT make assumptions when selecting an answer choice. Only make your answer selection based solely on the information that has been provided to you. This is a trap that many test takers fall into.
- Practice, practice, practice! This will help with improving reading speed as well as continually evaluate your progress and areas of weakness. Practice allows for more targeted studying.
The Mathematics Section:
- Remember that you CAN use a calculator on this section, so don’t create extra anxiety for yourself over this aspect of the math section.
- Go over the basics of mathematics up through algebra. Keep “PEMDAS” ordering in mind when approaching a math problem! PEMDAS stands for the order of how you should proceed in simplifying the calculations within a problem (Start with parentheses first, followed by exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and lastly subtraction.
- Be sure to memorize basic mathematic formulas to set yourself up for success on the exam.
- Don’t overlook your understanding of fractions and how to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and simplify them!
- It is crucial to understand the basic concepts that are included in the pre-requisites for your nursing program (Ex: physics, chemistry, biology, anatomy & physiology, general physical science).
- If you’re taking the TEAS exam while currently enrolled in one of these courses, you may want to consider devoting extra time to this area.
- If you’ve had difficulty mastering one of these courses, focus more of your time towards studying that subject.
- Consider reviewing your old textbooks and course notes to save some money on review materials. Then you’ll be able to invest your money towards targeted practice exams instead.
English & Language Usage:
- Know basic punctuation and grammar rules.
- Review and try to improve your vocabulary knowledge (this can also help with the reading section). If you don’t know the meaning of a word, attempt to use any prefixes or suffixes that may be present to help you out.
- Be able to break down a sentence into its parts: subject/noun, verb, adjective, adverbs, pronouns, progressive tense, possessives, etc. If this confuses you, look it up. Watch YouTube videos on how to dissect a sentence to provide audiovisual enhancements in your learning process.
- Again, practice, practice, practice! Completing practice questions related to this section will help improve your proofreading and grammatical error identification skills.
I hope this helps give you some of the tools you need to go out and ace that TEAS exam! Let me know what you think below in the comments. And as always, happy studying!