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on how To Pass Your AHA ACLS Class in 2021 [Free practice Quiz with new updated 2020 Guidelines!]

As an American Heart Association Training Center, we know that students can be nervous about taking their AHA ACLS class – especially if it’s your first time, you’ve been out of practice for a while, or you don’t work in an area that experiences many codes. But if you study the right material, you’ll pass your class with flying colors! Here’s a list of our top 6 tips to on how to pass your AHA ACLS class!

1. Remember your BLS

how to pass aha acls class

The foundation for the AHA Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) course starts with Basic Life Support (BLS)! And yes – there are several BLS questions on your AHA ACLS exam! These are questions you should be able to answer relatively quickly on the exam so you have more time for the scenario questions which can be more challenging. Let’s go through a quick review of the most important points you need to know:

  • Compression Rate: 100-120 per minute
  • Compression Depth: At least 2 inches
  • Remember, it’s no longer A-B-C (Airway, Breathing, Circulation), it’s C-A-B (circulation comes first now!). This means your primary focus when you find someone unresponsive is determining whether the patient has a pulse or not. Why? Because if they don’t have a pulse, they need immediate high-quality CPR. It should take 5-10 seconds for you to perform a pulse check.
  • Don’t forget to ensure high-quality CPR by minimizing any interruptions in chest compressions to less than 10 seconds!

2. Learn to recognize basic EKG’s

Knowing your cardiac rhythms is a must. To pass ACLS, you should be able to identify the following rhythms:

  • Supraventricular Tachycardia
  • Ventricular Fibrillation
  • Ventricular Tachycardia
  • Asystole
  • PEA
  • Second Degree Heart Block, Type 1
  • Second Degree Heart Block, Type 2
  • Third Degree Heart Block

We highly recommend practicing using the Skillstat ECG Simulator. This is a great free learning tool to go through and learn about the rhythms while visualizing them. When you’re done learning about the rhythms, hit the “Game” button and test yourself to see how much you’ve learned! Don’t forget that the AHA ACLS exam is OPEN RESOURCE! This means you can use your notes on the exam, so don’t stress about memorizing every little thing. You just need a basic understanding of these rhythms.

3. Review the basic AHA ACLS algorithms (including treatments & medications)

Knowing the AHA algorithms and treatments is key to passing ACLS. It may seem overwhelming at first, but if you have the right learning tools (and you have a good AHA instructor!), it will be cake! We’ve broken down the top 4 must-know algorithms into some quick videos below. Watch each of these tutorial videos that cover the most important algorithms you need to know to pass ACLS which include the Cardiac Arrest Algorithm, Tachycardia Algorithm, Bradycardia Algorithm, and Guide to Understanding Heart Blocks – and don’t forget to take notes! Note that these are quick videos with basic, focused content to help you pass your AHA ACLS class:

You can also view/download the full AHA ACLS Algorithms (current Guidelines are from October 2020) from AHA. AHA Guidelines are typically updated every 5 years, so these should be current until 2025.

4. Give yourself enough time to complete the required AHA ACLS Precourse Work/Self-Assessment

how to pass aha acls class

Your instructor should send you directions to how to complete the appropriate required precourse work for your class. For first time or expired students, you should complete the ACLS Precourse Work course which includes both a video section and the 60 question precourse self-assessment. The Precourse Work course takes about 4 hours to complete – but allows the student to complete the videos at home at their own pace (so you don’t have to watch them in class, thus making the class that much shorter!). This is new for 2020 and our students LOVE this option!

Note that not all AHA ACLS Classes are conducted this way – some places still show all the videos in person, making the class up to 8 hours, or even 2 days long. We found students learn and retain the information much better if they can prepare at home so that our in-person class focuses solely on skills and testing – which is also recommended by AHA.

For renewal students (meaning you have a current American Heart Association ACLS Certification that is not expired), you are required to complete only the 2020 AHA ACLS Precourse Self-Assessment. This is 60 questions so usually takes most students around 1 hour to complete. You can re-take this as many times as you need to so that you achieve the 70% passing score. Once you’ve completed the online precourse, make sure you save your certificate as you’ll need to show this to your instructor to be admitted to the class. If you’re taking the class with us, we send you specific directions on how to email the certificate to us so there is no printing involved and no worrying about downloading/uploading files!

5. ACLS Megacode Tips & Tricks

Don’t be nervous about your megacode! If you take your class at a reputable AHA training location, your instructor should be covering all the necessary material to ensure that you pass your megacode! While it may seem overwhelming at first, you just need to know a few basics. First, the tachycardia algorithm is probably the most important one to learn – not only because it’s heavily tested, but also because we’ve found it’s the most confusing to students. Remember, you can use your notes! As long as you can understand and follow your notes, you’ll be fine. Also, remember that the ventricular fibrillation (V-fib) and pulseless ventricular tachycardia (pVT) algorithms are essentially the same just like the asystole and pulseless electrical activity (PEA) algorithms are treated the same.

At Mid-Florida CPR, failure is not an option. It’s our job to make sure you know all the necessary information you need so you feel comfortable participating in a real-life code situation – but you won’t get your official AHA ACLS certification until you can pass the megacode. You don’t need to know everything and we don’t expect you to be an expert but you should be able to identify basic rhythms and know the algorithms/treatments. If you’re taking the time to read this post, you’ll most likely be just fine! The more you prepare ahead of time, the better equipped you’ll be to take on even the most challenging megacode!

6. Take our free practice ACLS quiz

how to pass aha acls class

These obviously aren’t the actual AHA ACLS exam questions, but they’re structured the same way and cover the same concepts – so if you do well on this quiz, you can feel confident that you’ll do well on the actual AHA ACLS exam as well. Pro Tip: Whether you get the question right or wrong, make sure you read through the rationale for the correct answers. It’s important not to memorize answers, but to understand the core concepts.

We hope these tips on how to pass your AHA ACLS Class were helpful! At Mid-Florida CPR, we provide all of our ACLS students with a focused precourse review sheet to give our students an extra review before their class. Register for one of our AHA ACLS classes today! All of our classes are held at our only office location in Longwood, FL.

Note: AHA doesn’t permit online only classes so be cautious about wasting your time or money taking a class from someone claiming they can offer you this. Many companies claim their certifications will be accepted but the majority of hospitals only accept official American Heart Association certifications.

Hopefully you feel better prepared on how to pass your AHA ACLS class now! We love helping students so if you have any questions for us about AHA classes, ACLS material, or becoming an AHA instructor, just leave us a comment down below!

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