How to prepare for the SEE | APEX Anesthesia | Board Review, CRNA Continuing Education (2024)

They say anesthesia school is like jumping through hoops, but they’re impossibly small, lined with razor blades, and on fire. 🔥

Today we’re talking about the SEE, arguably one of the most important hoops standing between you and walking across the stage at graduation.

| Table of Contents:

  1. How is the SEE different from the NCE?
  2. Where do the exam questions come from?
  3. The SEE as the gatekeeper to graduation
  4. How to understand your SEE score
  5. The weighted domain distribution is different on the SEE and NCE
  6. Does the SEE really help you assess your strengths and weaknesses?
  7. Can I review the questions I miss on the SEE?
  8. Should I share exam questions to make it easier for my friends?
  9. How to prepare?
  10. How to schedule and what to expect on test day
  11. Your action plan

How is the SEE different from the NCE?

While the NCE (National Certification Exam) is the high-stakes exam required to become a CRNA, the SEE (Self Evaluation Exam) is a diagnostic exam nurse anesthesia students take during training.It’s useful because it:

  1. Predicts future success on the NCE.
  2. Helps students assess their strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Prepares students for the NCE experience.
  4. Helps nurse anesthesia programs understand how well their programs are preparing their students.

Before we share our analysis, here’s the basic info you need to understand about both exams.

How to prepare for the SEE | APEX Anesthesia | Board Review, CRNA Continuing Education (1)

Where do the exam questions come from?

Each exam draws from a content outline. Neither of these are exhaustive, and your exam may include questions from content areas not listed on these outlines.

Item writers reference their questions to theNBCRNA NCE and SEE Bibliography. This document includes textbooks and websites.

The NBCRNA updates the bibliography every year, so you might wonder, “What happens to the questions referenced to delisted sources?” So long as a question is still valid, it’s fair game. In fact, it’s not uncommon to see a reference removed one year only to return the next. It would make little sense for the NBCRNA to significantly modify their question banks on the basis of bibliography updates. It takes significant time and resources to develop and vet new exam questions.

The SEE as gatekeeper to graduation

The NBCRNA wanted toidentify “at-risk” students who might be more likely to fail the NCE on their first attempt. In 2016, they reconfigured the SEE to increase its predictive capability about future performance on the NCE.

This prompted most nurse anesthesia programs to set a minimum SEE score as a gatekeeper to graduation. Requiring a minimum score benefits students by potentially saving them ~$1,000 for every failed NCE attempt. Likewise, it helps CRNA programs bolster their first-time pass rates. Indeed, schools that fail to achieve a predefined first-time pass threshold risk losing accreditation with the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Programs (COA).

After talking to many program directors across the country, most require a minimum SEE score between 420 – 430 (range = 410 – 438 based on our data). For context, in 2020 (the most recent data available), the average SEE score for students who passed the NCE on the first attempt was 443.1 (up from 437.5 in 2019).

How to understand your SEE score

Without sedating you with statistics, we need to touch on some basic concepts to help you make sense of your score. We promise to be gentle.

To see how one variable (your SEE score) might predict another variable (your first-time NCE score), we can use Pearson’s correlation coefficient (r) to look for a linear trend between these two variables. An r-value between 0 and 1 suggests that one variable positively predicts the other variable(the higher the r-value, the stronger the relationship).

Here’s the scatterplot from the NBCRNA’s regression model, where each dot represents a student’s SEE score (x-axis) and first-time NCE score (y-axis). Notice the upward trend, where a higher SEE score roughly correlates with a higher first-time NCE score.

How to prepare for the SEE | APEX Anesthesia | Board Review, CRNA Continuing Education (2)

They discovered a strong predictive value between SEE and NCE scores (r-value= 0.53 for all SEE takers). The r-value increased to 0.55 when they removed SEE attempts from first-year students.

Let’s look at the data another way by comparing the normal distribution of SEE scores for students who passed or failed the NCE. What conclusions can you reach?

How to prepare for the SEE | APEX Anesthesia | Board Review, CRNA Continuing Education (3)

Takeaway #1: Students that passed and failed the NCE on their first attempt had an average SEE score of 443.1 and 412.4, respectively. The standard deviation for both groups was ~ 35 points.

Takeaway #2: There’s a high degree of overlap.Put simply, no SEE score guarantees that you’ll pass the NCE. Indeed, some students who scored below 400 on the SEE passed the NCE on their first attempt. Likewise, some students who scored above 450 on the SEE did NOT pass the NCE on their first attempt!

Earning a certain score on the SEE does NOT guarantee that you’ll pass the NCE.

The weighted domain distribution is not the same for the SEE and NCE

The SEE and the NCE cover the same four domains. However, the weighted domain distributions aren’t the same. This is a common point of confusion for many students and educators, and we believe this difference has a few implications.

How to prepare for the SEE | APEX Anesthesia | Board Review, CRNA Continuing Education (4)

According to the NBCRNA, the SEE weights each domain equally to give students a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses relative to the other domains. While we understand their logic, we see it as a potential problem (in some cases) when using your SEE score as a predictive measure of NCE success.

Notice that domain 2 (equipment, instrumentation & technology) is significantly overweighted relative to the NCE (+ 67%), while domains 3 and 4 are somewhat underweighted (- 17% for both).

Consider this scenario — You earned a 420 on the SEE and knocked domain 2 out of the park. All other things being equal, a high domain 2 score is the only reason your total score met your program’s minimum score. You walk away with a false sense of security about passing the NCE because your domain 2 score is what was responsible for your “passing” SEE score.

There’s an established relationship between age and scores.Although the score differences between age groups are roughly similar, there is a noticeable trend that older students typically don’t score quite as well as younger students. There’s a similar (but more pronounced) trend on the NCE. We’re not trying to frighten anyone, but it’s worth considering if you’re an older student.

Does the SEE really help you assess your strengths and weaknesses?

We think there’s a fundamental flaw in this assertion. Here’s the information you’ll receive after you take the SEE.

  • Total score
  • Domain 1 (Basic Science) score
  • Domain 2 (Equipment, Instrumentation & Technology) score
  • Domain 3 (General Principles of Anesthesia) score
  • Domain 4 (Anesthesia for Surgical Procedures and Special Populations) score

Let’s say you performed poorly in domain 1. How does this inform your plan for NCE prep? Well, it might mean you’re weak in hematologic diseases, or maybe you need to buff up in biochemistry, or perhaps you don’t understand antihypertensive agents very well.

Do you see the problem? There are so many topics in each domain, and you’ll have no idea how you did on any particular one. Knowing you’re weak in domain 1 provides nearly zero actionable insight about what to do next! This applies to all the other domains as well.

We’re often asked why we use a systems approach to our content instead of the NBCRNA domains. Well… the answer should be clear. We want to help you understand your strengths and weaknesses AND give you actionable insight about what to do next. Knowing you’re weak in domain 1 simply doesn’t cut it.

For those who want to practice with domain-specific questions, we have you covered with a growing collection of domain exams. That way, you can get the best of both worlds!

Can I review the questions I miss on the SEE?

The NBCRNA will not allow you to review your exam or provide any information on questions you answered incorrectly. They do this to maintain exam integrity. Think back to the GRE, SAT, etc. You couldn’t review those answers for the same reasons.

As an aside, we do the same thing with our Password Protected Exams. As diagnostic exams, exam integrity is critical. Unlike the SEE, which only evaluates your performance in 4 domains, your PPE analytics give much greater clarity about where to focus your efforts.

Should I share exam questions to make it easier for my friends?

No! Do not share SEE (or NCE) questions with anyone — this includes other students, faculty, us, or any other exam prep company. Not only will you jeopardize your ability to take the NCE (and achieve your dream of becoming a CRNA), but it also erodes the credibility of our profession and the CRNA credential.

If you’re unsure about what’s appropriate (and what’s not), the NBCRNA lays out its expectations about exam behavior here.

How to prepare

The next sentence is REALLY important! Students who ask how to prepare for the SEE and then how to prepare for the NCE are asking the wrong questions. Look at the content outlines for both exams. They’re nearly identical. Instead, think of SEE prep as part of the continuum of NCE prep — they’re not separate and distinct things.

Since the SEE is a diagnostic exam, some argue it’s best to take it cold because they think it’ll help you to understand your strengths and weaknesses better. If you choose this approach, make sure you can develop a plan based on your scores. If you score low in Domain 1 (Basic Science), does this provide the clarity you need to modify your study plan?

We think there’s significantly greater value in following a study plan for the SEE. The value of extra preparation (which also helps with your NCE prep) greatly outweighs the limited diagnostic benefits of taking the SEE cold. Furthermore, you’ll still see your strengths and weaknesses on your SEE report, so there’s no reason why you can’t use that to inform your NCE prep going forward. But again, domain scores aren’t useful in telling you what to learn next.

SEE prep is part of the continuum of NCE prep — they are not two different things!

Here’s our recommendation for preparing for the SEE:

Step #1: Before you answer a single practice question, you must formulate a detailed plan that leverages the most effective study techniques. This article gives you everything you need: How to Pass Your Anesthesia Exams and the NCE.

Step #2: Sign up for a study plan in ourStudent Review Course.

Step #3: Modify the study plan by only focusing on the Tutorials, Review Exams, and Flashcards. We suggest saving the Mock and Domain Exams for your formal NCE prep.

Step #4: If you’d benefit from a live review course (that’ll help you on the SEE and NCE), check out Boards Bootcamp.

Scheduling and what to expect on test day

You’ll schedule the SEE on the Pearson VUE website. Search for the NBCRNA, then select a location that’s best for you. Everyone has certain times of the day when they perform optimally. Keep this in mind when you schedule a time.

If you need to cancel or change your exam date, you must contact Pearson VUE (not the NBCRNA). If you don’t cancel within 24 hours of your scheduled time or arrive more than 15 minutes late, you’ll lose the money you spent, and you won’t be able to transfer your exam fee to another date. If a true emergency prevents you from taking your exam, you may petition the NBCRNA.

Here’s a video that shows you what to expect on test day.

Your action plan

Now that you have a clearer understanding of what lies ahead, it’s time to implement your plan. Here are your next steps:

  1. Decide when you want to take the SEE, and schedule your exam date (this makes it real).
  2. Assess your other obligations, and commit to a study plan.
  3. Follow our instructions in the “How to prepare” section above.

If you’re looking for a way to accelerate your success as you prepare for the SEE and NCE, check out Boards Bootcamp. This course includes a 2-day live review, additional practice questions, virtual learning sessions, extra support, and so much more. Click here to learn more.

Know someone that might benefit from this post? Use the share links below to help your friends and colleagues.

How to prepare for the SEE | APEX Anesthesia | Board Review, CRNA Continuing Education (2024)


What is a good score on the Nbcrna see exam? ›

After talking to many program directors across the country, most require a minimum SEE score between 420 – 430 (range = 410 – 438 based on our data).

How many questions are on the see anesthesia exam? ›

Why 240 questions? The 40 unscored questions will be randomly administered throughout the examination. The SEE will continue to be a computerized adaptive test, and the question formats will remain the same as before: multiple choice, multiple correct response, short answer/calculation, drag and drop, and hotspot.

What is a perfect score on the see exam? ›

The scaled scores on the SEE range from 300-600.

How many times can you retake CRNA boards? ›

It's broad, but it'll give you an overview of what you need to focus your studies on. The NCE can be taken up to 4 times per year in a two year period.

What is the passing score for the NCE 2023? ›

There are 200 questions on the NCE exam. The cutoff score to be considered as passing is in the high 90s.

Is an NCE score a standard score? ›

What are Normal Curve Equivalents (NCEs)? Normal Curve Equivalents, or NCEs, are standardized scores used in education and other social sciences.

What is the pass rate of anesthesia boards? ›

Estimated Anesthesiology Board Pass Rates By Program

The American Board of Anesthesiology exam is widely considered one of the most difficult exams in medicine. Over the last several years, the average successful pass rate has fluctuated between 71 and 88% among first-time test-takers.

What is the pass rate for the anesthesia basic exam? ›

Note: The ABA did not release the 2022 pass rates for the Advanced or Basic exam. In 2022, The Pass Machine Anesthesiology Board Review clients achieved an 89% pass rate on the Advanced exam and a 92% pass rate on the Basic exam! Why take chances?

What is the best resource for the anesthesia basic exam? ›

Tips from Matthew Reed, M.D., CA-2
  • TrueLearn Question Bank is #1; do it all the way through.
  • Listen to Anesthesia and Critical Care Reviews (ACCRAC) podcasts. ...
  • Hall Questions: do the questions that are subspecialties that BASIC covers.
  • Mix in your TrueLearn incorrect questions while doing Hall.
May 13, 2022

Is 80% a good test score? ›

B - is still a pretty good grade! This is an above-average score, between 80% and 89% C - this is a grade that rests right in the middle. C is anywhere between 70% and 79%

What is an average exam score? ›

An average test score is the sum of all the scores on an assessment divided by the number of test-takers. For example, if three students took a test and received scores of 69, 87, and 92, these numbers would be added together and then divided by three to get an average of 82.6.

What are the hardest CRNA schools to get into? ›

CRNA Schools with the Lowest Acceptance Rates
  • University of Arizona CRNA Acceptance Rate is 10%
  • University of Minnesota CRNA Acceptance Rate is 10%
  • Clarkson CRNA Acceptance Rate is 9%
  • Marquette CRNA Acceptance Rate is 7%
  • Oregon University CRNA Acceptance Rate is 7%
  • Gonzaga CRNA Acceptance Rate is 6%

Will CRNA take over anesthesiology? ›

In a word, no. Will certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) will be major factor in anesthesia care in the 21st century? Yes.

How many CRNA students graduate each year? ›

Graduates of nurse anesthesia educational programs have an average of 9,369 hours of clinical experience. More than 2,400 student registered nurse anesthetists graduate each year, then pass the National Certification Examination to become CRNAs.

What is the average score for national counselor exam? ›

The NCE Handbook contains a comprehensive explanation of the grading system that is used for the NCE. The average of the NCE is 50, which is also the case for many other scales connected to the normal curve.

What is a passing score on medical board exam? ›

The USMLE Step 1 passing score is 194, and the national average score is approximately 232. The USMLE Step 2 passing score is 209, with an average score of 245.

How important are grades for CRNA school? ›

Most programs require a GPA of at least 3.0, with some requiring as high as a 3.5. It's especially important that you earn a GPA of at least 3.0 in your health- and science-related courses for admission to most programs.

What is a preliminary test score? ›

Preliminary means that some but not all tests ordered are finalized.

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