What is Covered on the EMT Cognitive Exam?

By Arthur Hsieh

The EMT cognitive exam is what most students call the “written exam.” It covers all the information you spent a few months learning in class. However, the exam isn’t just about remembering facts and figures; it’s more about how to apply that information to “real life” situations.

You take the cognitive portion of the EMT exam on a computer at a testing center. Doing so allows for greater accuracy in determining your level of comprehension of the material.

The NREMT EMT exam is broken down into the five content areas. The breakdown of the percentage of questions for each content area varies slightly. Within each area, 85 percent of the questions are geared toward adult patients and 15 percent toward pediatric patients.

Content Area Percentage of Exam Content
Airway, Respiration, and Ventilation 17–21%
Cardiology and Resuscitation 16–20%
Medical and Obstetrics/Gynecology 27–31%
Trauma 19–23%
EMS Operations 12–16%

These five areas may not correspond directly to how your class covered the information. However, the following gives you a general idea of how the information is broken down on the test.

Airway, respiration, and ventilation

The airway, respiration, and ventilation category covers the following topics:

  • Airway management

  • Respiratory emergencies

  • Primary assessment

  • Human anatomy and physiology related to the airway and breathing

Cardiology and resuscitation

The following three topics are integral to the cardiology and resuscitation portion of the test:

  • Anatomy and physiology related to cardiology and the vascular system

  • Cardiac arrest

  • Shock

Medical and obstetrics/gynecology

Medical, obstetrics, and gynecology are combined into one broad category. Following are the topics you should be versed in for this portion of the test:

  • Neurologic emergencies

  • Gastrointestinal emergencies

  • Urological emergencies

  • Endocrine emergencies

  • Hematologic emergencies

  • Immunologic emergencies

  • Infectious diseases

  • Toxicology

  • Psychiatric emergencies

  • Gynecologic emergencies

  • Obstetrics and neonatal care

  • Nontraumatic musculoskeletal disorders

  • Anatomy and physiology related to each system listed

  • Secondary assessment related to medical patients

  • Reassessment of trauma patients

Trauma

Trauma-related topics that you need to be familiar with include the following:

  • Bleeding

  • Chest trauma

  • Abdominal and genitourinary trauma

  • Orthopedic trauma

  • Soft tissue trauma

  • Head, facial, neck trauma

  • Spine trauma

  • Environmental emergencies

  • Multisystem trauma

  • Anatomy and physiology related to each system listed

  • Secondary assessment related to trauma patients

  • Reassessment of trauma patients

EMS operations

The EMS operations portion of the test goes beyond patient care to address such issues as medical legal standards, emergency vehicle operation, environmental hazards, and incident management. Topics to bone up on for this portion of the test include the following:

  • EMS systems

  • EMT safety and wellness

  • Communications and documentation

  • Therapeutic communications

  • Medical legal concepts and ethics

  • Ambulance operations

  • Incident management

  • Multiple casualty incidents

  • Hazardous materials

  • Terrorism and disasters

Within each of these areas, about 15 percent of the questions are based on pediatric patients, and the remaining 85 percent focus on adult and geriatric patients.