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PSB Tests

PSB Tests

Updated 4 May 2021

Written by the WikiJob Team

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The Psychological Services Bureau tests are used as entrance exams for healthcare training, college and university programs throughout the US.

The tests cover many bases to discover if a student is the right fit for the program they are applying for.

The test is designed to show each student’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to a career in healthcare. From this, administrators can see if the candidate will be able to complete their chosen program or if another path might be more suitable for them.

This guide will give an insight into what to expect from the testing process, explain what the results will mean and give tips to help you prepare.

What Are PSB Tests?

PSB tests give a detailed overview of a candidate's knowledge, skills and experience as indicators of how successful they will be on their course and in their future career.

Anyone applying for a healthcare program will take this test before being given a university or college place.

The results will show which areas each student shines in and where they might struggle.

This can help the instructors develop their study programs so they benefit every student. Extra support can be given to those who struggle with specific areas.

Basic academic skills are being assessed here (numeracy, literacy, reading) as well as knowledge of the sciences and personality traits.

Each test varies slightly, being geared towards specific college or university programs.

Psychological Services Bureau healthcare nursing tests
Psychological Services Bureau healthcare nursing tests

Question Formats and Type

There are three types of tests, depending on which healthcare program you are applying for:

  • The Aptitude for Practical Nursing Examination (PBS-PN)
  • Health Occupations Aptitude Examination (PSB-HO)
  • Registered Nursing School Aptitude Examination (PSB-RN)

All three tests will look at academic aptitude, spelling, science topics and include a vocational questionnaire.

Each of these is explained in detail further on but may differ, depending on which test is being taken. Whilst each test is similar, there are some slight differences in sub-tests, time limits and numbers of questions asked.

The Aptitude for Practical Nursing Examination

This test is for any candidate applying for practical or vocational nursing.

The test is split into five sections, covering anything from mathematical skills to scientific knowledge.

There is also a sub-test for applied knowledge in potential nursing situations.

This is designed to test how well a candidate can assess and adapt to a given scenario and can help to determine whether they suit a career in nursing.

1. Academic Aptitude


Candidates are given a list of five words, four of them will have the same meaning. The candidate is expected to pick the odd one out.

1a. Which word is the odd one out?

huge, gigantic, tiny, large, enormous


Here, candidates will be given a selection of maths questions, covering percentages, ratios, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The questions will of an eighth-grade standard.

1b. Give the next number in this sequence:

1, 4, 9, 16, ?

a) 20
b) 25
c) 26
d) 36
e) 24


This section will look at the relationship between shapes. Given a pair, the student will have to work out the similarity between them before applying the same rule to a new shape to find the answer.

1c. 'Arrow up' is to 'arrow down' as 'arrow left' is to...?

a) Arrow up
b) Arrow down
c) Arrow right

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2. Spelling

The candidate will be given three versions of the same word and will have to work out which is the correct spelling.

2. Choose the word that is spelled correctly

a) Receive
b) Recieve
c) Reiceve

3. Information in the Natural Sciences

This section looks at scientific knowledge, covering biology, chemistry and physics as well as looking at measurements, the pH scale and health and safety.

3. What does the number at the top of each box in the periodic table represent?

a) The atomic number
b) The atomic symbol
c) The atomic mass

4. Judgment and Comprehension in Practical Nursing Situations

Here, candidates will be given a scenario relating to the healthcare field they want to enter and will have to decide what is the best course of action from a choice of answers.

This section is to see if the prospective student is a good fit for any healthcare profession and if they would be able to handle working within the field.

4. You receive a phone call asking for information about a patient. The caller says they aren't a family member but were curious as to how the person was. What should you do?

a) Immediately hang up the phone
b) Tell the caller that their call was inappropriate and they must never call again
c) Tell the caller politely that you can't discuss the patient with them
d) Trust that they know the patient and give them the information they ask for

5. Vocational Adjustment Index

The final section looks more at personality, rather than skill.

Candidates will be given a statement and will have to decide how much they agree or disagree with it.

It will assess character traits needed to work in healthcare and look at opinions and feelings that students may have towards their future careers.

For example,

'I am patient and understanding.'

Agree – 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – Disagree

There is no right or wrong answer here and students should answer each question honestly.

Make sure you understand the statement and how it relates to your chosen profession before selecting an answer. Sometimes you can anticipate the type of response that will be accepted most positively.

The correct answers are:

1a. Tiny – Each word is a synonym for 'big', whereas 'tiny' is a synonym of 'small'.
1b. b) – The sequence is square numbers, so 1 x 1 = 1, 2 x 2 = 4, 3 x 3 = 9, 4 x 4 = 16 therefore 5 x 5 = 25
1c. c) – 'Up' and 'down' are a pair, so 'left' and 'right' also make a pair.
2. a) – ‘I before e except after c’ is the general rule here.
3. a) – The small number at the top of the box is the atomic number, followed by the symbol in the middle and mass at the bottom.
4. c) – Confidentiality is vital in a healthcare setting. You should not discuss any patient information unless you are speaking with an approved person or family member. However, being rude is not necessary, the nurse should deal with the situation politely.

Health Occupations Aptitude Examination and Registered Nursing School Aptitude Examination

The PSB-HO test is for anyone applying for various healthcare (rather than nursing) career subjects.

The PSB-RN test is designed for anyone applying for practical nursing but also applies to those looking into placements, teaching and counseling courses.

Students applying for generic healthcare courses should take the PSB-HO test as it will give a better overview for any healthcare program.

Instead of the Judgment and Comprehension in Practical Nursing sections, students will take a Reading Comprehension test.

Students will have to read a passage of text and answer a set of questions based on the text alone.

Questions might relate to facts within the text, the ideas put across or the choice of words used within the passage.

What to Expect When Taking the PSB Tests

These tests are often sat within the healthcare facility the student has applied to join. They can be sat on a computer or on paper.

You may be required to sit the tests as part of an entrance assessment for the course, alongside an interview.

However, each course approaches applications differently, so make sure to check the requirements with your preferred university or college.

Other than some scrap paper and a pencil, candidates are not allowed to take any personal items into the test. This includes food and drink, and calculators are not allowed.

Once again, it is still best to check with the administrators or check any paperwork sent to you for additional information. Some facilities will provide paper and a pencil, some may not.

Candidates must also take along a photo ID, but this may be required for course registration anyway.

Here’s a breakdown of how long you will have to complete the tests and how many questions to expect:

The Aptitude for Practical Nursing Examination – 1 hour and 45 minutes

  • Academic Aptitude: 90 questions
  • Spelling: 50 questions
  • Information in the Natural Sciences: 90 questions
  • Judgment and Comprehension in Practical Nursing Situations: 40 questions
  • Vocational Adjustment Index: 90 questions

Health Occupations Aptitude Examination – 2 hours and 30 minutes

  • Academic Aptitude: 75 questions
  • Spelling: 45 questions
  • Reading Comprehension: 35 questions
  • Information in the Natural Sciences: 60 questions
  • Vocational Adjustment Index: 90 questions

Registered Nursing School Aptitude Examination – 1 hour and 45 minutes

  • Academic Aptitude: 90 questions
  • Spelling: 50 questions
  • Reading Comprehension: 40 questions
  • Information in the Natural Sciences: 90 questions
  • Vocational Adjustment Index: 90 questions

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PSB healthcare nursing tests
PSB healthcare nursing tests

How the Tests Are Scored

Tests taken on a computer will have results ready immediately on completion.

A full copy of the results will be sent to the institution and it could be that these are incorporated into an interview following the test.

With the paper version, the standard timeframe for the return of results is 24 hours.

It could be that the institution mails them or sends out an email when they receive them. Again, be sure to check with the test center first.

Whilst other factors can determine whether you get a place on your desired course and scoring well on this test does not automatically guarantee you a place, your score holds a lot of weight with nursing schools and healthcare programs as it shows just how good of a fit you are when it comes to a career in healthcare.

When a candidate receives their results, they will be given two scores:

  • A raw score
  • A percentile rank

The raw score is simply the number of questions that were answered correctly, this may also be given as a percentage.

Each candidate should get a breakdown of how they performed on each section and sub-test to determine which areas they are the strongest in and which may need improvement.

The second score is a percentile rank (PR).

This is a percentile figure which ranks all candidates on one scale.

A PR of 75 would mean that the candidate has scored better than 75% of this intake but 25% have scored better than them.

This will show administrators where the whole intake's strengths and weaknesses lie. The results can be incorporated into training and will show how each candidate learns and absorbs information best.

For example,

One year, teachers may have a group of strong mathematicians but they may struggle with their verbal skills. Another year, teachers may need to focus more on skill-based training or increasing confidence in the workplace.

PSB Test Preparation Tips

  • Tailor your studies towards the sections covered. There will be a heavy focus on arithmetic, spelling and natural sciences, so make sure to cover these areas during your study. If you are taking the Health Occupations or Registered Nursing exams, find reading comprehensions online and use these as part of your studies.

  • Spend time thinking about the Vocational Adjustment Index section. This is designed to see if you are a good fit for the healthcare field so it is an important part of the test. Answer each question honestly but spend time thinking about the skills and personality traits required for the healthcare profession and how you can demonstrate those skills in your answers.

  • Make sure to arrive early. Many programs have a registration slot for each candidate along with paperwork to fill in. You may be required to attend a full-day enrolment, including an interview, the PSB tests and taster sessions. This is to get the candidates accustomed to the programs they have applied for.

  • Pack your bag the night before. For a healthcare program exam and interview, you may have a list of items to take with you. By packing the night before, you will be less likely to forget something. Don’t forget to take your photo ID, a spare form of ID, pencils, paper and any documents or transcripts the program has requested. All this information should be on the letter or email sent out to you along with the date and time of your test.

  • Use your time wisely. There are a lot of questions to get through so have a strategy in mind. Usually, it is a good idea to start with the easier questions and finish with the ones you know you will struggle with. However, for the online test, you may be required to go through the test in chronological order. Don’t fret if you don’t know an answer. Have a think, pass it for now and you will be able to go back to it later.

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Final Thoughts

The Psychological Services Bureau tests are designed to test the skills required for a career in healthcare, both in aptitude and personality.

If a student prepares well by studying strategically, it should feel less daunting going into the exam room.

Having 105 to 150 minutes for an exam seems like a long time but with five sections to complete, the time will go by quickly.

Remember to pace yourself or get the easier questions out of the way first. Each candidate will struggle on a different section so don’t be disheartened if some candidates seem to be going at a quicker pace than you. Concentrate on your exam and focus on one question at a time.

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