The TEAS – Test of Essential Academic Skills – A Nursing Entrance Exam
Nursing students typically face high stakes examinations more than once along the way. So do many other healthcare students. The licensing examination comes at the end of the program – but there are often one or two required at the beginning. The Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS) is a very common nursing school admission requirement.
The TEAS is administered by Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI). Schools use the test to predict which students are most likely to succeed. It represents one part of the admission process. While the TEAS is a standardized exam, it’s not used in standardized ways at schools around the nation.
The version of the test currently in use is called the ATI TEAS or TEAS 6; this is as of early 2021.
The TEAS is high stakes in that a person has to pass it, though they don’t have to pass it the first time around. 40% take the test more than once. Students will need to be aware of wait times and allowable annual attempts.
ATI, notably, recommends at least six weeks of preparation. While some students do well on a short time frame, some like to prepare – and indeed make a first attempt – well in advance of the time they seek admission.
While ATI has set benchmarks, individual schools set their minimum scores.
Making Sense of TEAS Examination Performance
While there is no single cut-off score, scores may be classified into the following preparedness levels:
The level gives some indication of how prepared the student is for professional healthcare studies. It’s not necessarily an indicator of whether a person can be successful. It can be viewed as an indicator of how much support a person would likely need to be successful.
TEAS Examination Content
The TEAS is a multiple choice examination. It includes four sections. Three are ones that are ubiquitous in the world of college prep: reading, mathematics, and English/language arts. The fourth is science: After all, nurses can’t get by on language and math aptitude alone.
The science section includes physical and life sciences, human anatomy and physiology, and scientific reasoning.
The mathematics portion include measurement and data and numbers and algebra questions.
The reading and science sections take a little over an hour each (64 and 63 minutes, respectively). The math section is almost an hour: 54 minutes. The English and language section is significantly shorter: just 28 minutes.The TEAS may be administered on-campus, onsite, or online. Onsite exams are administered at PSI centers. ATI advises candidates to contact the school they will be applying for to find out how they should register. Once they have the information, they can register online (https://www.atitesting.com/teas-prep).
ATI has set system requirements for online proctored examination.
The minimum score varies from one institution to another. Some don’t have a single cut-off score. Students may be awarded points for their TEAS performance. TEAS performance can be one factor in holistic admission process.
The school may focus on overall TEAS performance and/ or scores on individual subtests.
Schools vary in how often they will allow a student to retest and how many times they can test in a year. ATI has stated that the average number of attempts a student is allowed is three. The score report tells how many attempts have been made. Of course multiple tests can also get expensive.
One very good source of information about the TEAS: the school(s) the student will be seeking admission from. Chances are good they will give very specific information, including the particulars about taking the test locally.
If a student takes the test at a school testing facility, the score will automatically be forwarded. The candidate also has the opportunity of having score reports sent to other schools, but must purchase them. Candidates who test at PSI sites or online will need to purchase any score reports they want to have sent.
ATI provides the student with a score report. Students who fail an attempt can use the score report to determine areas where they need remedial work.
The following, drawn from select state and community colleges, illustrates the varying ways in which the TEAS is used.
Fulton-Montgomery Community College New York requires students to score at the proficient level (https://www.fmcc.edu/admissions/apply/nursing-application/teas-testing-requirements/). Only two attempts are allowed within 12 months; they must be at least 45 days apart.
At Lakeland Community College, the TEAS is used for nursing and some allied health professions. An overall 62 is required for general nursing students. Two attempts are allowed; at this point, the student will need to meet with an academic counselor to determine if nursing is an appropriate choice.
Wenatchee Valley College has set a minimum overall score and a minimum score for each category. The score is highest for reading and lowest for science. (It is not uncommon for schools to set the science score lower.)
Information is as of early 2021.
TEAS Exam Preparation
TEAS preparation materials are available from testing companies such as Peterson’s, Kaplan Test Prep, and Mometrix.
Resources are also available directly from ATI. Test takers can opt to purchases preparation packages, whether basic or comprehensive. (The basic version is recommended for individuals who have taken the ACT or SAT in the recent past.) There are also stand-alone resources available from ATI, including practice assessment ‘B’ and ‘C’.
ATI makes general pre-nursing resources available as well. The company offers a learning strategy book to help students succeed on standardized tests (as well as in the classroom). A student can opt for the ATI online tutorial. Among the students who may find this usefulare those with ESL backgrounds.
ATI also maintains a pre-nursing blog with periodic TEAS-related posts. One 2019 post noted some types of questions that were frequently missed, for example, describing chemical reactions.
TEAS Exam Resources
Teas Exam Practice Tests can be found at (Some offer free TEAS exam practice tests, but then payment may be required for further resources):
- Momoetrix: https://www.mometrix.com/academy/teas-practice-test/
- Kaplan Free ATI TEAS® Practice Test Questions: https://www.kaptest.com/teas/free/teas-practice
- TEAS Exam Study Guide by ATI: https://www.atitesting.com/teas-prep
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