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Test-taking strategies for the athletic trainers' certification exam

By Lorin Cartwright

For success during the practical portion of the certification exam, you must be organized. Pre-test preparation is crucial so that you don’t exceed the time limits. Learning and practicing the steps in wrapping an ankle, for example, will help you remember them when the heat is on at test time.

Try to anticipate or eliminate possible practical questions. For example, it’s unlikely that there will be a performance question on isokinetics, as a machine is too big. Smaller items, such as blood pressure cuffs, are easier to obtain and more likely to be tested.

Remember that the model won’t respond verbally to any questions but will follow your directions. There may be questions in which the model will purposely be in the wrong position to ensure that you move him or her into the correct position. The model will not try to circumvent what you’re doing but may show things you actually encounter daily. An example is that the model might plantar flex the foot awaiting you to place the foot in neutral for taping. After the foot has been placed in neutral, and you are taping, it is typical for an athlete to lose that neutral, and the model may also do that. Correct the position back to neutral.

When the examiner is reading the question, follow along. If you’re a visual learner, follow along in the candidate’s guide so that you understand what skill is being asked. If you want to, reread the question. If you are an auditory learner, you may ask the examiner to reread the question a second time. Before proceeding to perform the skill, collect your thoughts and make sure you understand the expectations. Remember that your time does not start until you start performing the skill.

If you forget something along the way and remember as you are performing it, go ahead and show it. Generally, things do not have to be in any particular order. What’s most important is to cover the skill thoroughly, do the skill in a tidy fashion, and perform your evaluations bilaterally and at the same time. Failure to do these results in losing points. Talking your way through the skill will not gain you points. You must perform the skill.

Don’t forget that the examination begins the minute you walk in the room. What you say, how you act, how you’re dressed can influence how an examiner feels when determining if a task was performed correctly. Don’t tell examiners what program you’re from. Be composed and stay focused. Thank the examiners when you leave.


This is an excerpt from Preparing for the Athletic Trainers’ Certification Examination, Second Edition.

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