While acquiring knowledge and being able to recall facts are important parts of acing your CNS exam, practicing the act of taking the exam is also an extremely useful tactic.
Many of us have test-taking anxiety, and one of the ways to help mitigate this on test day, is to complete practice tests. Which is one reason why we provide several practice tests for the students in our CNS Test Prep Course!
There are a number of CNS practice tests available online, some are great, while others are mediocre at best. And if you’re studying frequently, you may run out of quality practice tests. One way to get decent quality practice tests is to gather a group of CNS Candidates and make your own practice tests!
Here are some of my tips for developing your own practice tests with your study group!
Keep it Short: Plan for each test to have about 60-100 questions at most. Most of us don’t need to practice sitting for an entire 200-question test. That can cause more stress and burnout. I recommend keeping your practice tests to a maximum of 100 questions.
Pull a mix of questions from established resources such as Quizlet or the Medical Nutrition & Case Studies book, and new questions that you and your groupmates create. Ask each participant to contribute 10-15 questions, depending on the size of your study group.
Mix up the Style of Questions: Use both multiple-choice questions and 1-2 essay-style or fill in the blank questions per person (without an answer key). Non-MCQ are faster and easier to create, and you can all go over the practice test results together to determine the right answer.
Create New Questions: Use a Google Form to collect the questions and answers from your groupmates, as well as the source of the question. This is just in case your group needs to double check an answer. There are other resources to use, such as Typeform, but I find that Google Forms is very reliable and most people in your group will already have a Google/Gmail account.
The nice thing about using the hive mind of your study group is that there will be new-to-you questions written in a way that might be different from how your brain works.
Create the test: Open these in the Responses Spreadsheet that Google Forms provides. Once all the questions are submitted, you can choose to re-sort them if you’d like to mix up the order, then you can add a column to provide a number for each question. Then copy and paste them into a word processor like Google Docs or Word to print or send out as the practice test. Link to the original spreadsheet as the answer key so folks can grade the tests themselves!
Take a Break! It is best to take a break between putting together the practice test and taking it. I recommend a week or so, but even 3 days should be enough.
Take the test seriously (at least once). Not every practice test needs to be a dress rehearsal, but at least one of them should be! If you’re planning to do the hand written test, be sure to do at least one handwritten practice test. Give yourself limited time to complete the test, and take it in a quiet space with no interruptions or distractions. If you’re a nervous test-taker, try to simulate what the experience will be like in some way in order to help process and prepare for the real thing!
What about AI?
Since Artificial Intelligence platforms are all the rage, I was wondering how accurate they would be at creating practice questions. I decided to ask ChatGPT for some help creating a practice test to prepare for the CNS exam. See below for my prompt & outcomes. Let me know what you think of this 10-question practice test!
Prompt: Can you create 10 multiple choice practice questions for the Certified Nutrition Specialist exam? Please include drug-nutrient interaction questions!
Response: Sure, here are 10 multiple-choice practice questions for the Certified Nutrition Specialist exam, including some drug-nutrient interaction questions:
1. Which of the following is a good source of complex carbohydrates?
A. White bread
B. Fruit juice
C. Whole grain pasta
D. Sugary cereal
2. What nutrient is required for the formation of healthy red blood cells?
C. Vitamin C
D. Vitamin D
3. Which of the following vitamins is fat-soluble?
A. Vitamin C
B. Vitamin B6
C. Vitamin D
D. Vitamin B12
4. What is the recommended daily intake of sodium for adults?
A. 1000 milligrams
B. 2000 milligrams
C. 3000 milligrams
D. 4000 milligrams
5. Which of the following is a common food allergen?
6. Which of the following nutrients can interact with the drug warfarin?
A. Vitamin C
D. Vitamin K
7. What is the primary function of vitamin D in the body?
A. Regulation of calcium absorption
B. Production of red blood cells
C. Maintenance of healthy vision
D. Prevention of scurvy
8. Which of the following is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids?
B. Olive oil
9. Which of the following is a common side effect of consuming excessive amounts of vitamin A?
C. Hair loss
D. Muscle weakness
10. Which of the following nutrients can interact with the drug levothyroxine?
C. Vitamin C
1) C. Whole grain pasta
2) A. Iron
3) C. Vitamin D
4) B. 2000 milligrams
5) B. Wheat
6) D. Vitamin K
7) A. Regulation of calcium absorption
8) C. Salmon
9) C. Hair loss
10) A. Calcium
These AI services recommend that you continue asking questions to refine what you’re looking for, much like a conversation, and that a single question may not yield the exact results you seek. You can see from this initial prompt that these questions are not very challenging.
I played around with it a little bit and I found that it made a few minor mistakes, especially with some of the harder and more nuanced questions, but was otherwise mostly accurate.
If you feel comfortable using an AI service like this (which is extremely new and could come with unforeseen risks), I would only recommend it for making practice tests if you plan to fact check every single answer!
Sign up for our CNS test prep course here!