Practical Tests in Nursing

Sophie Fisher Sophie Fisher / Wellington campusLeave a Comment

If you’re anything like me, I prefer a good old-fashioned exam or written assignment any day, but in Nursing this isn’t always possible. Nursing skills are not always something that can be assessed in a written exam, in some cases we have to take a ‘practical’ test to see if we actually know what we’re talking about!!

Luckily they save this gem for semester two, which means you are more comfortable with your peers and lecturers, taking a small amount of anxiety out of the entire process. I must admit I was having a mild freak out prior to taking my physical assessment test, but once I got in there, took a deep breath and focused on what I had spent days learning, I got through it and it was over – a pretty painless experience really, and nothing to be scared of!

The one massive piece of advice I can share about this practical test is to be prepared!!

First, I went over all the notes I had from the semester, and along with a little bit of Google help to make sure I had all my definitions correct. I made posters for each of the three topics, with the correct process of assessment and put them up in my room. This is a common study tool I use, and this is the one test that it was probably the most helpful for!

Use your textbook for this process too; there are a lot of helpful hints in there on a good process to follow. YouTube videos also help to perfect technique; I am a visual learner so this helped a lot when I was getting my percussion and auscultation just right!

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Setting out the process of assessment in your head is a great way to remember everything. Figure out how you were taught and what works for you, and then stick to it, this will help you have a constant flow that you can practice over and over again and then take into the test in your head!

Practicing with your partner for the actual test, and other peers will also do wonders! Pair up or even blend together two groups and take turns at doing an assessment, while the other group watches. Once you’ve finished you can give each other pointers on what you did well, and constructive help on what to add in, or any help to create a good flow. Peer support while learning in nursing is amazing, you learn a lot from each other and it also helps calm the nerves.

We took over a room in the nursing suite the day before the test and smashed out as many mock assessments as we could. Try to do both the topics you feel most confident with, and the topics you maybe find a bit harder or just don’t like, because you never know what you’ll end up with in the test! I personally loved doing neurology, followed closely by lungs, and really disliked doing abdomen for some reason, but still had to push through and learn it. Luckily I ended up doing a neuro assessment for my test, but after a day of constant practice I think I would have been conformable with any of the topics!

Lastly don’t forget in the process of learning these assessments that its not just so you can pass the test, but for your future as a nurse. These are the assessments that will come up throughout your career and you have to be able to draw on them for the good of your patient. In second year I have used the skills I have learnt in first year assessment alot for my placements. Neuro comes up a lot, as does the other assessments that you don’t get assessed on for the test – skin assessment is a biggie that you constantly have to keep at the back of your mind when your with patients.


Good luck guys – You’ve got this!


You’re on the home stretch now!! You’ll all ace this test and then smash exams – and after the very full on year you have all had, its summer time. Don’t forget to relax and have fun because second year is another whirlwind year!!

Sophie Fisher

Sophie Fisher

Hi, I’m Sophie and I’m a second year Nursing student at Massey’s Wellington Campus. I’m in my early twenties, and have come to nursing a bit later, as I had an interesting start completing a Bachelor of Arts in Politics, International Relations and Geography (although I can’t navigate a map…). I am originally from Masterton, and in my spare time, which is not very often, I like to go to the gym, walk at the beach near my flat, and go out with friends for dinner and drinks. When I can, I love to head home and get out of the busy city life. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on university life and everything I have learnt from my few years as a student!

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