Certification Exam Information
AMERICAN NURSES CREDENTIALING CENTER
Credentials: FNP-BC, AGPCNP-BC
Toll-Free Phone: (800) 284-2378
Mobile App: “MYANCC” (Apple Store/Google Play)
Electronic Transcripts: firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) is the independent credentialing body of the American Nurses Association (ANA). It is the largest nurse credentialing organization in the United States. The current edition of the ANCC Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) exam was released on February 9, 2016, and the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP) exam was released on December 23, 2015.
The ANCC currently offers certification exams for the following nurse practitioner (NP) specialties: family NP (FNP-BC), adult-gerontology primary care NP (AGPCNP-BC), adult-gerontology acute care NP (AGACNP-BC), pediatric primary care NP (PPCNP-BC), and psychiatric–mental health NP (PMHNP-BC). It retired the adult NP and gerontologic NP exams in 2015. You must first establish an online account at the ANCC website before you can apply for the any of the exams. You can use the mobile app “MYANCC” to apply or renew your certification and keep track of your continuing-education (CE) hours in the mobile app.
Prometric Computer Testing Centers
Prometric Test Centers
Toll-Free Phone: (800) 350-7076
Special Conditions Department (Special Accommodations): (800) 967-1139
The ANCC uses Prometric Testing Centers to administer its exams. Before you can schedule an appointment, you must have your candidate eligibility number; this is provided in the Authorization to Test Notice letter sent to qualified candidates who meet eligibility requirements and have completed their application documentation.
You can schedule, reschedule, cancel, and/or confirm an appointment at the website portal or by telephone. Prometric has 8,000 test centers in 160 countries, including the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada, Venezuela, and the United Kingdom. There are also test centers in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
4International Testing for Military Personnel
Military nurses who want to take the exam outside of the United States are allowed to take their exams at one of Prometric’s “global” testing centers.
One must be a graduate of an approved master’s, postgraduate, or doctoral degree program with a specialization in family NP (plus the required minimum of 500 faculty-supervised clinical practice hours) from an institution of higher learning. The program must be accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (formerly known as the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission). In addition, the candidate must possess an active RN license in any state or territory of the United States. The ANCC will, on an individual basis, accept the professional legally recognized equivalent (of NP status) from another country if the applicant meets its certification criteria. If he or she is educated and/or licensed outside the United States, there are additional requirements.
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF NURSE PRACTITIONERS CERTIFICATION BOARD
Credentials: FNP-C, AGNP-C, or NP-C
Toll-Free Phone: (855) 822-6727
Fax: (512) 637-0540
Certification Administration: (512) 637-0500
Electronic Transcripts: email@example.com (via secure electronic transmission from registrar’s office)
The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) is an independent organization that is affiliated with the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) and the American Academy of Emergency Nurse Practitioners (AAENP).
The AANPCB is currently offering three specialty exams: Family NP (FNP-C), Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP (AGNP-C), and the Emergency NP (ENP-C) specialty exam. The current FNP and AGNP exams were both released in October 2016. Their Adult NP exam was retired in December 2015 and the Gerontologic NP exam was retired in December 2012.
You must first establish an online account at their website before you can apply for the exam. Applicants enrolled in an MSN or post-master’s certificate program may begin the application process 6 months before completion of the program. If you are enrolled in a DNP program, you can begin the application process as early as 1 year prior to completion of the program. But you must complete all the NP program didactic courses and supervised clinical practice hour requirements before you can sit for the exam. In addition, an official transcript showing the DNP degree awarded and conferral date is required to release your exam score. The certification start date will be the date the score is released (not the date the examination was taken).
PSI Computer Testing Centers
PSI Services LLC (PSI)
Toll-Free Phone: (800) 733-9267
Fax: (702) 932-2666
5The AANPCB’s exams are administered by PSI Services LLC, which has more than 300 locations across the United States and Canada. Locations are listed on the PSI scheduling portal. Approved qualified candidates who have completed their applications (final transcripts included) are sent an authorization to test by email from the AANPCB. About 1 day after you receive the AANPCB email, PSI Services will send you your PSI Eligibility ID number from firstname.lastname@example.org providing a link to their online scheduling system (to schedule/reschedule/cancel/confirm). You can also register by phone (800-733-9276).
Important information about applying for the AANC and AANPCB exams is given in Table 1.1.
Table 1.1 Application Timeline for Certification Exams
Recommended Activities Before Graduation
About 3 to 4 months before graduation
Open an account on the ANCC and/or the AANPCB website and start the application process. Find out about the certification requirements. Download and read the General Testing Booklet, Test Content Outline, and the Reference List. Visit your SBON website and read the licensure requirements for NPs in your state. Download the licensure application.
About 4 to 6 weeks before graduation
Order three to four copies of your official final transcript.
About 2 to 3 weeks before graduation
ANCC only: The NP director of your program needs to sign the ANCC Education Validation Form.
AANPCB, American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board; ANCC, American Nurses Credentialing Center; NP, nurse practitioner; SBON, state board of nursing.
EXAM BACKGROUND INFORMATION
The ANCC and the AANPCB release a new edition of their exams about every 2 years. There is more than one version of each exam—each ANCC exam edition has several versions, but the AANPCB exam only has two. If you have failed the exam and retake it, you will get a different version of the exam. The version of the exam that you are taking is assigned at random by the testing center computer system. What this means is that you may be taking a different version of the exam than your classmate even though both of you are taking the same edition of the exam on the same date and time at the same testing center.
New question formats for the ANCC and AANPCB exams were introduced beginning with the 2016 exams. There are more new-format questions on the ANCC exam than on the AANPCB exam. The new formats on the ANCC exam include “drag and drop,” multiple-choice question with five or six answer options (you are asked to pick two or three correct answers), “hot spot” (a picture is presented that is divided into four quadrants and you click on the correct quadrant as the answer), colored photographs of skin and eye conditions, EKG strips, and chest x-ray films. These new formats are discussed in Chapter 2. Most questions on the ANCC exam are still multiple choice with four answer options.
Similarly, most AANPCB exam questions are the classic multiple-choice format with four answer options. There may be one EKG strip, a chest x-ray film, as well as some multiple-choice questions with five to six answer options (you are asked to pick two to three answers). It would not be at all surprising if the next version of the AANPCB exam contained colored photographs.
6The exams are computer-based tests (CBTs) unlike the NCLEX-RN® exam, which is a computer-adaptive test. The NP exams do not shut down automatically after you have earned enough points, as occurs with the NCLEX-RN exam.
Test Content Outline and Reference List
Both the ANCC and the AANPCB provide Test Content Outlines (TCOs) and a Reference List on their website. It is important that you read these documents. Read each carefully and concentrate your studies on the designated topic areas.
Total Number of Questions and Time
ANCC: FNP Exam (released February 2016)
ANCC: AGPCNP Exam (released December 2015)
There are 200 total questions (only 175 questions are graded). There are 25 questions that are not graded (for statistical data).
Total Time: Total counted testing time is 4 hours.
AANPCB: FNP Exam (released October 2016)
AANPCB: AGNP Exam (released October 2016)
There are 150 total questions (only 135 questions are graded). There are 15 questions that are not graded.
Total Time: Total counted testing time is 3 hours.
For both exams, each testing session starts with a computer tutorial session of 10 to 15 minutes. This time is not counted as part of the testing time (it is “free” time). When the tutorial time expires, the computer will automatically start the exam and the first question will appear on the screen. The countdown clock (upper corner of the screen) will start counting down the time. The countdown clock will not stop for “breaks,” but if you need a break, inform a testing center staff member who is monitoring the testing area. Watch the time clock closely because when the allotted testing time expires, the computer will automatically shut down the exam.
Time Allotted per Question
For both the ANCC and AANPCB certification exams, each question is allotted about 60 seconds. If you find yourself spending too much time on one question, pick an answer (best guess), then “mark” it so that you can return to it later. Never leave any question unanswered. If you guess correctly, it will get counted; if you leave it blank, it is marked as an error (0 points).
Sample Exam Questions
I highly recommend that you try the free sample exams at the ANCC’s website even if you are planning to only take the AANPCB exam. The ANCC’s sample exam is web-based and contains 25 questions. It can be taken as many times as desired at no charge (and it is scored every time). The AANPCB also has free questions, which are listed on the last two pages of their candidate handbook (no answer key is provided). If you want to familiarize yourself with the format of the AANPCB exam, you can purchase their 75-item Practice Examination (timed 90 minutes), which is taken online and graded. It can only be taken once. The ANCC also sells sample exam questions, but their free web-based sample exams provide a good opportunity to practice using their exam formats. If you are an FNP, you can take the free sample exams 7for the FNP, AGPCNP, and ANP (if available). You will have a total of 75 questions from these three exams.
COMPARING THE ANCC VERSUS THE AANPCB EXAM
1. What are the passing rates for the two exams?
For the exams released in 2016, the passing rates for the ANCC and AANPCB exams are as follows:
FNP exam: 82% for the ANCC versus 80% for the AANPCB, or a difference of just 2%.
AGPCNP/AGNP exam: 80% for the ANCC versus 76% for the AANPCB—a 4% difference, which is significant.
2. What is the major difference between the two exams?
There are two major differences between the two exams. First, the ANCC exam contains more nonclinical questions than the AANPCB exam. Second, new question formats, such as drag and drop, photographs, EKG strip, chest x-ray film, and multiple-choice questions with five to six answer options, were added beginning with the 2016 ANCC exams.
The vast majority of questions on the AANPCB exam are on clinical topics. Most of the questions are the classic multiple-choice format with four answer options, but there may be some multiple-choice questions that have five to six answer options (you are asked to pick two or three answers), an EKG strip, and a chest x-ray film.
3. Are there apps from the Apple Store and the Google Play Store?
AANC: The ANCC has an app that can be used to apply for the exam.
AANPCB: The AANPCB does not have an app currently, but it may have one in the near future.
4. What are the new commands in the ANCC Prometric exams?
You can now “highlight” words (keywords) to help you concentrate on the best clues (that you picked). You can also use the “strikeout” command, which allows you to cross out (eliminate) the answer option(s) that you think is(are) wrong (distractors). These two new commands are not yet available for the PSI AANPCB exam.
5. If I join their respective membership organizations, will I receive a discount on my fees?
ANCC: To be eligible, you need to be a member of the ANA. If you belong to a state nursing association, you may already be a member of the ANA. Check with your state’s nursing association. To apply for membership, apply online at the ANA’s website (www.nursingworld.org). A word of warning: If you are not a member, you only have 5 business days after you apply for the exam to claim the membership discount. Exam discount claims received after this time are not allowed, and “refunds will not be issued.”
AANPCB: To be eligible for the exam discount, you must be a member of the AANP (www.aanp.org). If you already applied for the exam as a nonmember, you have up to 30 days to apply for membership. To receive the membership discount (as a refund), you need to send an email to inform them that you are a member (email@example.com).
6. How do I apply for the ANCC or the AANPCB certification exam?
For both agencies, you must initially open an online account at their website. To avoid loss of information, it is best to complete your online application within 30 days once it is started. The application forms are in typeable PDF so you can fill them in directly on your computer and then print a hardcopy for your records.
ANCC: The ANCC accepts applications online, by mail, expedited method (fax/email), and by their new mobile app “MYANCC” (Apple Store/Google Play).
AANPCB: The AANPCB accepts applications online and by mail. Applying online does not expedite processing. The organization automatically charges a nonrefundable paper application processing fee for all paper applications (email, mail, and fax). There is no charge for processing of supporting documents for certification and recertification (e.g., unofficial transcripts, RN license).
If you apply by mail, do not forget to photocopy the entire contents of your application package. If you plan on using the U.S. Postal Service to mail your package, I would recommend that you pay the extra fee for registered mail.
7. How early can I apply for the certification exam?
Both the ANCC and AANPCB allow MSN students to apply as early as 6 months before graduation.
ANCC: The ANCC will not process an application until payment has cleared. A completed application must contain copy of your RN license, an official copy of your final transcripts, and the original copy of the Validation of Education form, signed by your NP program director.
AANPCB: The AANPCB allows DNP students to apply up to 12 months before graduation, but it will not release the exam scores until the MSN or DNP degrees are issued. If you apply before you graduate, you are required to submit an official copy of your current transcript (the interim transcript). The interim transcript is your most recent transcript, which contains all the course work that you have completed up to that date. When the official final transcript is released, either you or the registrar’s office of your school can mail or email it directly to the AANPCB.
In addition, the AANPCB requires a hard copy of your RN license. Do not forget to download the State Board of Nursing Notification Form from the board’s website so that it can release your exam scores to your state board of nursing (SBON).
8. How long does it take to process a completed application?
ANCC: It takes about 3 to 4 weeks to process an application. Be warned that the ANCC will not process an application until it is complete and all required documents have been received (copy of RN license, original of the signed education validation form, final transcript). If there are problems with your application, an email will be sent to you. Answer all the questions on the forms, and do not leave any blanks.
AANPCB: It generally takes between 4 to 6 weeks after you have paid the fees and submitted all the required documentation to process an application. Fill out all the questions, and do not leave any blanks or forget signatures. An error can delay your application significantly.
9. What is the ANCC’s “expedited application” process?
This option shortens the processing time to 5 business days ($200 nonrefundable fee). Download and print the Certification Expedite Review Request Form from the ANCC website and fax it to (301) 628-5233. If your school has not released your final transcript, it will delay the expedited application. The Validation of Advanced Practice Nursing Education form can be signed by electronic signature (give your NP director’s email address) and an electronic copy of your final transcript can be emailed directly by secure transmission from your school’s registrar (firstname.lastname@example.org). Follow up by calling to verify that the ANCC has received your faxed application.
Note: Mailing the ANCC “expedite” form will delay processing; it should be faxed. If you both fax and mail it, you will be charged the processing fee twice.
The AANPCB does not expedite applications.
10. What are the final transcript and the “official” transcript?
The final transcript is the one that is issued after you graduate from your NP program. It should indicate the type of degree you earned along with the NP specialty you graduated with (e.g., family or adult-gerontology NP).
A transcript is considered “official” only if it remains inside the sealed envelope in which it was mailed from your college registrar’s office or if it is mailed directly from their office to the certifying agency. An electronic copy of your transcript can be transmitted directly by secure transmission from the registrars’ office (email@example.com). Order at least three to four copies of your final transcripts and keep the extras unopened to keep them official. Open one copy (yours) and check it for accuracy.
11. What is the ANCC Validation of Education form?
This one-page form is a requirement for ANCC applicants only. Most NP programs have this document signed in bulk by the current director of the NP program. Ideally, it should be distributed to the students before the final day of school. You must send the original signed form (not a copy) to the ANCC with your application.
Note: It is probably a good idea for all NP students to get this document signed, even if they plan to take only the AANPCB exam. Because the ANCC requires this form, it will save you precious time in the future if you decide to apply for their exam. You always have the option of applying quickly for the “other” certification exam if you fail the first. Do not forget that you will need another official final transcript (another good reason why you should have at least four copies of your transcript).
12. Is it possible to take the exam at any time of the year?
You can take both certification exams at any time of the year, whenever the Prometric and the PSI testing centers are open.
13. When should I schedule my exam?
Do not wait until the last minute to schedule your exam because the testing centers in your area may no longer have the date (or the time) that you desire. Morning time slots tend to get filled very quickly. Both Prometric and PSI testing centers allow test-takers to schedule, reschedule, or cancel an appointment on their website or by phone, but you should give them notice.
Prometric (ANCC): Processing fee is charged if less than 30-day notice is given and up to noon on the fifth business day of the appointment (Eastern Standard Time).
PSI (AANPCB): Requires a minimum of at least 2 days in advance to reschedule or cancel an exam (before 5:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time).
Note: Avoid scheduling yourself at the time of the day when you tend to get tired or sleepy. For most, this is usually after lunchtime. Simply picking the wrong time of day can cause you to fail the exam, sometimes by as little as 2 points.
14. What should I do if the time slot or date that I want is no longer available?
Look for another testing center as soon as possible. For some, it may mean a long drive to another city, but it may well be worth the extra time and effort if your authorization-to-test letter is about to expire.
15. What happens if I am late or miss my scheduled appointment?
Table 1.2 presents important information about the AANPCB exams. If you are late or miss your appointment, you are considered a “no show” by the testing center staff. Your testing time period or “window” will automatically expire on that same day. Call the certifying agency as soon as possible for further instructions. Both the ANCC and the AANPCB will allow you to reschedule your exam (one time only), and you will be charged a rescheduling fee.
16. If I have a disability, how can I obtain special testing accommodations?
You can download the Special Accommodations Form from each organization’s website (ANCC and AANPCB). It requires a description of the disability and limitations related to testing. It should be dated and signed by the provider. For example, if a student has severe test-taking anxiety, a special accommodation (if approved) is an extension of the testing time. Check the agency’s website for further instructions.
10Table 1.2 American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board: Important Information Regarding Testing
Arrived late for exam appointment
Will not be allowed to take the examination as scheduled
Did not give at least 48 hours of notice (before canceling exam appointment)
Is responsible for paying any applicable testing center fee
Missed exam appointment
Will forfeit fee and require a new identification number
Did not have required mandatory primary ID
Will not be allowed to take the exam
Source: American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (2016).
COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT THE NURSE PRACTITIONER CERTIFICATION EXAMS
1. What are the passing scores?
ANCC: The passing score is 350 points or higher. ANCC scores range from 100 to 500 points.
AANPCB: The passing score is 500 points or higher. AANPCB scores range from 200 to 800 points.
2. Will I find out immediately if I pass (or fail) the exam?
Yes, you will. After you exit the testing area, ask the proctor to print a copy of your results (pass or fail format). This is the “unofficial” score. If you pass the exam, you will not get a number score. According to the AANPCB, a preliminary “pass” score at the testing center is not considered official notification. It does not indicate active certification status, and it may not be used for employment or licensure as an NP. A letter with your official score will be mailed to you at a later date, indicating the type of certification and the starting date.
If you fail the exam, you will receive a letter with your scaled number score with diagnostic feedback information for each domain such as:
Low: Your score from this content area is below the acceptable level.
Medium: Your score from this content area is marginally acceptable.
High: Your score from this content area is above average.
Concentrate your studies on the domain/category(s) in which you score “low” or “medium.”
3. How many times a year can I retake the FNP and AGNP certification exam?
ANCC: You can take this exam up to three times in a 12-month calendar period. You must wait at least 60 days between each exam. If you fail, you can reapply online (retest application), but wait about 5 days (after taking your exam) before you reapply online.
AANPCB: You can take the exam up to two times per calendar year. Although there is no wait-time requirement prior to retesting, the AANPCB requires test-takers to take 15 contact hours in their area(s) with the weakest score (your “areas of weakness”). Reapply for the exam online by using the Retake Application form.
Note: The continuing-education hours that you took before sitting for the certification exam are not eligible. The contact hours must be taken after you failed the exam. If you took a review course, it can be retaken again with the new dates. When you have completed the required 15 contact hours, email or fax the certificate of completion as proof. Call the AANPCB certification office first before faxing any documents.
4. What happens if I fail the ANCC or AANPCB exam the second time?
You must resubmit a full application along with all the required documentation (like the first time) and pay the full test fee.
5. What happens if my Authorization-to-Test letter expires and I have not taken the exam?
Call the certifying agency for further instructions immediately. Both the ANCC and the AANPCB will allow you to reschedule your exam (one time only). You must pay a rescheduling fee. If you fail to test on your extended testing window, you must reapply like a new applicant and pay the full registration fee again.
6. Is it possible to extend the testing window?
ANCC: You can request (one time only) a new 90-day testing window. It must occur less than 6 months from the last day of the initial testing window. Your request for extension to the ANCC should be received before the initial 90-day testing period expires.
AANPCB: You can request an extension (one time only) by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If an extension is granted, it will be for 60 days only. If you do not retake the exam during that time, you must reapply to take the examination (like the first time) and pay the full fee.
7. Is there a penalty for guessing on the exam?
No, there is no penalty for guessing. Therefore, if you are running out of time, answer the remaining questions at random. Do not leave any questions “blank” or without an answer, because this will be marked as an error (0 points). You may earn a few extra points if you guess correctly, which can make the difference between passing and failing the exam.
8. Is it possible to return to a question later and change its answer?
Yes, it is, but only if you “mark” the question. You will learn about this simple command during the computer tutorial time at the beginning of the exam. “Marking” a question allows the test-taker to return to the question at a later time (if you want to change or review your answer). On the other hand, if you indicate to the computer that your answer is “final,” then you will not be allowed to change the answer. Do not worry about forgetting to “unmark” the questions if you run out of time. As long as a question has an answer, it will be graded by the computer.
9. Does the certifying agency inform the SBON of my certification status?
The AANPCB and the ANCC will not automatically send your scores to your SBON. For both certifying agencies, you must sign their Release of Scores consent form, which is one of the documents required when you apply for the exam.
10. How can I obtain an “official” verification of my national certification for my employer?
Both agencies have verification request forms on their websites. If you just took the exam, the AANPCB recommends you wait at least 10 days after your testing date. A nominal fee is charged.
11. I am getting married (or divorced). Is there a problem with changing my legal name after I applied for the exams using my maiden or married name?
Yes, there may be a problem. The name that you use in your application must be the same name as the one listed on your primary identification such as your unexpired driver’s license, passport, or military ID. Check the agency’s website or call for more details. If you get married after you applied for the exam, it is better to wait before changing the name on your driver’s license until you have taken and passed the exam.
1. How long is my certification valid?
Certification from the ANCC as well as the AANPCB is valid for 5 years. A few months before your certification expires, both the ANCC and the AANPCB will send you a reminder letter. “Failure of the certificant to receive (his or her) renewal notice does not relieve the certificant of his or her professional responsibility for renewing their certification.”