Preparing For Those NBRC Credentialing Exams

NBRC Credentialing ExamsAre you ready for NBRC exams?

Now that spring graduation season is upon us, RT grads who have yet to take their NBRC credentialing exams are most likely cramming for the tests as we speak.

How can you make sure all the hard work and effort you’re putting into exam prep will pay off with a “pass” on your first attempt at the exams? Four RT educators offer their top three tips for staying on track during the study process —

Georgianna Sergakis, PhD, RRT, FAARC, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH

  1. Remember, this is a marathon and not a sprint. You have spent many, many hours in class, lab, and clinical preparing for the NBRC exams. Don’t forget that your educational preparation counts as study time! You have been studying for this moment since the very first day of your program. With that said, use the time between now and your examination time to be strategic and thoughtful in your study plan.
  1. Conduct a needs assessment. To be most strategic in your study habits decide where you should focus your efforts. You don’t need to spend time studying what you already know well. Take a practice exam and carefully decide which areas of the exam matrix require the most attention and focus your precious time accordingly.
  1. Use your resources. Here at Ohio State, we are fortunate to have our director of clinical education, Sarah Varekojis. She conducts several workshops with our seniors to assist them in diagnosing/breaking down their SAE performances. Sometimes this allows the senior to realize, “I don’t know why I picked that answer!” Then the individual can really focus on how they process through the questions to develop a better strategy the next time. Your faculty members are here to help too, so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance. Sometimes a review of their content area when placed in context at the end of your RT program makes much more sense than the first time you heard the content at the beginning of the program when you were struggling to understand oxygen therapy!

Ellen Becker, PhD, RRT-NPS, FAARC, Rush University, Chicago, IL

  1. I know that preparing may sound too obvious, but sometimes it is difficult to tackle content that is challenging or infrequently seen. Is it hemodynamic values? Capnography? Pulmonary function testing? Treating cardiac arrhythmias? Go back to your notes and books, and seek help from faculty to refine your knowledge in the areas that challenge you. Then take your exam with the confidence that you mastered the concepts.
  1. Study with others. After working through some practice questions, explain to your study group why you erroneously selected the wrong response and why the correct response is right. Talking out loud is a great way for others to help you identify gaps in your knowledge, errors, or misconceptions. Further, explaining a concept to help a classmate helps you solidify your own understanding of the content. Everyone wins.
  1. Investigate the reason for wrong answers on practice exams. Most of your exam questions will test concepts rather than simple facts. Therefore, you need to practice your reasoning, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. If you get a question wrong, dig deeper to identify the concepts the question is testing. Clarifying the troubling concept will help you get multiple questions correct when you take the NBRC exams.

David Chang, EdD, RRT-NPS, CPFT, University of South Alabama, Mobile, AL

  1. Review for the NBRC exam should start as soon as possible. Students should go through the NBRC detailed content outline (exam matrix) to highlight and focus on the topics that they know little or nothing about. Make a note card for each topic and include the pertinent info from your own research and reading.
  1. Work on as many practice questions as possible. Read the questions carefully for key words pertinent to the question (and correct answer). Review the rationales for the correct response as well as the reasons for the incorrect responses. A good source for practice exam questions is This is our department website for our students. It is not-for-profit and is open source for everyone.
  1. When you take the tests, spend about one minute on each question. Easy or difficult questions are worth the same — one point each. Do not spend too much time on those challenging questions. Go ahead and mark your best “guess” and never leave a question blank as you may not have time to come back to it later. You can always write down the question number on the provided paper and come back to it later if time permits.

Bill Galvin, MEd, RRT, AE-C, FAARC, Gwynedd Mercy College, Gwynedd Valley, PA

  1. Don’t wait! And I am dead serious. I can’t stress this enough, and there are a couple of points to raise with regard to this issue. First, you will never be more ready and more prepared than you are at the time of graduation. You have been immersed in RC for the past two to four years. Second, you are at the top of your game and the clock is starting in terms of the forgetting process. While time is not the sole variable for forgetting, it is a factor and you can beat it by not delaying.

I have anecdotal data that supports the observation/finding that those that take the exam within the first one to three months are more successful. Now granted, it may be that these are the more motivated, the over-achievers, and perhaps better students, but nonetheless they are more successful than those that wait. Just this past year, our program experienced a 100% pass rate on the RRT. However, a closer look demonstrated that those that took the TMC exam within the first month were all first-time passers and had an average score of 113.2, while those that took it in the first three months had an average score of 108.1. Those that waited two years or more were extremely unhappy with themselves and said so, as they may have had to repeat the exam and most scored at the 75+/- percentile.

  1. Employ one of the most popular and proven test-taking strategies — the process of elimination. The numbers look like this:
  1. 1:4 25% likelihood of picking the correct response
  2. 1:3 33% likelihood of picking the correct response
  3. 1:2 50% likelihood of picking the correct response

You need to “play the odds” and try to eliminate as many options as possible. The numbers show that each time you can eliminate just one option, your odds are significantly improved.

  1. I know this column is geared to new grads, but If you’re just getting started in your RT program, understand and appreciate as early as possible in the course of your education the importance and criticality of reading your text, reviewing your notes, and being engaged in clinical. In other words, study in earnest. I liken it to being successful in high-performance sports. I am a firm believer that the team that excels is the team that takes “practice” seriously; they don’t “dog it” but do all their laps, they listen to their coaches, they practice their plays. They don’t show up on game day and win the game unless they’ve put in their practice week after week. They learn from their mistakes.

I have told all the kids that I have coached over the years that the game is won by practice. Practice for me in my early years of playing football, baseball, running cross country, etc., was what got me ready for the game. The NBRC exam is the game and your two-four years of schooling (the theory in the classroom, the “show and tell” of the labs, and the supervised and unsupervised clinical) represents practice. Take practice (i.e., your schooling) seriously! 

Keep That Anxiety At Bay!

These exam-taking tips from leading RT educators can go a long way towards easing your anxiety about your upcoming NBRC exams. You can also find some useful exam prep resources on the NBRC website, and if you want to take a prep course, AARC Exam Prep is a great online program that can help you ace the tests.