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How to Pass Your Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam

Many new nurse practitioners are joining the workforce and if you are one of those new graduates who are seeking to find tips and information on how you can pass and prep for the nurse practitioner certification exam, then this post is for you.

First of all, Congratulations! You entered  a very lucrative, rewarding profession that lets you continue your compassionate care for your patients while practicing more autonomously and with more responsibility. 

Related: How to save money on Nurse Practitioner School

Becoming a nurse practitioner (NP) is a significant milestone in your healthcare career. However, before you can begin practicing autonomously, you must first pass the nurse practitioner exam. Preparing for this exam can be daunting, but with the right strategies and resources, you can increase your chances of success on your first try. In this guide, we will delve into the essential steps and tips to help you ace your nurse practitioner exam with confidence.

Understanding the Nurse Practitioner Exam

Before diving into preparation strategies, it’s crucial to understand the structure and content of the nurse practitioner exam. The NP certification exam varies depending on the specialty area, such as family, adult-gerontology, pediatric, psychiatric-mental health, or women’s health. Each specialty exam assesses your knowledge and skills specific to that area of practice.

As a FNP (Family Nurse Practitioner), there are two credentialing bodies that grants certification for nurse practitioners: ANCC (American Nurses Credentialing Center  and AANP ( American Academy of Nurse Practitioners).  Both of these exams are taken on the computer at a testing center. There are a few differences including: # of questions, question content and style, exam cost and difficulty. 

 There are a lot of factors to consider in picking which exam to take, but I took the AANP Exam because of  the testing style preference. I wanted to be tested on clinical questions instead of ethics/research (which is what is mostly in ANCC exam). I also preferred it to be just all multiple choice questions. 

Tips to Pass your Nurse Practitioner Exam on First Try

Now, let’s explore the steps you can take to prepare effectively and pass your nurse practitioner exam on your first attempt.

Establish a Study Plan

Creating a structured study plan is essential for staying organized and maximizing your study time. Start by determining how much time you have available to prepare for the exam and break down your study schedule into manageable chunks. Allocate specific time slots for reviewing different content areas and practicing exam-style questions.

Utilize Nurse Practitioner Prep Resources

Gather high-quality study materials and resources to supplement your exam preparation. This may include textbooks, review guides, online courses, and practice exams specifically designed for your NP specialty. Look for resources that are recommended by experienced nurse practitioners or professional organizations.

Here are the resources that I used:

1.  Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Intensive Review, by Maria Codina Leik 

 The content is great – easy to read and comprehensive. It is not as dense as the other review books. What I did is I read one-two chapters at a time. I made sure I understand the concepts. I highlighted sections that are important. I also put sticky notes on the topics that are not my strongest areas to remember or understand. I completed the practice questions and read all the rationales at the back of the book. 

2. Amelie Hollier’s Class, and APEA Practice Question Book  ~ some people preferred Fitzgerald’s class but I really liked Hollier’s because she was funny and it made it so much easier to remember the topics she covered. I took my exam in 2017 and used my old car’s CD player to play her audio CDs. I listened to it every day for at least 1 month straight. 

I did not do any predictor exams. If I scored high on those, I don’t want to be too confident to take the certification exam. If I scored low, I don’t want to be demoralized. if you want to take this predictor exam, do it at least ahead of your exam date so it does not shake your confidence. If you score well, great, continue to study and feel confident taking the exam. 

Focus on Core Content Areas

Identify the core content areas covered on the exam and prioritize your study efforts accordingly. Common content areas include health assessment, pathophysiology, pharmacology, diagnostic tests, treatment guidelines, and ethical/legal considerations. Allocate more time to areas where you feel less confident and aim for a well-rounded understanding of each topic.

Practice Exam Questions

Practice answering multiple-choice questions and clinical simulations similar to those found on the nurse practitioner exam. This will help you familiarize yourself with the format of the exam and assess your readiness. Aim to complete practice questions under timed conditions to simulate the pressure of the actual exam environment.

Review and Reinforce Concepts

Regularly review your study materials and reinforce key concepts through repetition and active learning strategies. Consider creating flashcards, diagrams, or mnemonic devices to aid memorization and understanding. Additionally, seek opportunities to apply theoretical knowledge to clinical scenarios and patient case studies.

Seek Study Groups and Collaborate

Join study groups or online forums where you can connect with fellow nurse practitioner students or practicing NPs preparing for the exam. Collaborating with peers allows you to share study tips, discuss challenging topics, and gain different perspectives. Engaging in peer support can also boost motivation and accountability throughout the study process.

Take Care of Yourself and Stay Confident

Maintaining your physical and mental well-being is crucial during the exam preparation period. Prioritize self-care activities such as regular exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep, and stress management techniques. Taking breaks and allowing yourself time to relax and recharge will help prevent burnout and optimize your cognitive functioning.

Believe in yourself and your ability to succeed on the nurse practitioner exam. Maintain a positive attitude and visualize yourself passing the ex with flying colors. Remind yourself of your hard work and dedication throughout the preparation process, and trust that you are well-prepared to excel on test day.

Here is what worked for me:

  • Taking the exam early
  • Condensing my review materials
  • Get a review buddy if you study better with other people.
  • Being confident in myself after I have studied for weeks that I can pass it.
  • Manifest that MSN, FNP-C at the end of your name 

You can and will pass this exam! 


Passing your nurse practitioner exam on your first attempt requires diligent preparation, dedication, and confidence in your abilities. By following the steps outlined in this guide and implementing effective study strategies, you can increase your chances of success and embark on a rewarding career as a certified nurse practitioner. Remember to stay focused, stay motivated, and believe in yourself every step of the way. Good luck on your journey to becoming a certified nurse practitioner!

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