Updated: Jan 21
I like to think of taking a huge exam like a hike. You HAVE to prep at the bottom and know what you are getting yourself into to be successful & not die on your hike. (Okay, a little dramatic but you get what I mean!) In that case, prepping before a BIG EXAM is almost as important as the actual studying!
Here are ways I prepped for the PNP Primary Care National Certification Exam!
Know the basics about the exam:
· PNCB pediatric national certification board is the only organization that certifies for primary care PNP.
· The test: 175 questions
· Time: 3hrs total to test @ a Prometric testing center
· Exam cost: $385
· In the state of CA, graduates of CA PNP programs can get our PNP licenses without national certification. But it is highly encouraged & from my understanding, need for certain types of reimbursement. Check what your specific state & university protocol and policy is!
· Dual PC & AC PNP Graduates: Save money when you apply for both exams at the same time. You will not need to take both exams on the same day.
Here are my tips for test prep:
Make a MY PORTAL Profile on PNCB.org & apply for the Exam
Applying for the actual exam was a confusing process for me and I even had our professor explain it in class. (If you go to the PNCB website, they have a GREAT breakdown of all of the steps here.) Some of my classmates already had a portal because they were certified with PNCB as pediatric nurses. Because of my PICU background, I am CCRN certified and only had an AACN account. So, I made a brand-new account. Click here to head to PNCB to make a profile. From here you can apply for the exam.
o This PNCB page lists the qualifications to apply & like I mentioned earlier, the PNCB walks you through the stages of the entire process, from application to exam.
o For reference, I applied March 2020, mid-way through my last semester of PNP program. The PNCB website states, that ‘You must complete your exam app with all supporting materials within 12 months of initial receipt of payment.” So, you don’t want to apply too early, but also do it early enough so you can get it done before finals at the end of the semester or you get too busy and forget!
o Check out my timeline in my last post- from application to approval to test date so you can gauge how long it will take.
o After you’ve applied, send your transcripts to PNCB & make sure they send AFTER your official degree is posted- during COVID-19 pandemic, they allowed transcripts to be sent via email, but they list their physical address and email on their website!
o For my university, I could sign up to ORDER official transcripts in March to send as soon as official degree was posted. The PNCB then matches it up with your pending application and will send you an email notification to test when they have all of it together and you are approved.
Does your university do a thesis or comprehensive exam? My program offered both routes to graduate and all of our classmates picked the comprehensive exam. This was a GIANT review for me and my classmates! We took it end of April & then certified beginning of August.
If you haven’t applied to grad school and you are looking into universities, take this into account. I thought this was an amazing idea. Even though a comprehensive exam was difficult, it reviewed EVERYTHING I had learned the past 2 years of my program and set a foundation for the national certification exam.
Review the resources page on PNCB
The PNCB gives you an ENTIRE document of what will be on the test and the percentages of each category. Check out the breakdown here.
I printed this out, read it through and really took note of the test material that was listed in order of importance!! I referred back to the list every day I studied and checked off each body system when I felt like I had mastered it.
Gather & organize your study materials
I will have more specifics about study materials in another blog post- that needs its own post! If you’re like me, my study and school stuff was ALL over the place by the time I was finishing up school. It was nice to go through everything and organize into categories by subject and see what I had.
They have two paid modules. They are $50 EACH and 75 questions each! I took one at the beginning to see where I was at and get a feel for the TYPE of exam questions and then the second one leading up to the exam. The exam questions on PNCB module were very different than the type of questions I had during my program, so it was informative.
You can take these as many times as you would like on your account within a certain time limit and it offers explanations and great insight to what you missed.
Drive to your testing center
I cannot recommend this one enough! If possible, check out where you will be testing to ease your worries! Once you have picked a Prometric sight and a time, drive to your testing center at the same time you would be taking the test to estimate drive time, check out parking and assess where the site is located inside the building.
Also, remember to check your email to see the needed materials on test day- I brought 2 forms of ID and my purse (which was placed in a locker) and a MASK, since I took my exam during COVID-19 pandemic.
Being prepared & knowing what to expect on an exam is SO important. Any other questions about test prep or tips to add? Feel free to comment below.
Nurse Nat, CPNP-PC
*Note: I am not affiliated with PNCB*
PNP and FNP students and new grad NPs LOVE my cheat sheets! Check them out here
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