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Six Steps to Study for Your Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam

Posted on May 3, 2019   |   by   |   Job Seekers, New Grads, Professional Development

Is the AC-PNP (Acute Care Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner) exam in your future? Read on for a six-step plan that will help get you exam-ready with less stress.

We work with hundreds of nurse practitioner students. They often say they’re anxious and looking for tips to prepare for their nurse practitioner exam. Our advice is to channel all that nervous energy into creating a solid plan to study and prepare well in advance.

Step 1: Create a system to organize your study notes

Before you start studying, refer to an exam content outline like the CPNP-AC Exam Content Outline provided by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). Refer to this list and create a framework of the subject areas that you’ll need to know. Think of it like writing your own study syllabus. Once you have an overview of the entire exam, you’ll be able to break your study sessions down by topic.

One way to organize your notes is by system area according to the content outline provided by PNCB. For example, you might end up with categories that include: assessment, diagnosis, management, and professional practice role as well as the areas that cover technical competencies and clinical problems by body system.

Step 2: Take a practice exam

Practice tests are available on the AC-PNP.com site and through PNCB. Taking the PNCB exam will give you a feel for how the questions are structured. Using the AC-PNP.com exam review gives you the opportunity to review the rationale for the questions. The key is to learn to think critically in response to questions, so review each of the rationales and update your notes with new information.

Step 3: Set aside time regularly to study

The PNCB site recommends finding a pediatric textbook that you’re most familiar with to review for the exam. The site also provides a list of additional textbooks and resources. AC-PNP.com lists three exam review guides that are designed to help you study.

The amount of time you need will really depend on you. Some people might choose to study regularly for 4 weeks, others may set aside a ten-day period to fully devote to studying. AC-PNP.com suggests that you should give yourself about 6-8 weeks to study and spend two hours each day. Refer to your exam content outline and allocate time to go over each of the content areas you’ve identified. Be diligent about organizing your notes by category so you can refer to them later.

The exam includes questions on primary care and acute care topics. However, the split is about 30/70, with the majority of questions focused on acute care. Therefore, it’s a good rule of thumb to spend about 30% of your time studying primary care, and the remaining 70% on acute care.

Step 4: Participate in an Exam Review Course

It’s impossible to overstate the benefits of attending a review course with your peers. Check out the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) Certification Review Courses or consider attending the AC-PNP Prep Course as part of the Children’s Health Advanced Practice Conference in October. If your time and resources are limited, you can also do an online review course through AC-PNP.com.

Step 5: Identify your knowledge gaps

If you’ve followed the plan through step 4, congratulations! You’re now familiar with the test content, having reviewed the answers and rationale that the test exams provide. Are you seeing a pattern in your correct and incorrect answers? Use this information to identify areas of weakness that you still need to work on.

AC-PNP.com can help you hone your knowledge. When you take the online review exams, you can view your results by subject area. You can then focus your studies on the system areas where you received lower scores.

Step 6: Have a test-taking strategy

Rest up the week before the exam, stay hydrated, and eat well. Give your brain time to recover and prepare. As you take the exam, don’t change your answers along the way. Mark questions you are unsure of then go back to answer those questions.  If you have test anxiety, find a course to help you or learn breathing and meditation techniques.  When you first sit down for the exam do a brain dump of formulas and mnemonics and other info you have remembered on your scratch paper.

Taking time to study and take good notes will prepare you to successfully take the exam.

Free Webinar on Finding an NP Job That Fits

With so many opportunities available to Nurse Practitioners today, finding the perfect job to ease your transition to practice can be a challenge. The same care you put into your schooling should go into finding your first job. That’s why we’ve started a monthly webinar series called How to Transition to the APP Role.

This free session will help you write a strong NP resume, master your job interview, know if a job is right for you, and more! Click below for our schedule of events.

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Melnic is a nationwide search firm focused on Advanced Practice placements for APRNs and PAs. To take advantage of our specialized job matching services a visit our PNP-AC job board and sign up for job alerts.  The best part? There is never a fee for candidates to work with us!

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