Don’t Fear the TEAS Test

female studying for the TEAS test with a paper in her hand

For many considering nursing school, one hurdle stands in the way: the TEAS test. If you're the type to get a little nervous about tests, then you are probably doing lots of research on this critical healthcare exam to prepare.

What is the TEAS test? What's on the TEAS test? How do you prepare for the TEAS test? Is the TEAS test hard? What happens if I fail the TEAS test?

We're here to help! In this article, we'll answer all of these common questions and more. Knowing this information upfront will help you feel confident and ready to conquer the TEAS exam.

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What is the TEAS test?

The TEAS test, or the Test of Essential Academic Skills, is a standardized test commonly used to judge a student’s readiness for enrollment in healthcare-related college programs. This is a very common requirement to get into nursing school, so you’d be wise to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of the TEAS exam.

The Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI) created the exam and proctors its administration. ATI TEAS tests have been around for a little over 20 years as a standardized way to assess readiness for a career in healthcare. Many nursing, health science and healthcare programs require applicants to take the ATI TEAS test and then use those scores as a factor while deciding admission.

At this point you're probably wondering, “Is the TEAS test hard to pass?” The truth is--you might find the TEAS test hard or not-so-bad depending on your comfort with standardized exams and your familiarity with the material.

But if you know what to expect during the TEAS test, your chances of passing will likely increase. To start, let's take a closer look at the exam itself.

Where can I take the TEAS test?

You can take the exam either in-person or online. If you are going through a specific institution (like your prospective nursing program) follow their guidelines for registration.

If you don't have a university lined up, you can take the TEAS online through ATI or in-person at a PSI testing location near you.

What if I need a TEAS test accommodation?

If you plan to take your TEAS test online through ATI or in-person at a PSI location, you can submit documentation of your disability or qualified medical condition to ATI. Make sure you send this in early since they ask for a minimum of 30 days to review your request.

If you are taking the exam through an institution, follow their accommodation guidelines.

Which TEAS test version will I take?

As of this article date, the current exam is TEAS version 7. ATI updates the material on the TEAS from time to time, but they try to keep the level of difficulty the same from version to version.

What is the ATI TEAS test format?

One of the most important TEAS test tips we can give is to familiarize yourself with the exam format so you know what to expect on test day. You'll be glad to hear that the format of the TEAS exam is similar to other standardized tests you've likely taken in your life. According to ATI, the TEAS test consists of 170 questions covering a variety of subjects with a 209 minute time limit.

20 of the ATI TEAs exam questions won't count toward your final score. ATI uses them to evaluate the difficulty of their questions and improve user experience.

The TEAS question formats are:

  • Multiple choice
  • Select all that apply
  • Fill in the blank
  • Ordered response (rank each answer in order of importance)
  • Hot spots (mark areas on an image)

What are the ATI TEAS test subjects?

The rest of the 170 questions on the TEAS test cover foundational education subjects commonly found in high school curriculums. ATI writes that the test includes the following areas:

  • Reading:
    • Number of questions: 45
    • Time limit: 55 minutes
    • Areas assessed include key ideas and details, craft and structure, and integration of knowledge and ideas.
  • Mathematics:
    • Number of questions: 38
    • Time limit: 57 minutes
    • Areas assessed include numbers, algebra and data interpretation and measurement.
  • Science:
    • Number of questions: 50
    • Time limit: 60 minutes
    • Areas assessed include human anatomy and physiology, life and physical sciences, and scientific reasoning.
  • English and language usage:
    • Number of questions: 37
    • Time limit: 37 minutes
    • Areas assessed include conventions of standard English, knowledge of language and using language and vocabulary to express ideas in writing.

How can I prepare for the TEAS test? 4 exam tips

If you are serious about going into healthcare or nursing, you'll want to not only study for the TEAS, but practice test questions to get used to the format. Give yourself time to prepare and follow general exam-taking advice about getting enough sleep and taking care of yourself before the test day. This is especially important if you get test anxiety.

How do you study for the TEAS test more specifically? Consider this advice.

  1. Take the TEAS test early

Even if you're not quite ready to apply for nursing school or your healthcare program, try to take the TEAS test at the very beginning of your undergraduate studies or during your first year of college. This will give you plenty of time to get familiar with the exam content and provide a cushion to retake the TEAS exam if you need it.

ATI writes that test-takers can typically take the TEAS exam three times per year—but your school might have restrictions on that, so check their policy to make sure you know how many retakes you are allowed (if needed).

  1. Register at least two weeks ahead of time

Another smart TEAS test tip is to register for the exam early. While you can do plenty of independent preparation beforehand, ATI may send you a study guide and other important materials once you do officially register for the test.

Those two weeks can give you plenty of time to figure out where you will take the test, review TEAS study guide materials and maybe take a few free practice exams. You don't want to have to scramble on test day, so get everything arranged ahead of time.

  1. Utilize TEAS test prep resources

No matter how confident you feel going into the exam, test prep resources can help. The Rasmussen University Library and Learning Services team has compiled several excellent TEAS test resources that can be incredibly useful when preparing.

While it may cost a little extra to access test prep materials from ATI, it's not a bad idea to take a few TEAS practice tests at the very beginning of your studying. This will give you a better idea of which areas you'll need to focus on most in the weeks to come. Note any practice questions you have a hard time with and hit the books! The more you review the material, the better you'll feel on the day of the exam.

  1. Review the fundamentals

The TEAS exam questions cover concepts you are probably a little familiar with already. That means you can cover a lot of ground by reviewing the fundamentals.

For math, can you translate fractions to decimals? Do you have your order of operations memorized? For science, have you reviewed basic biology concepts? Can you balance an equation in chemistry? Do you know your basic anatomy and physiology?

For the English and reading sections, take time to review punctuation and grammar rules and practice filtering out what is or isn't relevant in a selected reading. These are all things you've done at some point in your life—just be sure to brush up on these fundamental concepts, especially if you've been out of practice for a while.

What should I do on the day of the TEAS exam?

Before you know it, test day will arrive! This is where all of your extra studying will pay off. But there are still a few final things you can do on that day to set you up for success.

Preparing the day before the exam
If you're unfamiliar with the testing location, take the time to scout out the area ahead of time—you don't want to find out at the last second if parking space is limited and you now need an extra ten minutes to get settled. You've got enough on your mind. You don't need minor worries adding stress.

Follow your institution’s guidance for what to bring on exam day and where to take it. If you are taking the ATI TEAS online, you'll need to download Proctorio (the remote exam proctor) ahead of time.

Then, get a good night's sleep!

Preparing on exam day
Give yourself time to eat a well-balanced breakfast on the morning of your TEAS test. Some of the best foods for your brain include eggs, salmon, green tea and antioxidant-rich foods like acai berries. Stay hydrated.

Finally, if you take nothing else from these day-of preparations, remember this one: Do not be late! ATI will not let you begin the test after the designated start time. There are also a few things ATI requires that you bring along with you on exam day: a No. 2 pencil, your registration receipt with the ATI testing ID number and a valid photo ID.

Are you ready to conquer the TEAS test?

There is no reason to fear the TEAS test when you plan ahead. You may even find yourself getting used to these standardized exams as you progress through your education. The TEAS is a great warmup for nurses who will eventually need to take the NCLEX.

Keep these TEAS test tips in mind as you embark on your journey into the nursing field. You may also want to start planning which nursing credential you'll want to pursue upon completing the TEAS exam. Learn more about your options in our article, “A Beginner's Guide to Understanding Different Levels of Nursing Credentials."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in October 2013. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2023.

About the author

Brianna Flavin

Brianna is a senior content manager who writes student-focused articles for Rasmussen University. She holds an MFA in poetry and worked as an English Professor before diving into the world of online content. 

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