Could You Pass the EMT Certification Exam?


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Have you ever wondered if you could make the grade as an emergency medical technician? If so, our quiz is for you. Well, OK ... it's probably not going to be as difficult as the National Registry EMT certification exam, because it's for a general audience. Did you know, for example, that the current NREMT exam is "cognitively adaptive"? That means that the computerized test starts with the most difficult questions on each sub-topic, and if you answer those correctly, it moves on. If not, it tapers down to progressively easier questions. So if it's taking you what feels like a long time to take the exam, you might not be as prepared as you thought! But don't worry, as long as you demonstrate an adequate level of knowledge, you won't fail. You'll just get out a bit earlier if you ace it!

There's a lot to cover. EMTs must have a good understanding of human anatomy, the systems of the body, and common illnesses and injuries. But beyond that, they have to understand how to communicate with children, the elderly, and those for whom English is a second language. They need to know how to instill trust in patients, how to deal with the drunk, drug users, or those agitated by mental illness. And. no less important, they need to remember how to protect themselves in the field. There are many risks to the job, from back injuries incurred while lifting patients, to hostile dogs, to the canisters of highly combustible oxygen that are a part of an ambulance's equipment. 

Remember, the next time you see an EMT or paramedic -- treat them well; they have a very difficult job!

What is the opposite of "systolic"?

"Systolic" and "diastolic" are terms you'd most often use in noting blood pressure. The top number is systolic, meaning while the heart is contracting, and diastolic is the bottom number, meaning between beats.


A bag-valve-mask setup is used for a patient who is ______.

A bag-valve-mask combination is a ventilation device. For various reasons, including body substance isolation, EMTs very rarely perform mouth-to-mouth, but use ventilation devices instead.


Which of these would you use to stabilize a patient's spine?

A cervical collar is placed around the patient's neck and jaw, to hold the cervical spine still. You've probably already heard that one of the biggest concerns in moving a patient on-scene is not aggravating a spinal injury. The collar helps prevent that.


True or false: Bodily fluids are the only infection risk at a scene.

EMTs must also protect themselves from airborne pathogens, which is where a mask comes in. Gloves will also help you to not pick up a germ that has landed on a surface in the patient's home -- a common way the flu is transmitted.


The four basic vital signs are pulse, respiration rate, body temperature and _______.

These are considered four immediate and key clues to a patient's condition. It isn't just first responders that use them; nurses check them at the beginning of any doctor's appointment.


A 45-year old woman has called 911 to report chest pain. By the time you arrive, she says most of the pain has resolved. What should you do?

The patient may refuse further assessment, but it is important from a legal and ethical standpoint to urge the patient to get checked out. It's possible the chest pain is a precursor of a heart attack.


"ABC" stands for Airway, Breathing and _______.

These are the most urgent things to address at the scene. Is the patient's airway clear? Is he breathing? Is his heart beating regularly, and/or is he bleeding? If you take care of these problems first, you'll have time to address other issues.


If a patient's symptoms are "bilateral," what are they?

You might apply this term when examining a patient with possible lung issues. If her pain is "bilateral," it seems likely both lungs are involved.


What is one of the first duties of an EMT on arriving at work?

It's very important that the "bus," as EMTs in some areas call it, is well-stocked with things a patient might need. Coffee is important, too, but that's secondary.


Cervical, thoracic and lumbar are terms which describe the _____.

If you said "neck," you were partly right. The cervical spine is the part in the neck. Further down is the thoracic spine, then the lumbar.


True or false: EMTs are exempt from testifying in court about anything that happens on a call.

It is not uncommon for an EMT to be called to testify in court. This might happen when a call was the result of a crime, or in a civil lawsuit, when a patient or a patient's surviving family believes that treatment was negligent.


Which of these would you use on a musculoskeletal injury?

A splint is a device that holds an injured limb in a safe, pain-reducing position. In an emergency, they can be made with broom handles, rolled sheets or other items.


An infant's breathing rate should be _____ than an adult's.

A normal breathing rate for an infant is 25-50 breaths per minute. A child's is slower, about 15 - 30 breaths, but still higher than an adult's.


Which of these might pupil size indicate to you?

Pupil size is an important indicator of health. Pupils of different sizes is a common sign of brain injury.


Which of these is NOT used for Body Substance Isolation?

Masks, goggles and gloves are all part of proper BSI. A blood-pressure cuff is used in patient assessment.


Why might you squeeze a patient's fingernail?

This is done with young, heathy patients to determine "capillary refill," or how quickly the blood returns. This is a sign of circulatory health; a poor response can indicate shock (among other things). Do not rely on this sign in older patients or patients with pre-existing health problems, as it will not be reliable.


What is bradycardia?

One cause of bradycardia is inadequate breathing or oxygen supply. You'll notice when you hold your breath, your pulse starts to slow. In the field, uncontrolled, this can be dangerous.


What is the difference between a sign and a symptom?

This might seem like a semantic issue, and not important to treatment. But it reminds the EMT that there are things only the patient can report, and things the EMT might see that the patient doesn't notice. Both are important.


Which of these is NOT an apparatus used to transport a patient in the field?

Hospital beds are (usually) made to roll. But you won't be using them at the scene of a call.


What is a danger of using oxygen on scene?

Oxygen can be an important part of prehospital care, but it can also be dangerous. The equipment needs to be well-maintained and handled with respect.


What does the "A" in "SAMPLE" history stand for?

"SAMPLE" is a mnemonic device for taking a history on the scene. It stands for Signs/Symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Pertinent past history, Last oral intake (food or drink), and Events leading to injury/illness.


What is cyanosis?

Cyanosis usually occurs when a patient is having difficulty breathing or otherwise getting oxygen to the tissues of the body. Check for it around the lips or in the nailbeds, where it often appears first.


Hypotension, or low blood pressure, is a reading lower than _____ in an adult.

You are more likely to see an elevated blood pressure (due to stress) than a low one at an emergency scene. So if your patient's blood pressure is unusually low, it could imply blood loss or another issue.


Your patient vomits while being treated, and you see what looks like coffee grounds in the vomit. What do you tell the ER staff?

The most likely explanation here is internal bleeding. However, it is not the EMT's job to guess at causes of symptoms. Stick to what you observed and you won't accidentally mislead a doctor or nurse.


The endocrine system deals with what?

Contrary to popular opinion, hormones aren't just about sex. They are the body's chemical messengers, which interact with all the other systems in a complex way. One of the most common hormone issues you'll deal with is diabetes and insulin, the hormone (sometimes administered externally) that controls blood sugar.


Which of these is a normal respiration rate for an adult?

This is a normal breathing rate for a healthy and calm adult. Hyperventilation can take the breathing rate up to 200 breaths per minute, which generally precedes passing out.


Which of these is NOT a function of the skin?

Skin keeps harmful pathogens out of the body, helps regulate the body temperature, and keeps the body's water level balanced (through sweat and through keeping external water out). But it does not exchange oxygen for CO2.


What do the terms "proximal" and "distal" mean?

One important part of being an EMT is being able to discuss a patient's body in common terms everyone understands. Medical professionals use terms like distal/proximal, ventral/dorsal, and anterior/posterior to describe the position of injuries or symptoms.


BSI stands for Body Substance _________.

In other words, this is infection control. It's important that EMTs protect themsevles from contact with blood, saliva, etc.


What are "standing orders"?

An ambulance service is run by a medical director, who is always a physician. If he or she creates a standing order that an EMT must call in before administering a patient's insulin, that's the rule you'll always follow in the field.


What is a "size up"?

The first thing you do on arriving at a scene is make sure it's safe for you to proceed. A badly injured EMT is no help to anyone.


"Ascultation" is a fancy word for ______.

You might hear the expression "ascultation with stethoscope" in your work. If so, it's possible your co-worker is bucking for a supervisor position or has his/her eye on med school!


What, in the language of dispatchers, is an "RP"?

To be effective on the job, you'll need to understand the shorthand dispatchers and other first responders use. A reporting party is the person who called 911.


Which is these is a sign that a scene might not be safe?

Surprised? It makes sense when you think about it. Emergency scenes are usually very noisy places, with people crying or alarms going off, and it's not uncommon for a bystander to flag you down when you arrive. A still, silent scene is an anomaly, and you and your partner should proceed with caution.


Which of these is something you might want to keep out of a radio transmission?

Radio transmissions are accessible to anyone with a scanner, which includes hobbyists as well as people working for other agencies. Even if your pregnant patient is not named, she might be identifiable by other details. It's important to keep sensitive details confidential until you can discreetly inform the ER staff in person.


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