Are you working to become a registered respiratory therapist (RRT)? If so, the Clinical Sims Exam (CSE) is likely the last hurdle you need to clear, but it can also be the most challenging one.
With high stakes riding on the outcome of this exam, the pressure to perform well can be overwhelming. Unfortunately, I see students make the same mistakes time and time again, leading to an unfortunate outcome.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
That is why, in this article, I’ll uncover the most common pitfalls students fall into when preparing for the CSE.
By learning these practical tips and insights, you can avoid these mistakes and increase your chances of earning a passing score. So, buckle up and get ready to learn how to pass the CSE and earn your RRT credential.
Common Clinical Sims Exam Mistakes
- Studying the wrong things
- Waiting too long to take the exam
- Not understanding the unique exam structure
- Cramming the night before
- Not willing to put in the work
- Thinking your notes are good enough
- Giving up
1. Studying the Wrong Things
One of the biggest mistakes that respiratory therapy students make when preparing for the Clinical Sims Exam (CSE) is studying the wrong things.
With an abundance of information available, it can be easy to get bogged down in unnecessary details and miss the key concepts that will be covered on the exam. This can lead to confusion and frustration, as well as a lower chance of passing the CSE.
To avoid this pitfall, it is important to focus your study efforts on the material that is most relevant to the exam.
This means understanding the format of the exam, the types of questions that will be asked, and all the cardiopulmonary diseases that will be covered.
By focusing on the right information, you can save time and increase your chances of earning a passing score on the CSE.
2. Waiting too Long to Take the Exam
Waiting too long to take the exam is a common mistake that many respiratory therapy students make, and it can have a major impact on their chances of success.
Putting off the exam can lead to feelings of anxiety and self-doubt, and it can also make it more difficult to remember the information you learned.
The longer you wait, the more you risk losing the knowledge and skills you worked so hard to acquire.
To avoid this pitfall, it is important to set a timeline for taking the CSE and stick to it. This will help you stay motivated and focused, and it will also ensure that you are able to apply the information you have learned in a timely manner.
Taking the exam in a timely manner can increase your chances of becoming a registered respiratory therapist (RRT) on your first attempt.
Note: We typically recommend taking the CSE 1–3 weeks after passing the TMC Exam. However, every individual has a unique style of learning and preparation, so you must ultimately do whatever is best for you.
3. Not Understanding the Unique Exam Structure
You can say goodbye to the multiple-choice format that you’ve grown accustomed to throughout your entire college experience.
The Clinical Sims Exam (CSE) has a unique structure that is unlike any other exam in the respiratory therapy program.
The exam is composed of 22 problems from 8 possible clinical scenarios.
Each scenario provides instructions on the answer choices that you should or should not select.
Note: It’s critically important this read carefully and follow the instructions as directed. Then you can rely on your education and preparation to choose only the relevant answer choices.
Unfortunately, many students fail to understand this unique structure, which can lead to confusion and missed opportunities on exam day.
To avoid this pitfall, it is important to familiarize yourself with the format of the exam and the types of questions that will be asked.
4. Cramming the Night Before
Cramming the night before the exam is typically not a good idea. While it may seem like a helpful preparation strategy, cramming can actually do more harm than good.
As I mentioned earlier, the Clinical Sims Exam (CSE) has a unique structure that requires a thorough understanding of the material and the ability to apply it in real-world patient scenarios.
This is why attempting to cram information into your brain the night before does not work. Not to mention, it can also lead to feelings of stress and anxiety, which can negatively affect your performance on exam day.
Instead of cramming, it’s important to develop a consistent study schedule that allows you to review the material over time and practice applying it in different scenarios.
This will help you to better retain the information and feel more confident on exam day. Additionally, make sure to get plenty of rest the night before the exam and eat a nutritious breakfast to help boost your energy and focus.
5. Not Willing to Put in the Work
Earning the RRT credential requires hard work and dedication, and the Clinical Sims Exam (CSE) is no exception.
Unfortunately, some students become complacent after passing the TMC Exam with a high cut score and are not willing to put in the necessary effort to succeed on the CSE.
Make no mistake: The CSE is a very challenging exam that requires an exuberant amount of effort, sacrifice, and willingness to go the extra mile. This means putting in the time and effort to study, seeking out additional resources, and seeking support from others when needed.
To avoid this pitfall, you must stay motivated and committed to your goal of becoming a registered respiratory therapist (RRT).
This means setting realistic goals, breaking down the material into manageable chunks, and celebrating your progress along the way.
So, don’t let complacency hold you back.
Stay motivated, stay focused, and be willing to put in the work to achieve your goal. With hard work, dedication, and a commitment to excellence, I have faith that you can (and will) earn a passing score.
6. Thinking Your Notes are Good Enough
While taking thorough notes is a great habit to have, relying solely on them for the Clinical Sims Exam (CSE) can be a major mistake.
Your notes, no matter how comprehensive, may not cover all the information you need to know for the exam, and they may not provide the depth of understanding required to answer complex questions.
Additionally, simply re-reading your notes is not enough to prepare for the CSE, as it does not allow you to apply the information you have learned.
To avoid this pitfall, it’s important to use and, in some cases, invest in premium exam-prep materials to help you develop an in-depth understanding of the essential information.
By supplementing your notes with other study materials, you can gain a deeper understanding of the concepts and be better prepared to answer complex patient scenarios on the CSE.
7. Giving Up
We’ve already established that the Clinical Sims Exam (CSE) is most certainly not easy. Unfortunately, some students don’t earn a passing score on their first attempt.
Remember: You’re not a failure if you fail the exam. You’re only a failure if you give up!
Many students who fail on their first attempt proceed to pass it on their next try.
Because they refused to give up!
Instead, they chose to use their failure as a learning opportunity and make the necessary adjustments to their study approach.
If you’ve already taken the CSE but didn’t score as well as you had hoped, you are not alone. Now you must choose how you want to respond.
Will you give up on your goal of becoming an RRT, or will you use this as a learning opportunity and make the necessary adjustments to how you prepare for the exam?
Since you’re here, I have a strong feeling that you’ve got what it takes. So, keep pushing forward, and never give up.
The Clinical Sims Exam (CSE) can be a challenging, but rewarding, experience for respiratory therapy students.
If it were easy, everyone would do it, wouldn’t they?
By avoiding the common mistakes discussed in this article, you can increase your chances of earning a passing score.
Remember, the CSE is just one step in your journey toward a fulfilling career as a respiratory therapist.
With hard work, dedication, and a commitment to avoiding these common mistakes, you can achieve your goal and make a positive impact on the lives of your patients.
Thanks for reading, and good luck on your journey to becoming a registered respiratory therapist (RRT).
John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.
- “Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).” The National Board of Respiratory Care. Accessed 2023.