How to Pass ATI Exams on Your First Attempt

If you are in a nursing program that integrates ATI into its curriculum, then you know how important it is to perform well on the exam(s) that you have at the end of each semester.  You may feel overwhelmed wondering how can you effectively prepare for these exams while juggling clinicals, lab, and mastering the content you are learning in your theory courses.  In this article, you will find the absolute best ways that you can study for your ATI exams so that you pass with a Level 2 or 3 on your first attempt.  And who doesn’t want that?  Read along to prepare yourself for ATI success!

Is the thought of taking your ATI exams freaking you out?  Click through to find out how you can pass every ATI exam on your first try!

Use the ATI Book!

This may seem pretty obvious, but it is an absolute must that you actually crack open the ATI book in order to have an idea of what will be on that specific test.  A great way to use your ATI books is to use them throughout your course as a supplement for your textbook.  So that means instead of waiting until the week before the exam to finally open it and getting overwhelmed (Have you guys seen that Adult Health ATI book?!), you should looking at it at the beginning of the semester. 

The content in these books are extremely condensed, and therefore they only include the absolute must-know information regarding medications, disease processes, procedures, etc.  Incorporating the book into your regular study routine will not take a lot of extra time.  Let’s say you are learning about COPD in your Med/Surg class.  Before lecture, you can quickly skim the COPD section in the Adult Health ATI Book to begin to develop an understanding of the material.

If there is ever a discrepancy between what you are learning in lecture and what is written in the ATI book (and there will be a few of these), definitely go along with what ATI has published rather than what your professor says when it comes to studying for the ATI exam.  But for regular tests and quizzes, you should honor what your professor has taught in lecture.  That is exactly why it is important for you to study for these ATI tests on your own instead of thinking, “I’ll be fine if I just go off of what we’ve been learning this whole semester.”

Action Tip: Be sure to complete the questions at the end of the chapters in your book.  These are sometimes VERY similar to the questions you will see on the practice Form A and Form B tests!

Take Practice Exams Seriously

Usually nursing programs that use ATI will assign you modules and practice exams called Form A and Form B for each ATI exam that you need to take.  (Moment of truth: I found that the book contained a lot of the information needed to do well on the pre-tests and post-tests that you complete along with the modules, so I rarely listened to a module in its entirety).  However, it is certainly helpful if you take the practice tests seriously.  The content on the practice tests is usually very similar to the topics that will be covered on the exam; it will just be presented in a different way.  It can be tempting to just obtain the answers for the practice tests from your classmates, but when you do that you are missing out on a valuable chance to gauge your readiness for the actual exam.  We will delve further into how exactly you can determine how prepared you are in the next point.

Take a Look at the Proficiency Charts

Here is the latest proficiency chart.  Be sure to check for updates!  These are pretty close indicators of what you will need to score on your ATI exams to get that Level 2 or Level 3.  To be safe, add about 2 or 3% points to the minimum proficiency for the benchmark that you are striving to achieve (Level 2 or 3).  The reason that you want to know what these proficiency levels are is because when you take your practice exams seriously (as we talked about above), you’re gonna look at the chart and see that you’re absolutely crushing those practice tests, and that will boost your confidence before exam day!  And if you see that you aren’t performing as well as you would like, take advantage of the reports that ATI generates after you complete a practice test.  These will direct you to exactly what you need to review. 

Action Tip:  If you need more practice after taking the practice exams that your program provides, go to the ATI tab for “Tutorials” and see if you have “Learning System RN” available.  This gives you access to both “Practice Exams” and “Finals” for each of the ATI exam topics.

These are our tried-and-true strategies for passing your ATI Exams on the first attempt.  Kendra and I implemented these strategies every semester and as a result, we never scored a Level 1 on any of our ATI exams.  The action steps that you can take today are: use your ATI books from the beginning of the semester instead of waiting until the week before the exam, treat your practice tests as if they are the real deal, and be sure you know what the minimum score is that you need to earn on your final ATI exam in order to obtain that Level 2 or 3 that you want.

Have a question about any of our ATI preparation strategies?  How have you been preparing for your ATI exams? Be sure to leave a comment below and let us know!