Preparing to Take your Pediatric Nursing Certification Board Exam

Preparing to Take your Pediatric Nursing Certification Board Exam

You are taking a big step in your career and preparing for a Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) certification exam.  We hope you find the information below helpful when preparing for the exam.


Before you start your study plan, please understand the role of the exam you are taking.

  1. Certified Pediatric Nurse
  2. Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care
  3. Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care
  4. Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist

Content Outline

You must review and understand the exam’s content outline. Make sure you know what topic areas are included on the exam, the clinical conditions or diagnoses to study, and the procedures included on the exam. This study tool describes all subject areas covered by the exam and the number of questions per category.  The exams test your knowledge and use critical thinking skills to determine the one best answer among answer choices.

  1. Certified Pediatric Nurse
    • Health Promotion 23% or 34 item
    • Assessment – 35% or 53 items
    • Planning and Management – 33% or 50 items
    • Professional Responsibilities – 9% or 13 items
  2. Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care 
    • Assessment – 30% or 45 items
    • Diagnosis – 25% or 38 items
    • Management – 30% or 45 items
    • Professional Practice Role – 5% or 7 items
  3. Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care
    • Health Maintenance and Promotion – 30% or 45 items
    • Assessment and Diagnosis – 35% or 52 items
    • Management – 40% or 60 items
    • Professional Roles and Responsibilities – 5% or 8 items
  4. Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist 
    • Health Promotion: Developmental, Behavioral, and Mental Health – 30% or 45 items
    • Evaluation – 24% or 30 items
    • Diagnostic Decision Making – 22% or 28 items
    • Management – 23% or 29 items
    • Professional Role – 6% or 7 item 
  5. Review the clinical conditions or diagnoses listed on your content outline.  These are represented on the exam, by volume, according to a prioritized listing.  Review the most common pediatric problems/conditions.
  6. Refer to the list of Procedures and Interventions. These are listed in alphabetical order, and as a test-taker, you are responsible for knowing and understanding this knowledge.

Reference List

Now that you understand the content outline review your exam’s reference list:

  1. Certified Pediatric Nurse  
  2. Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Acute Care
  3. Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care
  4. Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist

Choose one textbook you are comfortable or familiar with from the reference list. Use this book with your content outline as you study for your exam.

  1. Try not to memorize information from the textbook. 
  2. Read and understand the information being presented. Relate the information learned to your practice or future practice.
ID: Tip with text: Have you considered creating a digital file for each topic area? Graphic shows a white light bulb on a red circle.

Create a Study Plan

You are now ready to create your study plan. What should you consider when creating your study plan?

  1. Focus on the content areas of your knowledge gaps; however, remember you are responsible for knowing and understanding all topic areas of the exam.
  2. What has worked for you in the past? Consider using that same method, whether taking notes, using quiz cards or highlighting text.
  3. Consider the best way to organize information.                 
  4. Determine a time frame – how long will you need to study?  Each person’s learning needs differ, and some candidates allow months for test preparation. Make sure you allot enough time to spend time with the material. 
  5. Create realistic goals.
  6. Write down your formal plan and have access to this vital document.
  7. Stick to your study schedule.
  8. Do permit yourself to stop studying if you are overwhelmed or tired.
  9. Consider creating a study group or finding a study buddy.
  10. Have you considered using PNCB prep tests?  You are not required to do so, but these modules will give you an understanding of how our questions are written.

Day of the Exam: 

  • Eat a nutritious breakfast.
  • Schedule your exam early in the 90-day window if you are testing at an on-site testing center. It is never a good idea to wait until the end of your eligibility time to test. Many factors can impact your test day, including the weather. PNCB suggests you schedule as soon as possible.
  • Arrive at the test center at least 15 minutes before check-in, even if you are testing remotely (Certified Pediatric Nurse and Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist Certification exams only).
  • Make sure you have the two unexpired required forms of identification to take the test.
  • Dress comfortably and consider layering your clothes.
  • PNCB exams do not have scheduled breaks, so please try taking care of your needs before the start of your exam. If taking the exam remotely, you cannot leave the camera’s view once testing starts.
  • The length of your exam appointment is not the same as the time allotted to you to take the exam.  All certification exams except the Pediatric Primary Care Mental Health Specialist (PMHS) are 3 hours long. The PMHS exam is 2 and ½ hours long.


Tips for Taking the Exam

  1. Read the entire question slowly and carefully.
  2. PNCB does not write “trick questions.” Our questions are designed to identify the candidates who know the content. All information needed to answer the question is provided to the tester.
  3. Understand what you are being asked.
  4. Consider answering the question in your mind before reviewing the answers, then review each of the options presented.
  5. Use the process of elimination by excluding the answers you know are incorrect and then focusing on the remaining answers.
  6. Remember, there is one correct answer.
  7. If you do not know the answer mark the question to return to later.
  8. Answer all questions.  Look for connections between the questions being asked and the answers included.
  9. All exams have a certain number of scored items and unscored items.  For more information, click here to review information on our web page explaining how PNCB certification exams are developed.

Additional Resources

You might find the below worksheets and articles created and published by Therapist Aid helpful as you prepare to test.  PNCB does not endorse nor have any proprietary relationship with Therapist Aid.

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