Skip to main content

What Is the NOCTI Health Assisting Exam & How Do You Prep Students for It?

The NOCTI Health Assisting exam is an assessment that measures students’ knowledge and skills needed for a career in health assisting or nurse assisting.

When a student passes the exam, they receive credentials showing they are ready to work in the healthcare industry.

Additionally, the NOCTI HA exam is a prerequisite for the American Medical Certification Association’s Nursing Assistant Certification.

That means the NOCTI exam is an excellent stepping stone towards becoming a certified nursing assistant!

But before they get that far, your students need to pass the NOCTI Health Assisting exam!

On this page, we’ll dive into how the exam is structured and how you can prepare your students for success.

To start it’s important to know a bit about NOCTI, since they provide the exam!

How to Prepare Your Students for the NOCTI HA Exam

What Is NOCTI?


The National Occupational Competency Testing Institute (NOCTI) is an internationally accredited provider of industry-based assessments for career and technical education pathways.

NOCTI’s mission is to “build a competent workforce through creative learning solutions.”

One way NOCTI meets this mission is by providing more than 120 industry-based credential assessments -- including health assisting!

Specifically, the NOCTI Health Assisting exam is one of NOCTI’s “Job Ready” assessments, designed to “measure the skills of those who complete a secondary or post-secondary technical program.”

These assessments -- including health assisting -- can be delivered either online or on paper, and they often include hands-on skills demonstrations that students must perform at a designated testing site.

Now that you know some of the background information, let’s dig into the NOCTI Health Assisting assessment!

How Is the NOCTI Health Assisting Exam Structured?


The NOCTI Health Assisting assessment includes a written test and a skills demonstration portion.

The written assessment is made up of 161 questions across 6 main topic areas.

The topics are broken down as follows:

  1. First Aid and General Safety (19%)
  2. Medical Terminology (12%)
  3. Body Systems (19%)
  4. Observation and Communication (12%)
  5. Documentation and Legal/Ethical Issues (15%)
  6. Health Assistant Skills (23%)

Each of these topic areas has detailed standards and competencies students need to know for the exam day.

1. First Aid and General Safety

The First Aid and General Safety section includes six subtopics:

  1. Recognizing and demonstrating appropriate first aid and emergency techniques
  2. Differentiating symptoms requiring emergency care
  3. Recognizing and demonstrating fire safety and general safety procedures involved in patient care
  4. Recognizing and demonstrating appropriate procedures for handling waste and hazardous materials
  5. Recognizing signs, symptoms, and reporting mandates for violent or abusive situations
  6. Recognizing and demonstrating infection control measures, including standard precautions, hand washing techniques, isolation, and personal protective equipment

These tasks are common skills health assistants use in daily work to maintain a clean and safe environment for patients and other healthcare workers.

2. Medical Terminology

The Medical Terminology section is comprised of four subtopics:

  1. Identifying and interpreting word prefixes and suffixes
  2. Identifying and interpreting combining forms
  3. Identifying and interpreting approved medical abbreviations and acronyms
  4. Identifying and differentiating various medical and surgical definitions and conditions

It’s crucial for health assistants to know the ins-and-outs of medical terms so they can effectively understand and communicate in the workplace.

3. Body Systems

The Body Systems section of the exam has three subtopics:

  1. Identifying and interpreting anatomical terms, including body cavities
  2. Identifying normal structures and functions within body systems
  3. Identifying abnormal structures, functions, signs, and symptoms within body systems

In order to effectively help patients, health assistants need to be able to quickly identify health issues and diseases in any body system.

4. Observation and Communication

The Observation and Communication portion involves four subtopics:

  1. Recognizing and practicing professional patient and staff communications
  2. Recognizing and reporting abnormal assessment findings (e.g., subjective and objective findings)
  3. Recognizing and respecting cultural diversity
  4. Recognizing and providing care for all stages of growth and development

Because health assistants work closely with patients, having good observation and communication skills is a must!

5. Documentation and Legal/Ethical Issues

The Documentation and Legal/Ethical Issues section includes four subtopics:

  1. Identifying legal and ethical issues of concern for a health assistant
  2. Demonstrating understanding of confidentiality, HIPAA regulations, professional behaviors, guidelines, and legal practices of a health assistant
  3. Identifying policies and procedures available for reporting legal/ethical concerns and issues
  4. Demonstrating accurate documentation procedures

Though these items seem minor, it’s essential for every healthcare professional to follow all laws and regulations when it comes to patient privacy!

6. Health Assistant Skills

The Health Assistant Skills section of the exam includes 10 subtopics:

  1. Accurately measuring and recording vital signs, height, weight, and pain
  2. Demonstrating proper body mechanics, including those during patient transfer, positioning, lifting, and moving
  3. Assisting with elimination needs
  4. Assisting with obtaining body fluid specimens
  5. Assisting with personal care and hygiene
  6. Obtaining and accurately measuring patient intake and output
  7. Assisting with patient nutritional needs
  8. Assisting with, observing, and reporting patient skin care conditions
  9. Demonstrating accurate filing techniques for patient records
  10. Identifying and utilizing appropriate procedures for cleaning equipment

This portion of the exam is the most extensive area, since it includes the most important skills needed to be effective in daily work.

What Students Can Expect on Test Day

On exam day, students get three hours to complete the written test. Because of the length of the exam, NOCTI notes that it may be administered in one, two, or three sessions when needed.

After taking the written exam, students move on to the performance assessment.

This part of the assessment requires students to demonstrate four specific hands-on tasks:

  1. Hand Washing and Personal Protective Equipment (29%)
  2. Change a Patient Gown (29%)
  3. Measure Vital Signs, Height, and Weight (29%)
  4. Transfer Patient from Bed to Wheelchair (13%)


For the performance assessment, students have 65 minutes to successfully demonstrate each skill.

During the skills test, students are expected to act as if they are working with a real patient.

Even if a student doesn’t have professional experience, they’ll be assessed on completing each task in a professional manner.

Overall, the NOCTI Health Assisting exam has a lot of details you need to cover. So how can you prepare your students to succeed on the test?

How Do You Prepare Students to Pass the Exam?


When preparing students for the NOCTI Health Assisting assessment, many teachers opt to use test prep materials.

The study guides and other materials sold by NOCTI can be a great way to determine if students are ready to take the exam, but they don’t actually help you teach the content!

Because of this, it’s best to take a two-step approach to prepare your students for the exam.

First, teach the foundational concepts and knowledge  your students need to know for successful careers as health assistants.

That means you should take the time to add extra skills and concepts that might not even be on the exam.

One way teachers do this is by drawing from their own industry experience and discussing the most important aspects that aren’t on the test.

After you’ve covered the basics, switch gears to focus on the actual exam. The end of your course is the perfect time to use the NOCTI study guides to help students review before exam day!

To make this process work, it’s key to find the balance between teaching the concepts and using test prep materials.

In order to accomplish this, some teachers build their own curriculum by creating lessons, activities, and assessments from scratch.

Doing this is an excellent way to have a tailor-made curriculum, but it takes a lot of time to complete!

That’s why health science instructors have chosen to use a digital curriculum system that does the heavy lifting when it comes to preparing students for the NOCTI HA exam!


Prepare Students for the NOCTI Health Assisting Exam with HealthCenter21


Health science instructors across the US have implemented HealthCenter21 as a primary instructional resource to teach key concepts and skills found on the NOCTI Health Assisting exam.

HealthCenter21 is designed to make your life easier and set your students up for success both on the assessment and in their careers.

It includes thousands of ready-to-use instructional resources, classroom management tools, student tracking features, and more.

Along with all of that, the curriculum is specifically aligned to the NOCTI Health Assisting exam!

That means you can be sure to hit every concept and skill on the exam by using the system in your classroom.

Want to learn more?

Click below to download the NOCTI Health Assisting assessment guide!

Download the National Health Science Assessment Guide