This post is part of a Nutritionist Behind the Scenes series that is hosted on Frugal Nutrition to help CNS nutritionists navigate the industry after graduation. To see the full series, please visit The CNS Path: Exam Study Tips, Internships, Licensing, Getting a Job.
CNS Exam Study Tips
So you're studying for the CNS Exam? I am the Teacher's Assistant in a student clinic, and I've gotten so many questions from clinic students looking for ALL the tips for studying for the CNS, so I've started compiling them here to share. I will continue to add information as I get it so consider this page a living document.
And, if you have additional tips, please share them as well!
1) Join the CNS Facebook group and access the Google Drive materials.
There's a copy of the most recent Primer (ACN Fourth Edition) in the Google Drive folder, as well as powerpoint presentations, cheat sheets, and more. CNS Exam Study Group on Facebook
2) Listen to the primer recordings.
Paul Takac of MUIH recorded the entire Primer! I found it very useful to listen to the drug-nutrient interactions section when I was studying.
3) Start a study group if you can.
I started an in-person study group at the beginning of September for the November 10th exam. We met nearly every Sunday from 10:00-2:00 pm and it was immensely helpful. All 10 of us in the study group passed with flying colors! (9 out of 10 scored 80% or higher.)
4) Take practice tests and find practice questions - practice, practice, practice!
Studyfor.xyz/cns is a great source for these. There are lots of sources out there (Study.com, Exam Edge), but many of the questions are really bad. Even still, they're useful in helping you practice. I’d also recommend making your own quizzes, tests, and homework sheets and trading them with friends.
Part of this test is learning how to take the test, just like when you take any other standardized test.
5) Practice Case Studies + RD-esque Questions
Do the cases and the questions in Medical Nutrition and Disease: A Case-Based Approach: https://amzn.to/2Xc2Nb2. This is an RD-centric book, but I found it to be useful in preparing for the 2018 exam.
I've also heard good things about this Practice Test available on Kindle for Certified Clinical Nutritionists. It's a slightly different certification, but these questions are situational and can be helpful for practice: https://amzn.to/2NtCWtE
6) Notecards! Quizlet is an excellent tool.
Use Quizlet to study, but also make your own notecards, especially for the micronutrients, if you have the time. There are tons of flashcard sets available, but the act of writing notecards is half the process. https://quizlet.com/176436334/micronutrients-flash-cards/
7) Listen to Bryan Walsh's micronutrient and biochem lectures.
They’re mostly available through the Google Drive in the CNS FB group, but you can find some others online. (See YouTube Channel WellnessFX: https://www.youtube.com/user/WellnessFX/videos)
8) Sign up for the daily practice quiz question.
See practicequiz.com. I think there are only 50-100 questions, but it's still a helpful tool.
9) Use Khan Academy to teach yourself things you didn’t grasp in school.
I taught myself kidneys (RAAS, Nephron, Acid-Base Balance, etc.) from start to finish using Khan Academy and mastered the topic in one day! We didn't cover this in enough detail in my course, but even now, a year later, I know it very well thanks to Khan Academy!
Start here: Download Acid-Base Balance Review, which includes links to the relevant Khan Academy Videos
10) Use the Exam Study Outline
This outlines the domains that will be covered and can be very helpful in getting organized for the exam. Download it here: https://nutritionspecialists.org/sites/default/files/Exam%20Content%20Outline_June%202019_0.pdf
Good Resources to Buy:
I found these three books to be the most helpful in preparing for the exam. I didn't use most of my other texts.
- Gould's Pathophysiology for the Health Professions: https://amzn.to/2JxmjKl
- Medical Nutrition and Disease: A Case-Based Approach: https://amzn.to/2Xc2Nb2
- Krause's Food & the Nutrition Care Process: https://amzn.to/2Jnrbmc
How Many Questions Are On The CNS Exam?
The exam is 200 questions. They're all multiple choice, and many of them are short case study style questions.
How Long is The CNS Exam?
You have 4 hours to complete the exam.
Can You Bring Snacks?
Yes! You're not allowed to eat them IN the room, but you are allowed to take breaks, use the bathroom, and eat snacks in the hallway.
What Should I Bring to the Exam?
Two number 2 pencils, an eraser, a calculator, a snack, lip balm, water, a watch (just in case), and a good attitude!
Information on this website and blog are not provided by or affiliated with the American Nutrition Association®, Board for Certification of Nutrition Specialists℠ or the Certified Nutrition Specialist® (CNS®) credential. For information on the organizations, please visit https://theana.org and https://theana.org/certify.
Information on this website and blog are not provided by or affiliated with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics or Commission on Dietetic Registration. For information on these organizations, please visit https://www.cdrnet.org/ and https://www.eatright.org/.
This is so helpful. Thank you so much!!! Where do I find the primer recordings? I printed the first edition, second revision. I couldn't find the 4th edition, but I didn't see the recordings. Thank you!
Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN
Hi Janine! The primer recordings were made by one of the fellow students in our study group so in order to access them, you'll want to find the CNS study group on Facebook and they can share the Google Drive links that will direct you to all the study materials, including the primer recordings. Good luck!!
I love this I have shared this with all of my friends! We have a CNS program at the University of Miami and have struggled with more information on the CNS. I am going to take the exam in November and follow this guide. The CNS needs to be more known! Because we do know the information!
Thank you so much you do not know how much we appreciate this guide!
Hi Aldana! You're very welcome. I feel like we are still such a small niche so I'm trying to write out all that I've learned and keep track of what helped me so we can grow this community of functional nutrition together! Good luck on your exam!