The CPC (Certified Professional Coder) exam is a proficiency examination administered by The American Academy of Professional Coders in order to certify medical coders. It is designed to test a candidate’s understanding of the manuals used to provide an accurate diagnosis (ICD-9), the procedure and terminology codes (CPT) and the supply codes (HCPCS level II). It consists of 150 multiple choice questions and the time allowed is 5 hours and 40 minutes. Candidates are allowed to bring selected reference material into the exam room. These include some CPT manuals, ICD-9-CM, and HCPCS level II manuals. The exam entry fees are $300, $120, and $70 for AAPC non-members, members, and student members respectively.
Tips For Passing the CPC Exam:
This exam is renowned for its rigorous nature and particularly low pass rate. The course work is covered in 6 to 18 months and consists of a lot of information that may require the memorization and retention of large volumes of material. There is no grading system; rather, it is a pass or fail exam with a passing score of 70%. For the reasons listed above, many candidates find it hard to pass this exam the first time.
The following are some tips that could help you pass the cpc exam on the first try:
1. Acquire the official CPC study guide from The American Academy of Professional Coders. This provides a very reliable reference and ensures that you don’t miss going over any material that will be on the exam. It may also prevent you from going too deep into topics that are not pertinent to the exam.
2. If possible, confirm and inspect the venue before the day of the cpc certification exam. This helps to ease the stress on the day of the cpc exam and allows you to feel more prepared. Getting to the venue late or, even worse, going to the wrong location may be disastrous because you may be denied the chance to take the examination.
3. Take the online practice exam, which is available on AAPC’s website. This is an invaluable step towards the adequate preparation for the main cpc certification exam. It helps you understand what to expect on the cpc exam, problems that you are likely to encounter, and it also helps you gauge how well-prepared you are in terms of studying and understanding the course work.
4. A strategy that has been adopted by a lot of candidates is to start the cpc exam from back to front. Exam questions toward the end generally tend to be more sophisticated than those at the front; thus, taking the cpc exam from back to front allows you cover the questions that require most concentration while your brain is most alert. Moreover, the easier questions don’t require as much time as the more difficult ones.
5. If you are unsure about the answers to some of the questions, the best strategy is to skip and mark them, and then come back to them after you have answered the questions that you know.
6. Proper management of allocated time is very important. As a rough guideline, you should have answered half of all the questions halfway through the exam time.
7. The cpc certification exam takes a grueling 5 hours and 40 minutes; hence, it is advisable to eat a protein-rich breakfast that is low in fat content. This helps keep your brain nourished and prevents you from feeling sluggish, especially during the latter part of the exam. Another tip is to avoid going into the cpc exam on an empty stomach because low blood sugar prevents your brain from performing at full capacity.