Answers to common questions about the exam


Find the answers to common questions below. If you don't see your question here, check Exam Schedule Updates and FAQs or email exam@pncb.org for assistance.

Exam Eligibility & Application

I graduated from a PNCB Recognized Program. What are the eligibility requirements?
What is the educational degree requirement to take the CPNP exam?

A master's in nursing is the minimum degree requirement for national nursing certification as an advanced practice nurse practitioner. Candidates who do not hold at least a Master's degree in nursing will not be eligible for this exam. The Doctorate of Nursing Practice is not required for exam eligibility.

My educational preparation is as a family nurse practitioner. May I take the CPNP exam?

No, not unless you can document additional formal academic PNP education such as a post-master's PNP certificate. If you are interested, please contact the program director of a recognized PNP program to discuss a post-master's certificate.

If my program is not on the list of PNCB's recognized PNP programs, how can it be included?

Have your Program Director contact PNCB at service@pncb.org for information.

May I mail or email my transcript personally?

No. All transcripts must be sent directly to PNCB from the Registrar's office of the educational institution or by a transcript service such as National Student Clearinghouse or Parchment. Electronic transcripts are now accepted. Please see the transcripts webpage for details.

What transcript(s) are required to apply for the exam?

Please refer to the transcripts page to review detailed transcript requirements.

What is the scheduling process for testing?

After your application is reviewed and once you receive emailed notification of eligibility from PNCB, you can make your appointment to sit for the exam. The "letter of eligibility" will indicate your testing window which is assigned as each candidate's eligibility record is established with Prometric. Specific instructions will be provided detailing the process of scheduling a testing time within your testing window.

How long does it take to determine eligibility in order to sit for the exam?

Once the PNCB receives all documentation (online application, fees, transcript(s) and documentation of PNP education form [if required]) a letter of eligibility will be emailed to you generally within 3 weeks. Determination of eligibility will be completed in a timely manner following receipt of all required materials.

Primary Care vs. Acute Care Roles

I graduated from an acute care program. May I take the primary care exam?

No. Only graduates of a primary care or dual (acute care/primary care) program may sit for the primary care exam. The educational curriculum, precepted clinical experiences and population-focused nurse practitioner competencies are different for these two roles. The 2008 APRN Consensus Model requires that there be congruence between the role (nurse practitioner) and population (primary care) focus of the formal educational program and the certification exam. For more information, please see NONPF's Statement on Acute Care and Primary Care Certified Nurse Practitioner Practice (2012)

Preparing & Studying

How do I study for the exam? Can you recommend a particular review course or book?

PNCB cannot provide or endorse a specific text or review course, but we can suggest questions to consider when making your choices. Do take time to see the CPNP-AC Resources Page and become familiar with the CPNP-AC content outline.

Also on the exam resources webpage, find a CPNP-AC Reference List of textbooks for possible study. If you’d like to become familiar with the structure and presentation of the exam, our online Acute Care Practice Tests may help.

Will I need to know generic and brand name medications to answer items on the exam?

Exam-takers should know common, generic drug names applicable to the role of the certification exam being taken. Many brand names, while still discussed commonly in practice, are no longer available in brand name form. PNCB strives to only include brand names of medications that are fully available. When medication names are needed or cited in an examination question, PNCB will typically list both generic and brand names when appropriate.  All brand and generic names referenced are correct and available to the best of our knowledge at the time of the publication of the examination form.  Each question included in PNCB examinations is reviewed multiple times, with different subject matter expert groups, who assess and validate content (including medication names) for accuracy. This process precedes, and is in addition to, rigorous, routine statistical analysis on every scored item.

Will I see pictures or graphics on my exam?

Yes, you may see pictures (images) or graphics on your exam, although they may not be a part of every exam form in use at any given time.  Images and graphics are used when they will be helpful in presenting information for the test-taker, such as tables to provide patient data (e.g., vital signs, laboratory results, growth charts) or a radiographic image, such as for questions in the CPNP-PC or CPNP-AC exams. The use of images and graphics are based on the recommendations of our volunteer item writers and exam committees. Tip! PNCB Practice Tests are written with the same style and structure used for writing actual certification exam questions. This means they are a good representation of what candidates will encounter; you will find images and tables in our practice tests.

Do questions containing lab values have reference ranges?

There may be a rare exception, but largely, no—reference ranges are not typically provided in exam questions. When a question contains laboratory values, PNCB, and the volunteer item writers and exam committee members have confirmed that normal or abnormal results would be apparent to a knowledgeable, prepared exam candidate.

National guidelines change periodically; how will I know what to study?

Study the most recent guidelines relevant to your credentialing exam. PNCB maintains awareness of when new or updated guidelines are published by national organizations (e.g., CDC, AAP) and recognizes that practice guidelines are subject to change more frequently than some other foundational information. Therefore, questions on any exam represent core principles about the topic. PNCB regularly reviews our exam questions to identify and review content potentially affected by updates in guidelines.

Do I need to memorize vaccine schedules?

No, candidates are not expected to memorize vaccine schedules as PNCB and its committees of volunteer item writers recognize how often immunization schedules change. However, candidates are expected to have knowledge about core principles about immunology, safe vaccine use, or well-known vaccines for certain age groups. 

Will there be questions about COVID on the exam?

For any infectious disease, questions are only included on the exam if supported within current textbook references approved for the exam or a national consensus guideline.

Should I know every medication name in brand and generic form?

Exam-takers should know common, generic medication names applicable to pediatric practice. Many brand-name medications, while still commonly discussed in practice, are no longer available under proprietary patent so are only produced under the generic formulation. When medication names are needed or cited in an examination question, PNCB may provide both the generic and brand names when appropriate. All brand and generic names referenced are correct and available to the best of our knowledge at the time of the publication of the examination form. 

Taking the Exam

Do I need computer knowledge to take the certification exam?

No. Computer knowledge is not required to take a computer-based exam at Prometric. Before the exam begins, a customized introductory lesson is provided that explains the procedure used to select an answer and move from question to question. This introductory lesson does not reduce your assigned testing time.

How long is the exam?

The exam includes 175 multiple-choice questions. Of these, 150 questions are scored questions and 25 are unscored pretest questions. You will not know which questions are scored or unscored when you take the exam. You may take up to 3 hours to complete the exam.

When will I receive my exam results?

For each CPNP-AC exam window currently advertised, preliminary unofficial results will be available onscreen at the testing center (with no printout) unless otherwise noted. Official pass/fail notification of your exam results are emailed approximately 2-3 weeks after the testing date, in most cases. No results are given by phone. See exam schedule updates and FAQs for results notification details.

Will I be able to take the exam at the time and place I want or need?

In most cases, yes. However, in order to obtain a desired time and place within your testing period, an appointment must be made as soon as you receive notification from Prometric that you are eligible to schedule an exam date and time. Examinations are delivered by computer at over 300 Prometric Test Centers (PTC) geographically located throughout the United States, including most territories, and Canada. However, waiting to make your appointment may jeopardize your scheduling needs.

I have a disability-related need and may require special accommodations to take the exam. What do I do?

In order to facilitate disability-related needs, we work with Prometric to arrange specific accommodations. Indicate your need for special accommodations when you apply for the exam and print our Special Exam Accommodations Form, then complete and mail it to the PNCB office. 

Can I see which questions I did not answer correctly?

No, because certification exams are secure, and important efforts are made to ensure that security, some of which you noticed at the testing center. This security is a requirement for exam accreditation. While we understand that people want to learn from their mistakes, releasing questions (with or without answers) exposes exam questions that are still in use on exams. Once those questions are shared outside of the secure exam environment, the security and integrity of the exam is compromised. However, if you are unsuccessful on the exam, your report will offer information about strengths and weaknesses in topic areas that may be helpful to considering future study needs.  

Can you tell me more about the scoring process?

Every question on a PNCB exam that counts towards a candidate’s score undergoes rigorous review before it is used on an exam as a scored question. After being written by a volunteer item writer, questions are reviewed, edited, and approved by the Exam Committee and other panels of volunteers, and then placed on an exam as an unscored question. Statistics on all unscored questions are reviewed before advancing as a scored question.  Learn more about the rigorous test development process here.

Exam Policies & Procedures

If I take the exam and am unsuccessful, may I take the exam again? If so, how long must I wait in order to re-exam?

If unsuccessful, you will receive retesting policies in your results email.  

What if I am unable to take the exam once I have applied?

For procedures and policies on any of the above, please refer to your candidate handbook. If you would like to request an extension, please see the FAQ about extending a testing window at the bottom of this section.  

What if I do not show up to take the exam at my assigned date and time?

For procedures and policies on any of the above, please refer to your candidate handbook. If you would like to request an extension, please see the FAQ about extending a testing window at the bottom of this section. 

Once my exam is scheduled with Prometric, may I reschedule within my current testing window period?

For procedures and policies on any of the above, please refer to your candidate handbook. If you would like to request an extension, please see the FAQ about extending a testing window at the bottom of this section. 

What circumstances would cause me to forfeit the exam fee?

For procedures and policies on any of the above, please refer to your candidate handbook. If you would like to request an extension, please see the FAQ about extending a testing window at the bottom of this section. 

May I extend or have my testing window reassigned?

For procedures and policies on any of the above, please refer to your candidate handbook

For CPNP-AC testing window extensions, email exam@pncb.org at least 5 business days before the end of your testing window. Once your extension request and payment are processed, you will be assigned the next immediately available testing window. An exam extension cannot be extended to a future testing window.

Verification of Certification

What must I do to have a verification of my certification sent to my employer or state board of nursing?

Verification of certification is available 24/7 to all state boards of nursing. A Board can verify or re-verify information on demand and as many times as needed.

Maintaining Certification through Recertification

If I successfully complete the exam, what are the requirements to maintain national certification?

Visit Recertification for full details on requirements, options, and deadlines for our annual Recert program.

Name Changes

What if my name has changed since I graduated?

Documentation of name change is needed if the name on the exam application and/or exam eligibility notification is different than the first and last names on your two forms of acceptable identification. You must submit documentation of your name change no later than 5 business days of your scheduled testing date to PNCB or you will forfeit all exam fees paid. You must complete this form and submit by email to exam@pncb.org or by fax to 301-330-1504. It is your responsibility to confirm that PNCB receives this documentation and changes your name.

Duplicate Lapel Pins & Certifications

How can I order a lapel pin or replacement wall certificate?

Order your lapel pin in our gear store or a new certificate in your portal's marketplace

Faces of Certification

PNCB-certified nursing professionals work in a variety of roles and settings throughout the US and beyond. Share your photo today!

Tyneisha Orr, CPNP-PC Children's Hospital & Medical Center Omaha, NE
Amairani Jimenez, CPN Tripler Army Medical Center Honolulu, Hawaii
Gia Nguyen, CPNP-AC St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Arlington, VA
View more Faces of Certification