Career and Technical Education (CTE) | Health Science
6 Steps to Prep Students for Health Science Certification Success
For nearly 10 years, Bri has focused on creating content to address the questions and concerns educators have about teaching classes, preparing students for certifications, and making the most of the AES curriculum system.
Preparing your students for industry certifications is an exciting part of your role as a health science instructor. It’s likely also just as overwhelming!
You want your students to pass the exam and head off to their future careers, but that’s much easier said than done.
Even though thousands of health science students take exams from NHA, NOCTI, AMCA, and other providers, many teachers find it difficult to balance teaching classes and prepare students for exam day.
So where can you start?
In this article, you’ll find six key steps health science teachers like you take to get students ready for certification exams:
- Get to know the certification exam
- Choose your primary instructional materials
- Supplement your curriculum with test prep materials
- Plan your course syllabus
- Review what your students should expect on exam day
- Boost your students’ confidence
After reading the article, you’ll feel more confident about preparing your students while focusing your time and energy on what matters most.
1. Get to Know the Certification Exam
Whether your students are becoming medical assistants or EKG technicians, you need to know the ins and outs of the test plan to help them succeed.
After all, if you don’t know what’s on the test, how can you be sure to teach it?
To help you find what you need, we put together a list of the most common health science certifications we hear about from teachers like you.
Dive into the details of whichever certifications you’re offering so you can plan your classes accordingly:
- AAMA CMA Exam
- AMCA CMAC Exam
- AMT RMA Exam
- NAHP NRCMA Exam
- NCCT NCMA Exam
- NHA CBCS Exam
- NHA CCMA Exam
- NHA CEHRS Exam
- NHA CET Exam
- NHA CMAA Exam
- NHA CPCT/A Exam
- NHA CPhT Exam
- NHA CPT Exam
- NNAAP CNA Exam
- NOCTI Health Assisting Exam
- NOCTI Medical Assisting Exam
- NREMT EMR Certification
- NREMT EMT Certification
Once you’ve reviewed what your students need to know for certification success, it’s time to choose how you’ll teach them the information and skills necessary!
2. Choose Your Main Instructional Resource
Some teachers head straight for the test prep material for their chosen certification exams when preparing students for certifications. Test prep resources like study guides and practice exams are an excellent way to measure your students’ knowledge. However, they aren’t going to help you plan lessons and teach the material.
Teachers we work with have the most success preparing students for certifications by starting with a robust foundational curriculum.
There are many curriculum options and instructional materials available to teach CTE health science courses. But with so many options available, it can be challenging to figure out which ones are appropriate for your classroom.
Let’s review three common curriculum options you may be considering:
- Health science textbooks
- Homemade curriculum
- Digital curriculum systems
Each option has its benefits and drawbacks, so understanding both sides of each curriculum option is crucial for deciding which is suitable for you.
Health Science Textbooks
Textbooks are a go-to option for any health science instructor building a curriculum. They can give you a lot of flexibility when it comes to implementation and often come with a teacher version that provides you with additional resources.
However, health science textbooks can become quickly outdated as new medical standards and procedures come into the industry. Keep this in mind when reviewing textbooks to ensure you choose one that is up to date and the most likely to cover the most recent version of the certification test plan.
If you’re hesitant to spend the time researching textbooks, you’re not alone. That’s why many health science teachers opt to create their own curriculum!
Homemade Health Science Curriculum
If you build your health science curriculum from scratch, you have total control over every resource included. Plus, you can guarantee that all of your lessons will line up perfectly with the end goal of preparing your students for their certification exams!
Building a curriculum from the ground up can be an excellent option for teachers who have extra time before the school year starts to plan out their year.
However, building your curriculum can take a lot of time - especially if you’re the only teacher in your school who would be involved.
This time commitment is why so many instructors consider using a digital curriculum system as their primary instructional resource.
Digital Curriculum Systems
A digital curriculum system is one of the most up-to-date ways of teaching CTE health science courses.
That’s because it’s regularly updated to align with new industry standards and certification changes.
On top of the continually updated curriculum, a digital solution comes with everything you need to plan, teach, and assess your students’ learning.
Even with these benefits of digital curriculum, it’s good to be aware of the most common problems teachers encounter when implementing it in their classrooms so you can make an informed decision about whether it’s right for you!
3. Supplement Your Health Science Curriculum with Test Prep Resources
Once you’ve chosen your primary instructional materials, you’ll want to incorporate more specific materials to your students’ certification goals.
Two of the most common supplemental resources are test prep materials and online study tools.
Test Prep Materials for Health Science Certifications
In most cases, your certification provider will offer test prep material options such as study guides and practice tests. Depending on the provider, the materials may be included for exam candidates or purchased for an additional cost.
Teachers most often use these resources towards the end of their course as students gear up for exam day.
Online Study Tools for Certification Preparation
Along with traditional study materials from the certification provider, some teachers incorporate online study tools for students to gain further exposure to the information on the exam.
One of the most common options we hear about is Quizlet. You can find flashcard sets and other study tools for most health science certification exams with a quick search.
If you opt to use Quizlet, make sure you review any resources you find against the most current version of the exam. Many free resources aren’t monitored for accuracy and can become outdated if the test has changed.
4. Plan Your Course Syllabus
With your students taking certification exams at the end of your course, planning is key to making it happen! By planning out what your year or semester will look like, you can be sure every bit of class time will help your students meet their goals.
When developing your syllabus, we recommend following this structure:
- Introduce key concepts
- Students work independently through lessons
- Students practice hands-on skills
- Have students take practice exams mid-semester
- Review pre-test outcomes to spot gaps
- Remediate weak areas
Note: You should repeat the first three segments for each topic or unit you are teaching. When creating your syllabus, include these pieces multiple times throughout the course.
A. Introduce Key Concepts
It’s wise to begin each lesson by introducing the concepts your students will learn. You could use an icebreaker activity to get students thinking and then transition into the topic.
Many teachers find using a presentation to lecture is an effective way to introduce new topics. During your lecture, encourage your students to ask questions and take notes to make sure they understand what you’re teaching.
B. Students Work Independently
Once you’ve introduced the skills and concepts, it’s time for students to work independently to learn the details. Depending on your instructional materials, you have a few options on how to do this.
If you’re mainly using a textbook, have students go through the book to take notes or fill out a worksheet you’ve created.
If you’re using a digital curriculum system, this is the perfect time to have students log in and complete the digital lessons and guided notes!
C. Students Practice Hands-On Skills
After your students learn the background knowledge and concepts, it’s time to discuss the related hands-on skills.
Start by demonstrating the skills for your class, slowly walking through each step and allowing students to ask questions.
After your demonstration, have students work in small groups and practice the procedure while you walk around, giving praise and suggestions as necessary.
D. Have Students Take Practice Exams Mid-Semester
After you’re well into the semester, it’s time to break out the practice exams! Having students take practice exams will help you get a good idea of how ready your students are for the certification exam.
In addition, these practice exams will help you complete the last few steps of creating a successful course!
E. Review Student Outcomes to Spot Knowledge Gaps
After your students take practice exams, you’ll be able to look at their results to determine how prepared they are for the exam.
When reviewing the results, look for trends in types of questions or topics most students missed on the practice test. This will give you some direction for reinforcing topics before exam day.
You’ll also have a good gauge of who is most prepared for the exam and may be willing to help other students review and practice.
F. Reinforce Weak Areas with Customized Review
Reinforcement and remediation are critical when preparing students for exam day. Some common strategies include individualized tutoring, small group review, or re-teaching full lessons.
For more ideas to remediate and help students prepare, read this article: Remediation Strategies for CTE Health Science Classes
Overall, though planning your syllabus may seem tedious, it will help you and your students in the long run!
5. Review What Your Students Should Expect on Exam Day
As test day approaches, you’ll want to walk your students through the logistics of how everything will work.
A week or so before the exam, spend some time to give your students information about:
- How many questions there are
- How much time students have to complete the exam
- How to access the exam (if virtual)
- Where to go (if testing at an exam site)
- When they’ll get their results
By answering your students’ lingering questions, you can help alleviate any last-minute stress or concerns they have!
6. Boost Your Students’ Confidence
When your students are getting ready to sit for their certification exams, the most important thing you can do is offer words of encouragement.
You spent the semester teaching, assessing, and reviewing the information. Now it’s up to your students to apply the knowledge and skills you know they have!
While it may seem small, sometimes a boost of confidence and reassurance can make all the difference for a nervous student.
Discover How Other Teachers Help Their Students Succeed
Now that you have an idea of what steps you can take to prepare students for certification, you probably wonder what other teachers are doing.
At AES we work with thousands of health science teachers every year to help them save time with planning and teaching so they can focus on what matters most - their students’ success.
Wondering what success your colleagues have seen by using digital curriculum in their classrooms? Dive into their stories to find out: