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8 Steps to Prep Students for the NCHSE National Health Science Assessment

November 6th, 2023 | 17 min. read

Brad Hummel

Brad Hummel

Coming from a family of educators, Brad knows both the joys and challenges of teaching well. Through his own teaching background, he’s experienced both firsthand. As a writer for iCEV, Brad’s goal is to help teachers empower their students by listening to educators’ concerns and creating content that answers their most pressing questions about career and technical education.

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Preparing your students for the National Health Science Assessment (NHSA) can be a daunting and exciting task. You want each student to pass at the end of the year and send them off to a successful career in healthcare.

But while hundreds of students successfully pass the exam every year, many teachers have a tough time balancing teaching course material and preparing students for the exam.

So, where can you start?

On this page you'll find eight key steps to get your students ready for the National Health Science Assessment and their future careers.

But before you learn the details, let’s brush up on what the NHSA includes!

An Overview of the National Health Science Assessment


The NHSA is an end-of-program exam developed by the National Consortium for Health Science Education (NCHSE).

The assessment is based on the National Health Science Standards, which are made up of 11 overarching healthcare topics. Each standard is broken into subcategories related to specific skills and knowledge all healthcare workers need before entering the workforce.

When a student passes the exam, they receive a certificate that recognizes their knowledge and skills in healthcare.

With that in mind, it’s important to note that this certificate is not a right-to-work credential or certification.

Students may need to take additional industry certification exams in order to enter into a specific career in healthcare. However, the NHSA is a great first step to a successful career.

Now that you’ve got a refresher on the assessment, let’s get to preparing your students!

1. Choose Your Main Instructional Resource


There are many options for instructional materials out there to choose from, and it takes a long time to wade through them all.

While you may be tempted to run straight for the test prep materials, those resources can only take you so far. They aren’t intended to be used as a full classroom curriculum, so you’ll be left with a lot of days to fill on your syllabus. Plus, no teacher wants to “teach to the test” because there’s more to education than just exams.

To set your students up for success, it’s important to start with a strong foundational curriculum. It’s smart to choose one that aligns to the test and includes other crucial healthcare concepts and skills. After all, your students will need to know more than just what’s on the test to have a successful career!

One common option is to use a textbook like Diversified Health Occupations (DHO). It’s an excellent resource and packed full of information about health careers, procedures, and more!

The biggest downside of using a textbook for exam prep is the fact that it’s outdated. The healthcare industry is always changing, as are the standards the NHSA uses.

If you use a textbook, you’ll need to frequently purchase new ones in order to keep your content up to industry standards! Because of this, many health science instructors have started looking for other options.

Teachers have started using the iCEV digital curriculum because it’s quickly updated when the standards change. That means your students will receive the most up-to-date information they need for success.

In addition, iCEV was created to be used in a blended learning environment. That means you can use it in the way that works best for you and your students.

Plus, it will work perfectly with the supplemental resources you choose in step number two!

2. Supplement Your Lessons with Other Resources


Even with a foundational curriculum, it’s smart to incorporate other resources to give your students the best chance at passing the NHSA.

Three common supplemental resources include:

  1. Test prep materials
  2. NCHSE’s curriculum enhancements
  3. Online study tools

Let’s start with test prep materials.

Test Prep Materials for the NHSA

As mentioned above, most teachers jump to add test prep materials to their list of classroom resources.

Currently, the only available test prep that we’ve been able to find for the NHSA is a 30-question practice exam. While this is a useful tool, we’ve heard from teachers that this particular practice test hasn’t been updated in nearly five years.

You could create your own practice exams, but that will take quite a bit of time and effort.

For more detailed information about how to give practice exams, read step four.

NCHSE’s Health Science Curriculum Enhancements

NCHSE has developed a health science curriculum enhancement package filled with a variety of materials. Since NCHSE also runs the NHSA exam, this makes their package one of the best in terms of content relating to the text.

This can be a great addition to any health science teacher’s course material as well. In the package you’ll find resources such as:

  • Editable PowerPoints
  • Instructional activities
  • Assessments with checklists and rubrics
  • And more!

The only downside of this resource is the cost, which ranges from $350-$500, depending on if you are in a NCHSE member state.

Online Study Tools

Along with more traditional teaching tools, there are many online resources that can help your students prepare for the exam!

One option many health science instructors talk about is Quizlet. With a quick search, you’ll find a number of flash card sets for the NHSA.

Here’s just a few of them:

One thing to keep in mind when you and your students use free resources is that they are not monitored for accuracy. In addition, they will become outdated when the test changes.

If you decide to use this type of tool to help your students prepare for the exam, it’s smart to take the time and review them for accuracy against the most current version of the test.

This will take some extra time up front, but it’s well worth it to help your students succeed!

So now you’ve chosen your instructional materials, it’s time to know more details of the exam.

3. Familiarize Yourself with NCHSE’s Assessment FAQ


You (and your students) may still have some questions about the assessment and how it works. To help answer those questions, NCHSE put together an FAQ section on their website.

Here you’ll find answers to common questions that instructors and students may ask regarding the assessment. Some key ones to note include:

  • What is the cost of the assessment? ($15-$20 per assessment)
  • Is the test timed? (Students have 90 minutes to complete the exam)
  • What is the policy on “retakes”? (The policy depends on your state)
  • What is the NHSA pass score? (The current pass score is 70%)

It’s smart to look over each question and familiarize yourself with the answers. You could even share the link to the FAQ page for your students to use as a reference!

By answering your students’ most pressing questions about how the exam works, you take some of the stress of their shoulders for the exam.

That means they’ll be able to better focus on learning and honing their skills, which is the most important part of a successful test — and career!

4. Have Students Take Practice Exams Mid-Semester


Now that you’re well into the semester, it’s a great idea to give your students a practice exam.

Overall, taking practice exams benefits your students in a number of ways.

To start, this could be the first exam your students take that directly relates to their future career in healthcare. Talk about a lot of pressure! Fortunately, giving practice exams help reduce the amount of anxiety students experience leading up to exam day.

Practice exams also give your students an idea of what to expect. No matter how many different quizzes and tests a student takes over the course of schooling, each one is different.

By taking practice exams, your students get a good feel for the style of questions that will be on the test. Knowing these details helps them become more comfortable, and they’ll learn how to study better.

Finally, it’s important for students to take practice exams so you can successfully complete step five!

5. Review Student Outcomes to Spot Gaps in Knowledge


After your students have completed the practice exams, it’s time for you to dig into the details.

As you go over each practice exam you’ll spot trends in three areas:

  1. Questions most students got right
  2. Questions students got right and wrong
  3. Questions most students got wrong

Depending on what the trends in your classroom look like, you’ll have a few options for what to do next.

Questions Most Students Got Right

For questions that most students answered correctly, you know you’ve pretty much hit the mark with teaching those topics and skills.

In general, you won’t need to spend as much time on these topics for the rest of the semester. Don’t worry if a few students missed them — you can always introduce them to your remediation strategy.

Questions Students Got Right and Wrong

When half of your class got some questions right and the other half got them wrong, you’re in a tricky area.

If there’s only a few questions like this, you can quickly go back and review the topics.

However, if there are a lot of questions that students got right and wrong, group learning or co-teaching could be great options for you to ensure everyone ends up on the same page.

Questions Most Students Got Wrong

If there are common concepts or topics your students don’t fully grasp, it’s critical to address them head on.

That’s where step six comes in!

6. Reinforce Weak Areas with Customized Review


Reinforcement and remediation are absolutely critical to ensure your students are ready for test day.

There are a ton of strategies out there for remediation, but some of the most common include:

  • Individualized student tutoring
  • Small group review with student “captains”
  • Re-teaching previous lessons with adjustments

For teachers who use iCEV, providing customized review is a breeze. There are two main ways teachers use the system for remediation and review:

  1. Assigning full units or modules for students to re-do
  2. Creating custom exams using topics that need to be reviewed

Overall, the amount of time and energy you spend on planning reinforcement depends on how much review your students need!

7. Go Over What Students Should Expect on Test Day


As your semester is winding down and test day approaches, it’s smart to talk about the logistics of how test day will work.

Dedicate some class time to have students ask questions about the exam (other than about what will be “on the test”). To do this, refer back to NCHSE’s FAQ we discussed in step three.

In addition, it’s a good idea to share the Student Instructions provided by Precision Exams. These instructions give a step by step introduction with screen shots to ensure your students will be ready to go when they sit down to take the exam.

8. Wish Your Students Good Luck!


When your students are gearing up for test day, the most important thing for you to do is offer words of encouragement.

You’ve spent the semester teaching, assessing, and reviewing and now it’s up to them to apply that knowledge.

While it may seem small, sometimes a boost of confidence is all a student needs before they sit for the National Health Science Assessment!

Prepare Your Students for the National Health Science Assessment

Preparing students for the NHSA can overwhelm even the most experienced health science instructor. When it comes to getting your students ready, it can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders.

But when you follow the steps outlined in this article, you'll be well on your way to setting your students up for success.

Want to do more to make sure your students are ready for test day? Download the NCHSE National Health Science Assessment Success Guide! You'll gain additional information that will help you as you prepare learners for the NCHSE exam.

Download the National Health Science Assessment Guide