Preparing for the TEAS

Everything you need to know for the first step to nursing school.

If you've considered applying for nursing school, you've probably heard about the TEAS. While people seem to be more familiar with the NCLEX-RN and NCLEX-PN examinations, the TEAS is a common preadmission test used by many nursing programs. TEAS, which stands for Test of Essential Academic Skills, is administered through Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI) Nursing Education. The test is a basic aptitude test designed to identify students who would succeed in nursing school and who have the ability to think like a nurse. While all examinations can seem a bit daunting, it's important to remember that it's another step to figuring out if nursing school truly is for you.

TEAS basics

TEAS V, the most recent version of the test, is a multiple-choice assessment of basic academic knowledge in reading, mathematics, science, and English and language usage. The four sections are timed for a total of 209 minutes (approximately 4 hours). Test results will be ready 48 hours after you have completed the test. The test is divided in the following manner:

Reading – 40 questions, 50 minutes
The Reading section covers paragraph comprehension, passage comprehension and inferences/conclusions.

Paragraphs and passages contain short passages you must read through, and are followed by a series of multiple choice questions; it is important to identify the subject matter, main idea and additional details of the paragraph or passage, then draw a conclusion. 

Charts, maps, diagrams, and graphs are also followed by a series of multiple choice questions that are aimed to test ability to comprehend, interpret or to apply data.

Finally, the follow directions questions lead to a specific solution or result, and they test your ability to sequence events and locate important details in text.

Math – 45 items, 56 minutes
The Math section includes whole numbers, metric conversions, fractions, decimals, algebraic equations, percentages and ratio/proportions.

TEAS V test tips:

Get rid of any unreasonable answers first. Incredibly large or small numbers in relation to the numbers given in the actual problem can generally be eliminated.

Try plugging answers back into the problem to see if the results make sense.

Round numbers up or down in a problem to see if you can do the math quicker and easier by eliminating any answers that are not near the estimated answer.

Read each number carefully. Test-makers may try to trick you, so read over each question and all of the answers carefully.

Science – 30 items, 38 minutes
The Science section includes questions about science reasoning, science knowledge, biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, basic physical principles and general science.

The most important thing to know in regards to TEAS prep for the science section is critical thinking. You must be able to take the pieces of information that you are offered in each question and apply it to a new and different situation. Focus on breaking down each question into the most basic components and decide which pieces of information are absolutely necessary. The more you practice, the better you will be able to develop your critical thinking skills.

English and Language Usage – 55 items, 65 minutes
The English and Language Usage section includes questions about punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, contextual words and spelling.

Eliminate all wrong answers before selecting any other answers, especially if you are choosing between two of them.

Read with caution. Certain words may look similar, but that does not mean that they have the same meaning. Watch for similar-looking words in the answers.

How to prepare

A great way to prepare for your test is to find a TEAS prep course, free practice sessions or materials to help you prepare for the TEAS. You can also find resource materials and a TEAS study guide. Assessment Technologies Institute (ATI), which administers the examination, offers TEAS preparation and skill-building products on their website, including a study manual, online practice assessments and study packages.

Allow yourself enough time to study. If you leave studying for the exam until the last minute, chances are you may not perform as you had hoped. Decide on how many TEAS practice tests you would like to take before the actual exam and spread them out between study days and prep exam days. You may find that you need to work harder in certain areas than others. If this is the case, build in extra study days for the material you find more difficult.

Organize a study space where all of your notebooks, flashcards and practice exams are within arm’s reach. Make sure the lighting is sufficient, and get rid of anything in the vicinity that may act as a distraction.

Use visual aids. At the start of a topic, write down anything you already know about it. Once you go back and look at the textbooks and your notes, fill in the gaps where any information is missing.

Remember the benefits of a study group. Study sessions with other students allow you to challenge yourself and discuss any questions you may be struggling with. You might have questions that they can answer, and vice versa.

Plan your exam day. The day of your TEAS V test, make sure that you know all of the rules and requirements, what you’re supposed to do and exactly where the test location is. Give yourself extra time in the morning and eat a hearty breakfast. It is always a good idea to arrive 30 minutes before the exam starts.  

What to expect

The day of the test, you should expect to spend at least four hours at the testing facility. The actual test will take 209 minutes, but you should arrive early so you won't feel rushed. It's a smart idea to give yourself a few minutes to focus and make sure you have everything you need. It is recommended that you arrive half an hour before the test starts. Late arrivals are not allowed to test.

For the test, you will need to bring your ATI testing ID number that you received when you registered for the test. You will also need No. 2 pencils, your registration receipt and a valid photo ID. Do not bring calculators or your cell phone with you to the testing locations.

Passing scores

The TEAS is not a pass-or-fail test. Rather, it examines your understanding of 13 specific areas and measures your performance against the people in your program who have taken the test. Your percentile rank will show you where you rank against others. A fiftieth-percentile rank indicates that fifty percent of test-takers did better than you, while a seventieth-percentile rank means that you scored better than seventy percent of those who took the exam.

Many nursing programs require specific scores to be accepted into their program. It is highly recommended that you earn a proficient or higher score if you are applying to a nursing program. You should also check with the nursing school you are applying to ahead of time to see what specific admissions requirements they may have.

If you are not pleased with your TEAS score, you may retake the test. Your admissions counselor can provide you with specific guidelines on when you should retake the test.  Timelines for retaking the TEAS exam vary by school/institution.

Example TEAS questions

Below are two example questions from the Science component of the TEAS exam. Many test prep companies make TEAS test flashcards with similar questions that can help you prepare.


1. A _____________ is a naturally occurring assemblage of plants and animals that occupy a common environment.

A. Society
B. Biosphere
C. Community
D. Population

2. Name the four states in which matter exists.

A. Concrete, liquid, gas and plasma
B. Solid, fluid, gas and plasma
C. Solid, liquid, vapor and plasma
D. Solid, liquid, gas and plasma


1. Which of the following values is NOT equal to 34(58+9)?

A. 34 x 67
B. 58(34+9)
C. 34 x 58 + 34 x 9
D. 1,972 + 306
E. (9 + 58) 34


2. On a Map, 1 inch represents 20 miles. The distance between 2 towns is 6 1/5 inches. How many miles are actually between the two towns? 

A. 65 miles
B. 84 miles
C. 124 miles
D. 138 miles
E. 145 miles


1. The cathode of a battery was removed. Cathode means...

A. Positive pole.
B. Negative pole.
C. Neutral pole.
D. Opposite pole.

2. The old man was benevolent with his fortune. Benevolent means...

A. Secretive
B. Stingy
C. Kind
D. Careful

Remember, the TEAS should not cause you to panic! It's the first step you need to take to pursue your career goals in nursing. With the right preparation, you can take your TEAS with confidence and be ready to enroll in your nursing program.

Answers: Science: 1. C 2. D
                  Math: 1. B 2. C
                  English: 1. B 2. C


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