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Health Science | National Healthcareer Association (NHA) | NHA CET

What Is the NHA CET (Certified EKG Technician) Exam?

January 7th, 2022 | 17 min. read

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The NHA CET exam is a certification test developed by the National Healthcareer Association to measure a student’s knowledge and skills of EKGs.

When students pass the exam, they earn a certification acknowledging that they can work in a healthcare facility as a Certified EKG Technician. In addition to administering and reading EKGs, students who take the NHA CET exam will be able to do tasks related to Holter monitoring and stress testing.

But how do you prepare your learners for the exam?

On this page, we’ll share how the exam is structured and give you some tips on helping your students succeed. We’ll start with some background about the National Healthcareer Association since they provide the exam.

How to Prepare Your Students for the NHA CET Exam

What Is the National Healthcareer Association?


The National Healthcareer Association (NHA) is a nationally-accredited provider of health science certifications.

NHA’s mission is “empowering people to access a better future.” This includes both improving the quality of patient care and providing opportunities for people to become healthcare professionals.

Overall, the NHA works towards this mission by providing eight industry certifications:

  • Billing and Coding Specialist (CBCS)
  • Clinical Medical Assistant (CCMA)
  • Electronic Health Record Specialist (CEHRS)
  • EKG Technician (CET)
  • Medical Administrative Assistant (CMAA)
  • Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A)
  • Pharmacy Technician (CPhT)
  • Phlebotomy Technician (CPT)

Since 1989, the NHA has awarded more than 750,000 healthcare certifications across the US! Now that you know a bit about the NHA, let’s get to the details of the CET exam.

How Is the NHA CET Exam Structured?


The CET exam is the NHA EKG certification test. It's comprised of 100 scored questions, which fall into three healthcare domains:

  1. Safety, Compliance, & Coordinated Patient Care (32%)
  2. EKG Acquisition (44%)
  3. EKG Analysis & Interpretation (24%)


Each domain has a different number of subtopics and supporting statements that further evaluate the knowledge and skills students need to know to start their careers.

Domain 1 - Safety, Compliance, & Coordinated Patient Care

The Safety, Compliance, & Coordinated Patient Care domain is made up of nine subtopics with related supporting statements:

  • Adhere to HIPAA regulations
  • Adhere to infection control practices
  • Adhere to scope of practice and comply with ethical standards
  • Communicate appropriately with patients and members of the multidisciplinary healthcare team
  • Obtain and interpret patient vital signs
  • Instruct patients about preparation for and expectations during stress testing
  • Instruct patients on the use of ambulatory monitoring and verify their understanding
  • Utilize electronic medical records / electronic health records to input patient information
  • Recognize signs and symptoms of cardiopulmonary compromise

Overall, it’s crucial for EKG technicians to be constantly aware of the safety, privacy, and comfort of the patients they treat.

Domain 2 - EKG Acquisition

The EKG Acquisition domain includes 10 subtopics with supporting statements:

  • Maintain EKG equipment
  • Verify EKG machine settings
  • Prepare skin for electrode placement
  • Position patient for cardiac testing
  • Apply electrodes and attach leads for five types of testing
  • Verify that all leads were recorded
  • Identify and resolve artifacts from the tracing
  • Mount a completed EKG tracing strip for a patient’s chart
  • Assist in monitoring patient condition during stress testing
  • Provide support in responding to complications during stress testing

As an EKG technician, preparing for and carrying out testing is one of the most crucial aspects of your daily work.

Domain 3 - EKG Analysis & Interpretation

The EKG Analysis & Interpretation domain is made of eight subtopics and supporting statements:

  • Calculate patient’s heart rate from the EKG tracing
  • Determine the regularity of the patient’s heart rhythm from the EKG tracing
  • Measure EKG intervals and waveforms
  • Inspect the waveform characteristics for symmetry, direction, and amplitude
  • Identify arrhythmias from the EKG tracing
  • Recognize pacemaker spikes on an EKG tracing
  • Identify ischemia, injury, and infarction on the EKG tracing
  • Take appropriate action when life-threatening arrhythmias are identified

An EKG technician needs to be able to quickly identify important information from the readings, especially when it could save a patient’s life.

Core Knowledge

In addition to the three main domains, the NHA lists “Core Knowledge” that may be used in the context of questions on the exam. The core knowledge falls into three areas:

  1. Basic anatomy and physiology of the heart
  2. Emergencies related to cardiac testing
  3. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation and basic life support

Overall, the NHA’s CET test plan includes all of the details on what your students need to know to pass the exam. On test day, students have two hours to complete the exam either at your school or a designated testing center.

In most cases, the exam is taken via an online portal, but on occasion, a paper-based test is given. After testing is complete, the NHA posts the results on the student’s online account within two days.

So now that you know the details of the NHA CET exam, there’s one question left: How do you prepare your students for the test?

How Do You Prepare Your Students for the NHA CET Exam?


There are many options out there for preparing students for certification exams, so finding the best one isn’t easy.

Many instructors use test prep materials to prepare their students.

The study guides and practice exams from the NHA are excellent tools to measure your students’ knowledge, but they don’t actually help you teach the information.

That’s why we recommend a two-step approach when preparing your students for the NHA CET exam.

First, you need to teach the foundational healthcare concepts and hands-on skills in your day-to-day lessons. Once your students know the information, it’s time to break out the test prep materials to help them review.

The key to success is to seamlessly tie these two strategies together.

Some teachers build their own curriculum by creating lessons, activities, and assessments from scratch. This is a great way to provide a tailor-made curriculum for your students, but it takes a lot of time to complete.

That’s why health science instructors across the US have switched to a digital curriculum system that does the heavy lifting when it comes to teaching and test prep.

Prepare Students for EKG Certification and the NHA CET Exam

Understanding when and how to perform electrocardiography is a valuable medical skill that will help your students save lives. But if they don't have the skills to become certified, your students risk being unable to help in a medical practice or emergency situation.

In this article, you've learned more about the NHA CET exam and the content your students will need to understand become Certified EKG Technicians. But how can you teach this content in a way students will remember?

Health science instructors across the country use AES to teach key concepts and skills to prepare them for the NHA CET exam.

AES is built to empower you and your students to succeed in the classroom and is aligned with the NHA CET exam, so you can be confident that your students will be prepared for the certification and careers as EKG technicians.

Download your free exam guide to learn how AES specifically satisfies NHA CET certification requirements.Download the NHA CET Exam Guide >