6 Effective Ways to Prepare for the ACLS Exam

Study like the pros and learn the 6 most effective ways to prepare for your ACLS exam. Find ACLS practice tests, studying strategies, resources, and more.

The ACLS exam is incredibly important for nurses, doctors, and many other medical (and even non-medical) professionals. ACLS, which stands for advanced cardiac life support, is designed to equip individuals with the skills needed to respond in the event of cardiac arrest and other cardiac emergencies.

In most medical positions, the ACLS exam must be completed within six months of gaining employment (however, this varies, so be sure to check with your employer). Once you have earned your ACLS certification, you will need to complete a recertification exam every two years. Failing to maintain your certified status—or failing to pass the exam—will likely result in an eventual loss of employment.

Having the knowledge and skills that an ACLS course provides can very likely save someone’s life. To make sure that you can pass the exam (usually about 75 to 80 percent is required for passing), you’ll want to be sure to study and prepare for the exam well in advance.

Because the ACLS exam is so important for nursing and other career paths, professionals are often looking for ways to reduce test anxiety and pass their tests quickly. This guide includes tips, practice tests, and methods to help you pass.

Preparing for the ACLS certification or ACLS recertification will be similar to preparing for other medical exams. In this article, we will discuss six effective methods you can use to help prepare you for the ACLS exam.

6 Effective Ways to Prepare for the A...

1. Write Your Notes by Hand

Several studies have demonstrated that writing by hand (as opposed to typing) will increase the likelihood you remember what you are writing down. In fact, according to Oxford Learning, “The act of putting pen to paper activates areas of the brain that help students increase their comprehension.”

There are other benefits of writing things down by hand as well. Writing has been proven to deepen your thinking ability and even to reduce your current levels of stress. When preparing for the ACLS certification exam, putting yourself in a mindset where you are feeling relaxed, focused, and capable of recalling tiny details is important.

2. Use Flashcards

Flashcards are one of the most widely used study tools in existence—and for good reason. These cards make it very easy to memorize things and incorporate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic components of learning. Because the ACLS, PALS and BLS, and other certifications all require reliable memorization, using flashcards to prepare for these exams can be very effective.

For the ACLS exam, flashcards are very useful for memorizing algorithms. They are also useful for memorizing basic ACLS terminology (some of which you may not have heard since nursing school) and ACLS pharmacology.

Reviewing the H’s and T’s of ACLS (with Flashcards)

One of the most useful methods for preparing for your exam is to memorize the “H’s and T’s of ACLS.” Both the H’s and T’s are used to help people remember the possible causes of cardiac arrest. The “H’s” include hypovolemia, hypoxia, hydrogen ions (acidosis), hyper/hypokalemia (potassium), and hypothermia. The “T’s” include tension pneumothorax, tamponade, toxins, and both varieties of thrombosis. With a detailed set of flashcards, you can not only memorize the various causes of cardiac arrest, but you can also learn the causes and preferred treatments corresponding with each one.

Sign up for your ACLS online course TODAY!

ACLS Certification - $169

ACLS Recertification - $119

3. Study with a Friend

One of the most important skills for nurses (and other medical professionals) is learning how to effectively work with others. If a patient is experiencing a cardiac emergency, you will need to be able to clearly communicate with those around and, in some cases, possibly issue two-person CPR.

Teamwork isn’t just useful when responding to a cardiac emergency—it can also be useful for preparing for the ACLS certification exam. There are many known benefits of working with a study partner. Studying together can help build productive routines and also increase your sense of personal accountability. Furthermore, group studying can increase retention rates, strengthen your ability to work together, and can also be more fun.

4. Review Your Notes Out Loud

In 2017, a study published by the University of Waterloo concluded: “you are more likely to remember something if you read it out loud.” Reading notes out loud provides two primary benefits. First, there is an auditory benefit of hearing the content you need to know. Second, the kinesthetic act of reading things out loud uses a different part of the brain and will reinforce the information even further.

One of the co-authors of this study, Colin M. MacLeod, claims “When we add an active measure or a production element to a word, that word becomes more distinct in long-term memory, and hence more memorable.” When preparing for the ACLS certification exam, take just a little bit of time to read your notes out loud, and reinforce this “production effect.”

5. Take Plenty of ACLS Practice Exams

The best way to truly prepare yourself for the ACLS is certification is to take multiple practice exams. These exams will make it easy to familiarize yourself with not only the type of content you can expect to see on the formal certification exam but also, will help you see the styles of multiple-choice questions the ACLS is likely to include.

While taking your ACLS practice exams, try to create a setting that will be similar to when you are taking the actual test. Developing routines and creating a realistic simulation will make you much more prepared when the exam day arrives.

Related Article: ACLS Certification Pretest

6. Create a Game Plan

When it comes to acing an ACLS certification exam—or any examination, for that matter—you cannot overstate the importance of being prepared. By planning out all of the test-taking details in advance, the only thing you’ll have to worry about on exam day is the exam itself.

If you are using eMedCert for ACLS certification, you will be able to work in the comfort of your own home and take the exam when it’s convenient to you. Think about the room you want to work in, the kind of food you plan to eat, and every other detail you can think of. While this may feel like overkill to some people, you’ll still be very glad that you took the time to make a game plan.


The ACLS certification exam is extremely important, which is why it is not uncommon for people to be a little bit nervous. However, by taking just a few proactive measures, studying for and acing this exam can become significantly easier. With these six helpful tips in mind, you will be well on your way to obtaining this crucial certification.

Sign up for your ACLS online course TODAY!

ACLS Certification - $169

ACLS Recertification - $119