So you have crossed the first hurdle and finished your Nurse Practitioner (NP) program – Congratulations! Next on your list of priorities is your certification exam. If you are anything like me, the thought of a final, single, comprehensive test standing in the way before you can embark on the next phase of your career was both exciting and terrifying. As a newly certified NP, I’m here to share some advice on what study tools best prepare you for your big test.
1.) Review courses.
There are many review courses available for the FNP exam with different options to best suit your needs. If you are an auditory learner, attending a live presentation may be a great first step to beginning your exam prep. One option is attending a seminar with Margaret Fitzgerald. In case you don’t know who she is, she’s kind of an FNP review guru and has been helping new graduates prepare for their certification exam for decades. I have attended continuing education seminars with her and she is a wonderful, dynamic speaker – I can only imagine that her review courses are great. The seminar not only covers clinical content, but the non-clinical content that is on the test, such as clinical guidelines, evidence-based practice, and professional issues. Further, she has great resources that accompany her seminars, such as a review book, online resources, practice test questions, and even continuing education units – bonus!
Fitzgerald also has online and MP3 audio options that allow more flexibility than the in-person seminar. The online option provides 6-month online access to her lectures that can be viewed up to four times each, and online practice tests for each lecture that can be taken twice. Both options also include a review book, online resources, practice questions, and
Another option for a review course is with Maria Codina Leik. She has a money back guarantee if you do not pass, which I think is incredible. She also has a webinar option available, and the cost of either option includes her review book (see below). Although I have not attended any of her live presentations, I have used her review book and highly recommend it.
2.) Review books.
If you were anything like me as a new grad, I was done with lectures. I had had enough of sitting down in classrooms for long hours being fed inexhaustible amounts of information. I preferred a much more flexible and mobile review option that I could digest in short durations any time or place – even while sitting by the pool as my children attended swim classes. So, review books were my preferred study method. Again, there are many options available and I recommend using two different sources to give you different perspectives on the exam.
One reference I highly recommend is Maria Codina Leik’s Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Intensive Review: Fast Facts and Practice Questions. Leik presents a thorough review across the lifespan in an organized concise, well written, easy to read format. She also includes nonclinical topics, such as ethical and legal issues and nursing research. Leik presents the information in a straightforward manner and uses lots of mnemonics to help you remember specific details. What I liked the most about her book were the practice test questions. She provides more than 600 questions with rationales at the end of the book to test your knowledge.
A word of caution: the latest edition does not include the updated guidelines for hypertension (although there were very few changes), and there are a few mistakes throughout the rationale, which are sometimes too basic in their explanations.
Another source that I can recommend is Fitzgerald’s Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam and Practice Preparation. It is a detailed, comprehensive review of FNP clinical content. She even includes about 1,400 practice questions followed by the discussion of the topic being presented. The information is more in depth than Leik’s book but does not cover any nonclinical topics. Based on this alone, I cannot recommend solely using Fitzgerald’s book since nonclinical questions are a significant part of the exam.
A word of caution: looking for the answers’ rationales is particularly challenging – they can be found within the detailed and sometimes lengthy discussion after the questions.
A third review book option is the American Nurses Association’s Family Nurse Practitioner Review and Resource Manual. It is a 2-volume review book written by the people who write the ANCC test – how great is that! It is an easy to read source written in an outline form with bullet statements. It presents case studies and uses open-ended statements, like “what would you order?” but not multiple choice questions like what is on the exam.
3.) Online Resources.
There are quite a few questions on the test that deal with evidence-based practice and different types of research. Study Design 101 has a great breakdown of different types of studies, examples, and their hierarchy in term of the best evidence. This site is super easy to navigate to find what you need. There are even some multiple choice questions to test yourself.
Nursing Theory. (Can I get a collective Ugh!?) Yeah, I know…but it is listed on the ANCC website as part of the non-clinical content on the test. Nursing theory, as well as “developmental theories, family theory, educational, (and) patient-centered care” are all fair game for the test. In case you have not gotten enough of Roy, Rogers, and Orem in school, The Nursing Theory website provides some review info.
4.) Online Practice Tests.
After I had studied my flash cards, memorized mnemonics, and mapped out cranial nerves and heart sounds, I felt ready for practice test questions. Lots and lots of test questions. One of the best options for online practice FNP certification questions is BoardVitals. BoardVitals specializes in preparing medical students, physicians, nurses, and advanced practice providers for their individual exams. They even have different practice questions for the AANP versus the ANCC exam. (Not sure which one to take? Find out how to decide.) They offer a whopping 1,900 different questions (Wow! – I know, right?) covering clinical and non-clinical topics, and the rationales are second to none. Not only do the rationales have detailed explanations for the correct answer, they even have detailed explanations for why the wrong answers are wrong. Additionally, website users have the option of rating each question to make sure the questions are relevant to practice and up to date with the latest evidence. Another great feature to this site is that you can purchase unlimited access to all the questions for 1, 3, or 6 months depending on your exam schedule. They even offer a 100% pass guarantee!
Please keep in mind… These. Questions. Are. Tough. But, I learned so much from them. Do not get frustrated or anxious if you are not scoring as well as you expect. Take notes on the rationales, flag the questions you want to review later, and just keep practicing. In the end, the certification exam questions were much easier. And as Margaret Fitzgerald (the FNP review guru) says, “If the exam seemed easy, then you were well prepared.” BoardVitals can definitely help you prepare well.
Another option for online testing is the ANCC test bank. Since these are directly from the people who write the exam questions, this question bank features questions are very similar to the actual exam. However, the number of questions available and the rationale for the answers are limited. I used these questions right before the exam to boost my confidence and ease my anxiety. There are also 25 free questions you can try before you purchase the pack.
The Advance Practice Education Associates (APEA) is specifically designed for NP’s. They offer test bank questions access from 1-6 months. They advertise a “robust database” with 2,500 questions and the ability to choose questions by subject, random pull, missed questions, new questions, or as 150 question exam. You can practice the questions in either tutor mode (with rational as you go) or exam mode (with rationale at the end). Although I did not purchase or access their free trial, I wanted to include it as a place to seek questions for this exam. But, I cannot personally comment further.
So, there you have it… my recommendations for the top tools for preparing for your FNP certification exam. Remember that the exam is designed to be entry level to ensure patient safety, so don’t get too anxious and don’t over think it. Throughout your nursing education, you have passed many tests, and this is just one more test. You can pass this, too!
Best of luck!