Annie Speaks: Top Tips on How To Get a First Aid Certificate

Student: Dear Annie, I’ve signed up for a first aid class, but I’m nervous. Can you give me some tips on how to pass my course?

Annie: You’ve already done the hard part by registering and paying for the class! Here are some tips to help you complete your training successfully.

Register for the right class

Ensure you’ve registered yourself for the correct class. If your school or employer requires you to get a first aid/CPR certificate, confirm the name of the course you are required to take. There are many different types of first aid and CPR courses and certifications. Schools and industries require different types of training.

To save money and time and prevent frustration, ask your school or employer which certificate you need before registering. If they tell you to “just get a basic first aid certificate,” ask them for the certification’s exact name. For example, Red Cross Standard First Aid & CPR/AED Level C or Red Cross Emergency Child Care First Aid & CPR/AED Level B. Preferably get this information in writing, so there are no misunderstandings.

Discuss any concerns before class

When you register for a first aid/CPR class, let the agency running the course know if you have any issues that would make it difficult for you to complete the training. For example, if English is not your first language, or if you have dyslexia or learning challenges, you may find it hard to understand the course material and do well on the multiple-choice test.

If you have joint problems or difficulties getting down onto the floor, you may find doing some of the required practical skills challenging. Your instructor may be able to make some accommodations for you to help you be more comfortable during class and complete the training successfully. However, if you keep these issues to yourself, the instructor may not be aware of them and will be unable to help you.

Check your course details

After registering and paying for your class, you should receive a registration confirmation with course details and a payment receipt. If you’re taking a Red Cross blended course, you’ll also receive a link to your online training component.

If you don’t receive this information soon after registration, contact the company with whom you registered. If their office is closed, they won’t be able to help you, so don’t leave it until the night before the class.

Prepare for your class and complete prerequisites

Ensure you do what is required to prepare for your class. If you registered for a blended course that includes an online theory component and in-person session, you might need to complete the online training before attending your classroom session.

If you leave this until the last minute and for some reason (e.g. a power outage) can’t complete the training before your in-person class, you may not be eligible to attend the session.

Set your alarm clock!

The day before your class, check if you’ve completed any course requirements and know the course location and start time. Remember to set your alarm clock.

Dress comfortably

During a first aid class, you will spend some seated, listening to lectures, and perhaps watching videos or PowerPoint presentations. The instructor will also have you practice some skills on the floor. You may work with a partner or small group.

Wear comfortable, layered clothing and avoid short skirts, high heels, and tight jeans. Also, avoid heavy scents as some people are highly allergic to fragrances. The room may be air-conditioned so bring an extra layer for comfort.

Show up at the right place and time

On the day, show up at the right place and arrive 10 minutes before the course starts. The instructor may need to check your ID or ask you to fill in a form before the class begins.

Late arrivals disrupt the class and annoy instructors and other students. If you’re late, the instructor may turn you away as you may have missed too much material to catch up. In this case, it’s unlikely the company will offer a refund for your missed class. Agencies have different rules about attendance. Canadian Red Cross requires 100% participation for certification.

Participate fully

First aid training can be physically demanding. During class, participate as fully as you can. If you have any medical concerns or are worried about whether it’s safe to take a first aid class, chat with the first aid agency and your doctor.

Don’t take phone calls in class unless it’s an emergency. If you have to take a call, leave the room immediately and take it in the hallway. Return to class as soon as possible to avoid missing too much. Checking social media/texting in class is very distracting to others. Save this for your breaks.

If you don’t understand — ask questions

If you don’t understand something the instructor says, ask them to repeat it or explain it. If you don’t ask the question, you won’t know the answer, and there may be a test question on this topic. Remember, if you have a question, chances are someone else in the class has the same question. The only silly question is the one you don’t ask.

Understand how the test process works

When it’s time for the test, ensure you fully understand how it will be conducted and what you are required to do. You may be unfamiliar with multiple-choice tests. Your instructor should give clear instructions, but if you are confused, ask questions.

If you don’t understand a question, go to the instructor and ask them to explain. They can’t tell you the answer, but they can help you understand the question.

Check your answers

Mark your answer sheet clearly. If you miss a question and mess up your answer sheet, ask for another one. When you’ve completed the test, check your answers. If you’re happy with your responses, hand in your exam and answer sheet to the instructor. They will mark your paper and let you know if you have achieved a passing grade.

The instructor will explain the next steps if you have not reached the required pass mark. They may ask you to contact the office in the morning to discuss your situation. Most people complete their training successfully.

So there you have it — Annie’s top tips for completing a first aid/CPR course and getting a Red Cross certificate! Many people are anxious about taking first aid and CPR training. Over the last 23 years as a Red Cross first aid agency owner, I’ve spoken with thousands of students and listened to their concerns. I hope these top tips from Annie will give people the information and confidence they need to take a first aid class and learn how to save a life.


If you have any questions, please contact Safe + Sound First Aid Training, and we’ll be happy to help.

Gill McCulloch, Director, Safe + Sound First Aid Training Ltd.

© Gill McCulloch, July 2022

Posted in Blog.