ANCC vs. AACN: Which AGACNP Exam Should I Take?

adult gerontology acute care np

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) are the regulatory bodies responsible for conducting exams for individuals aspiring to obtain certification as a nurse practitioner. Both ANCC and AACN certifications serve as proof of the expertise possessed by nurse practitioners. 

An Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP) cares for adult patients experiencing acute illness related to a condition. Unlike a Family Nurse Practitioner, AGACNPs do not care for pediatric or early adolescent populations. 

The ANCC and AACN both administer AGACNP certifying exams. But which test is right for you? What is the difference between ANCC and AACN certification? We take a look at some of the most commonly asked questions about AGACNP certification: 

What content is covered in the ANCC and AACN AGACNP exams? 

2024 ANCC AGACNP Outline: 

  • Core Competencies 23% 
  • Clinical Practice 45% 
  • Professional Role: 32% 

2024 AACN ACNPC-AG Outline: 

80% of the items test Clinical Judgment related to nursing care of the adult-gerontology patient population (young adults, older adults and frail elderly). The remaining items test non-Clinical Judgment knowledge and are focused across the entire lifespan. 

  • Clinical Judgment (80%) 
    • Cardiovascular 15% 
    • Respiratory 11% 
    • Endocrine 5% 
    • Hematology/Immunology/Oncology 6% 
    • Neurology 8% 
    • Musculoskeletal 3% 
    • Gastrointestinal 3% 
    • Renal/Genitourinary 5% 
    • Integumentary 1% 
    • Multisystem 14% 
    • Psychosocial/Behavioral/Cognitive Health 3% 
    • Factors Influencing Health Status 5% 
  • Professional Caring and Ethical Practice (20%)
    • Advocacy/Moral Agency 3% 
    • Caring Practices 3% 
    • Collaboration 3% 
    • Systems Thinking 3% 
    • Response to Diversity 3% 
    • Clinical Inquiry 3% 
    • Facilitation of Learning 1% 

How long is the test and how many questions does it contain? 

ANCC: There are 175 questions, including 25 pretest questions that do not count towards your final score and cannot be distinguished from those that are scored. The allotted time for the exam is 3.5 hours. 

AACN: The exam contains 175 questions, including 25 pretest questions that are not scored. The exam lasts 3.5 hours in length. 

How much does the exam cost? 

ANCC: The exam costs $295 for ANA members and $395 for nonmembers. Additional discounted rates are available for American Association of Nurse Practitioners members and student members. 

AACN ACNPC-AG: The computer-based exam costs $265 for AACN members and $375 for nonmembers.  

What is a passing score? 

ANCC: Scores on ANCC examinations are reported on a scale with a maximum possible score of 500. To pass the ANCC examination, an examinee must achieve a scale score of 350 or higher.  

AACN: The passing point/cut score is established using a committee that reviews each exam question to determine the basic level of knowledge or skill expected. The passing point/cut score is based on the panel’s established difficulty ratings for each exam question. Under the guidance of a psychometrician, the panel develops and recommends the passing point/cut score, which is reviewed and approved by AACN Certification Corporation. The passing point/cut score is not a percentage but a raw number that may change over time as an exam is updated. 

How do I get my ANCC or AACN AGACNP exam results? 

ANCC: You’ll receive notification of whether you passed or failed the exam immediately upon completion. If you fail, your score report will include diagnostic information for each content area of the test. 

AACN: Immediately upon completing the exam, your results will appear on-screen. A detailed score report will be emailed to you within 24 hours of exam completion. 

What is the pass rate? 

ANCC: In 2023, the average pass rate for the AG-ACNP exam was 83%. 

AACN: In 2023, the average pass rate for the ACNPC-AG exam was 91%. 

What happens if I fail the exam? 

ANCC: If you fail the ANCC exam you will have the ability to retake the test 60 days after the last testing date. You cannot take the exam more than three times in any 12-month period. 

AACN: If you fail the exam, you may reapply for a retest. Candidates may apply for and take the same certification exam up to 4 times in a 12-month period. After 12 months, signing a new honor statement is required. 

How can I study? 

Regardless of whether you opt for the ANCC or AACN AGACNP exam, it is imperative to study both clinical and non-clinical subjects for preparation. There are a number of resources to help you prepare. One effective method for grasping key concepts is to engage in practicing with sample test questions and quizzes. 

BoardVitals offers more than 1,800 adult gerontology practice questions to help you prepare for either the ANCC or AACN exam. Each question is accompanied by thorough explanations for both correct and incorrect answers, providing insight not only into why a particular answer is right but also why the other options are not. 

You can access more information and a free trial by following one of these links below. 

BoardVitals ANCC FNP Board Review 

BoardVitals AACN AGACNP Board Review 

FYI: You do not need to purchase both board reviews to adequately prepare. Choose the one that is best for your certification needs. 

Is the AACN easier than the ANCC exam? 

Depending on your background, you may find one exam easier than the other. The ANCC has been reported as having more “fluff,” versus the AACN, which has fewer policy and ethics questions. In recent years, pass rates have been about equal for both exams. No matter which exam you choose, don’t let these pass rates affect your study plans! 

Which is better: AACN Certification or ANCC Certification? 

In the AACN’s early years, it was thought that the ANCC certification was more widely accepted. However, both exams meet the standard for board certification, and employers cannot legally discriminate against one or the other. 


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