Top 5 Tips for the Family Nurse Practitioner Exam

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) administers the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) certification exam. This certification shares common links to the Consensus Model for APRN Regulation that includes licensure, accreditation, certification and education. After successful completion of the certification exam, the certificate remains effective for 5 years before renewal is required.

The FNP certification exam contains 200 questions, but your score is based on only 175 questions (the other 25 are pretest questions being beta tested). The examiners convert your raw score to a scale score. The maximum scale score is 500 and examinees must obtain a score of 350 or higher to pass. ANCC sets aside 4 hours for the examination, but the timeframe includes instructions and a practice session on the computer.

Five leading tips for studying and taking the certification examination include:


  1. Plot a study plan schedule about 6 months prior to the exam to self-study or group study employing the Test Content Outline for the FNP Board Certification Examination found on the ANCC website. Set aside time every week to study the areas identified in the Test Content Outline (TCO). The outline identifies the percent of questions that will come from each section of the TCO. The certifying exam contains the most common and important health problems in the US, but according to Medscape, the exam also requires knowing key updates such as the “national guidelines for healthy people 2010, immunizations, hypertension and HIV.”
  2. Obtain the Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Practice Questions sold by the ANCC. Two sets of 75 questions can be used freely for 90 days after purchase. Use other FNP practice questions from Board Vitals for more practice (over 900 questions). Research shows answering questions in the format closes to the exam provides the best format for studying. There’s a statistically significant correlation between the number of questions that you take and the performance on the exam. Board Vitals offers the various question types, including hot spotting, and multiple select.
  3. Access the Test-Taking Strategies Web Course made available by ANCC. The test-taking course provides ways to get ready for the exam and details over a dozen essential test-taking proficiencies.
  4. Anticipate the requirements for the exam. Know the location of the examination site. Check in at the test site requires personal identification like driver’s license or state identification. Plan for a full night of sleep prior to the test, consume a protein (e.g., eggs, yogurt, oatmeal or cereal) breakfast and ingest plenty of water as no food or drink allowed in test room. Arrive ahead to use the restroom before entering exam room.
  5. The examinee uses a computer to answer multiple choice questions. First, read the entire question prior to looking at the answers; then preview the answers and choose your response. The exam allows guessing with no penalty. Guess if you do not know the answer. Misconstruing the question leads to wrong answers.