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Nurse Aide Program: FAQs about the Competency Exam

Nurse aides provide caring support to residents. We want to make sure you are prepared for the work you'll perform as a nurse aide. That's why we offer nurse aide training and testing.

Following federal law, Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) administers one competency exam for all nurse aides. This ensures a neutral and objective testing process for all CNAs (certified nurse aides) working in our state.

Wisconsin TestMaster Universe (TMU) houses our Nurse Aide Testing and Registry system. Headmaster delivers Wisconsin's Nurse Aide Competency Testing services.

The Wisconsin Nurse Aide Competency Exam includes a knowledge test and a skill test. Our goal is to provide all the information you need about our testing process. We offer a handbook that gives details about:

  • Scheduling an exam.
  • Payments.
  • Test day.
  • Security.
  • Rescheduling, refunds, and no-show policy.
  • Candidate feedback.
  • Test results.
  • Retaking the nurse aide test.
  • Test results review requests.

Review the Wisconsin Nurse Aide Candidate Handbook

FAQs (frequently asked questions)

Read answers to the most commonly asked questions related to nurse aide competency testing. We're here to help. If you have a question that isn't answered below or in the handbook, contact us.

To learn more about nurse aide testing in Wisconsin, refer to our Nurse Aide Training and Registry information.

Or you may contact:

Ohio Office
P.O. Box 418
Findlay, OH 45839-0418

Phone: 888-401-0462

Fax: 419-422-7395

Hours of operation:
Monday-Friday 7:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. CST
Saturday 7:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. CST
Montana Office
P.O. Box 6609
Helena Montana 59604

Phone: 888-401-0462

Hours of operation: 9:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. CST


DHS administers one competency exam for all nurse aides. This ensures a neutral and objective testing process for all CNAs working in our state.

DHS contracts with Headmaster to give the Wisconsin Nurse Aide Competency Exam.

Schedule an exam

To schedule the Wisconsin Nurse Aide Competency Exam, you must first successfully complete a nurse aide training program approved by DHS. Or you can provide a letter from DHS that approves you for testing. After you successfully complete the training program, your instructor will begin the registration process. They will enter your initial details into TMU. They'll also submit your name to the Wisconsin Nurse Aide Testing and Registry on the Headmaster website. Your instructor provides the date you successfully completed training. If DHS provided an approval-to-test letter, we'll enter your information in TMU.

After you are registered, TMU will send you an email with your username and password. Use this information to complete your account profile and schedule your exam. Here's how:

  • Log in to TMU with your username and password. If you don't know your username and password, enter your email as your username. Then select Forgot Your Password? TMU will send you an email with a link to reset your password.
  • Select Profile. Enter your demographic information.
  • Select Testing.
  • Select Scheduling. This webpage will show all available test sites and dates available for testing.
  • Select your test site and date, then complete the test scheduling process.

After you complete the testing scheduling process, you'll receive an email or text confirming your testing details.

If you can't log in to TMU, contact Headmaster toll-free at 888-401-0462. If you need support under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), submit the form Request for ADA Testing Accommodation (PDF).

We offer a lot of information about the knowledge test to help you prepare. The knowledge test consists of 75 multiple-choice questions. You'll have 60 minutes to complete this test.

DHS selects questions from subject areas based on an approved test plan. DHS includes questions from all the required categories defined in federal regulations. Below are the number of questions in each subject area:

Safety (8)
Infection Control (7)
Personal Care (8)
Mental Health (4)
Care Impaired (8) Resident Rights (7)
Communication (5)
Data Collection (4)
Basic Nurse Skills (10)
Role and Responsibility (5)
Disease Process (4)
Aging Process & Restorative Care (5)

Oral knowledge testing

An oral (audio) version of the knowledge test is available. Anyone may request the oral version instead of the written version. If you'd prefer to take the oral test, request it when scheduling your exam. You'll pay an additional $5.00 charge for an oral test. For online testing through TMU, you'll hear the questions over the computer or tablet headphones. You'll have buttons on the screen to control the audio play, rewind, pause, etc. For oral tests, only the first 67 questions are read aloud. You must answer the remaining 8 questions without help from audio. That allows us to assess your English reading comprehension.

Practice testing

Practice before your test on the Headmaster home page under On-Line CNA Practice Exams. They offer a free knowledge test question of the day and a 10-question online static practice test.

Headmaster uses a mastery learning method, and each practice test is unique. You must answer a question correctly before you can move on to the next question. The testing system gives your first-attempt percentage score after each practice test. It also provides a list of vocabulary words to study.

The purpose of the skill test is to measure how well you perform nurse aide tasks. The state of Wisconsin approves these skill tasks. See a complete list of possible skill tasks in the Wisconsin Nurse Aide Candidate Handbook.

Here are details to help you feel prepared on the day of your Skill Test:

  • You must perform all steps. Verbally stating a step won't count during the skill test.
  • You'll be given instructions to read in the waiting area before you demonstrate your tasks. Be sure you understand all of the instructions. A registered nurse will observe your skill test. If you have questions, ask them before the timer starts. Once the skill test begins, the test observer isn't allowed to answer questions.
  • Your skill test will include three or four tasks that are randomly chosen. Each task will offer scenarios. The test observer will read the scenarios to you just before you perform each task.
  • You'll have 30 minutes to complete your three or four tasks. After 15 minutes have passed, your test observer will tell you that 15 minutes remain. You won't be allowed extra time.
  • Listen carefully to all instructions given by the test observer. At any time during your skill test, you can ask the test observer to repeat any of the scenarios. Scenarios can be repeated up until you run out of time or until you tell the test observer that you finished your skill tasks.
  • Headmaster arranges for an actor to play the role of the resident during the skill test. Headmaster uses actors for all skills, except two scenarios. Mannequins are used during perineal care and catheter care. Speak to the mannequin as you would speak to any resident.
  • To pass the skill test, you must correctly perform, in order, all of the key steps and 80% of all steps on each task assigned. The order is only important if the words before or after are used in a step. Otherwise, the order doesn't matter. Remember, you must perform each task, not simply state it aloud.
  • If you believe you made a mistake while performing a task, tell your test observer. For the observer to note the correction, you must perform the step(s) correctly. You may repeat or correct any step(s) at any point until you run out of time or until you tell the test observer you've finished your skill tasks.
  • You may direct the test observer to move anywhere needed to help you provide safety for the resident. You can make this request at any time during any skill.

Yes, you may print the Wisconsin Nurse Aide Candidate Handbook. Or contact Headmaster toll-free at 888-401-0462 and ask them to mail a handbook to you.

Yes, you must pay for the tests before scheduling them. Through TMU, Headmaster tracks which exams you're required to take. You can pay exam fees, or the facility can make the payment on your behalf. Acceptable forms of payment include Mastercard, Visa, money order, facility check or cashier's check payable to "D&SDT." D&SDT is the parent company for Headmaster. The TMU system processes credit card payments securely. Nurse aide candidates cannot pay by personal check or cash.

Testing fees:

  • $125 knowledge test and skill test
  • $130 oral knowledge test and skill test
  • $93 skill test only
  • $32 knowledge test only
  • $37 oral knowledge test only

No. English is the only language for written and oral tests.

If you have a disability, you can request special arrangements for testing. Make your request before you apply for testing, as soon as you know that a special accommodation will be needed. Headmaster and the Office of Caregiver Quality must approve accommodations in advance. They cannot change the test in any way.

Complete and sign the Request for ADA Accommodation Form 1404WI (PDF). Send the form, along with required documentation, to Headmaster. Staff in your training program can submit this form on your behalf. Make sure you submit the form far enough in advance that testing isn't delayed.

All requests must be approved in advance, so the evaluator is aware of the exact accommodation needed. The request must state the specific type of help you need, and how the accommodation will help you during the test. Remember, the accommodation can't change the test in any way.

The special accommodation may be approved as requested, approved with adjustments, or denied. Headmaster will notify you in writing of the decision. If approved, Headmaster will complete the scheduling process and advise the test evaluator of special accommodations needed.

Candidates choosing to take the oral knowledge test don't need approval.

Yes, you can reschedule online through TMU at no charge. You must reschedule at least three business days before your test date. (Business days don't include Sundays or holidays. The three days can include your scheduled test date.)

You can reschedule as many times as you like within one year of completing your training.

You must request a test cancellation in writing. If you cancel seven or more business days before your scheduled test date, all fees will be refunded. Headmaster will send a refund to whomever paid the fee (you or the facility that paid your testing fee). If you submit a request to cancel between one and six days before testing, you'll pay a $30 cancellation fee. Headmaster will refund the remainder of your fee. Business days don't include Sundays or holidays.

Submit your written cancellation request to Headmaster:

You'll be considered a no show if you:

  • Don't show up, and haven't sent a written request to cancel at least one business day before to your scheduled test date.
  • Are turned away for lack of proper identification, proper attire, or any other reason testing staff deemed you ineligible to test.

If you're deemed a no show, you'll lose all fees paid. To schedule a new testing date, log in to TMU. You must pay another testing fee when scheduling a new date for testing.

You can request a refund or rescheduled test if you're unable to test for any of these reasons:

  • Car breakdown: Contact Headmaster via phone, fax, or email within one business day of the breakdown. You must provide Headmaster with a tow bill or other documentation within two business days of the missed test event.
  • Medical emergency: Contact Headmaster via phone, fax, or email within one business day. You must submit a doctor's note to Headmaster within five business days of the missed test event.
  • Death in your immediate family: Contact Headmaster and provide an obituary within 10 business days of the missed test date. This applies only for immediate family members.

If Headmaster doesn't receive documentation within the allowed number of days, you'll be deemed a no show. As a no show, you lose all fees paid for that test date. You must pay another test fee when scheduling a new test date.

Yes, you're allowed to work if you're currently enrolled in an approved nurse aide training program. You can provide direct nursing-related duties for up to four months from the start of your employment in a nursing home. You're allowed to work if you:

  • Are a full-time employee.
  • Have been trained and found proficient by the instructor on the skill being performed.
  • Are under the general supervision of a RN (registered nurse) or LPN (licensed practical nurse).

You must pass a nurse aide competency exam within 120 days of the start of your full-time employment as a nurse aide.

The Wisconsin Nurse Aide Competency Exam includes two components: the knowledge test and the skill test. After you complete both tests, Headmaster staff will officially score and double-check your results. Official test results will be available to you by 7:00 p.m. the next business day after your test. After Headmaster scores your results, they'll send you an email. To check your results, log in to your TMU account.

Upon successful completion of both components of the competency exam, Headmaster will place your name on the Wisconsin Nurse Aide Registry.

If you fail either test component, you must apply to retake the test you failed. You can test as many times as needed within one year the date you finished your training program. After one year, you must complete another training program to be eligible for further testing. DHS must approve the training program.

If you didn't pass one of the tests, your online results will show what skill area(s) need further review and practice.

We're here to help you succeed as a nurse aide. If you have any questions, review the Wisconsin Nurse Aide Candidate Handbook or contact us.

Last revised January 31, 2024