5 Things to Know Before Taking Your AANPCB or ANCC Exam

Up to 20% of people taking the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) exam or the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC) exam will fail on their first try. Since sitting for the AANPCB or ANCC exam requires a significant investment in time, money, and energy, it is worth the effort to ensure you are as adequately prepared as possible.


Fortunately, there is plenty to learn from others who have experienced setbacks on their journey toward obtaining a Family Nurse Practitioner certification. Whether you are preparing for the AANPCB vs ANCC exam, here are five things to keep in mind.


1. Questions Can Have More Than One Applicable Answer


It is not unusual on a FNP exam to come across questions with multiple answers that are applicable to the clinical situation described. This is why reading the question and each response choice thoroughly — before marking your answer — is so important. Rushing to make a choice could cause you to select an answer that is technically correct yet not the best response for that particular scenario.


As a general rule, the answer that is most reflective of the most common clinical presentation and most aligned with evidence-based practice will be the correct choice.


2. Focus on Primary Care Rules While Studying

Are you practicing in an acute care setting? If so, it is important to remember that while studying for the FNP exam you should apply primary care rules rather than acute care rules, despite your clinical experience and background.


The main practice settings of FNPs and adult-gerontology primary care NPs (AGNPs) are in primary care. In such settings, you can expect patients to present with diseases that are the "rule" rather than the "exception" or worst case scenario of a given disease.


Chest pain is a good example: in the outpatient setting, chest pain episodes are more likely to be related to stable angina pectoris, which has a different presentation and course of treatment than episodes of unstable angina often seen in the acute care environment. The FNP exam will most likely present questions pertaining to the former clinical situation.


To ensure you select the correct answers, shift to a primary care mindset while studying and familiarize yourself with the most common diagnoses seen in the primary care setting.

3. When in Doubt, Use ADPIE

For every question you read on the AANPCB or ANCC exam, you need to be able to understand what the question is truly asking. To do this well, remember the five critical components of the clinical decision-making process, known as ADPIE:

  • Assessment: collect subjective and objective data
  • Diagnosis: analyze the data to arrive at a working diagnosis that is consistent with health problems typically seen in the primary care setting
  • Plan: develop the plan of care and prescribe interventions with the assumption that cost-effective and evidence-based resources are available to you
  • Implementation: apply the above-mentioned processes
  • Evaluate whether the patient is attaining treatment goals and be prepared to adjust the plan of care as needed based on patient response

Keep this sequential framework in mind to help you determine the purpose of the question (e.g., assessment vs diagnosis vs plan of care development) and guide your thought process as you formulate an answer.

4. Show Consistency on Practice Exams Before Your Boards

Don't attempt to take the AANPCB or ANCC exam until you consistently perform well on high-quality practice tests. Routinely scoring less than 85% on practice tests* is a good indicator that you are not ready to sit for the boards. At this point in your preparation, you need to spend more time building a solid knowledge base and improving your skills in clinical decision-making.

5. Focus on Quality and Quantity

The two most determinant indicators of future exam success are the quality of study time and the quantity of study time. Optimize both by:


  • Choosing a reputable and high-quality FNP exam review course, such as the Fitzgerald NP Certification Exam Review which features a 99% pass rate
  • Allocating at least 4 to 6 weeks of formal study following the completion of your exam review course
  • Focusing on areas that you have less competency in, rather than reviewing topics that are more familiar and comfortable to you
  • Organizing a study schedule, ideally structured in 2- to 3-hour blocks on six days per week
  • Creating a system of study, such as the SQ4R system (survey the information to establish your study goals, formulate questions, read answers to these questions, recite responses, write a summary of what you've learned, and review to see whether your original study goals were met)


No matter where you are in your NP career, Fitzgerald Health Education Associates provides the resources and tools you need to accomplish your goals and sharpen your skills. The Fitzgerald Method of NP review begins with a summary of the vast body of knowl­edge needed for evidence-based NP practice and for successfully passing the NP boards. Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions about FNP certification or continuing education options.

*Disclaimer: It’s important to remember that practice tests should be used as a means of recognizing whether or not you’re ready to take your NP boards, and should be utilized as you’re wrapping up your NP certification review, not beginning it. For more information to help guide you through the first steps of your learning journey, visit fhea.com to get started.




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