Tips to Pass AAPC’s CPC Exam

Tips to Pass AAPC’s CPC Exam

To pass AAPC’s CPC exam, you have to score 70 percent: of 150 questions, total, you may miss 45 answers. This test is not about memorization. It’s about knowing how to find the best answer.

Preparing For Your CPC Exam

  • Electronic devices with an on/off switch (cell phones, smart phones, tablets, etc.) are not allowed into the examination room. Failure to comply with this policy may result in disqualification of your exam.
  • Verify the start time and examination address at least two days prior to your test date. If you are unfamiliar with the exam site, consider mapping your driving directions in advance. Factor potential construction, traffic, or possible inclement weather during your commute and arrive 10 to 15 minutes early.
  • Confirm what exam materials are allowed during the examination. Gather these items several days prior to the examination (Photo ID, Member ID, plenty of #2 pencils, and an eraser along with the appropriate coding manuals.)
  • Most examinees have found that they perform better after a good night of sleep. We believe a late evening study session the night before your exam is not very useful.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast (nothing too heavy) and bring light snacks and water to keep you energized during the exam. Peppermint or lemon candy generally keeps you alert.
  • If you are sensitive to noise, bring earplugs to eliminate distractions during the exam.
  • Layer your clothing in case the room temperature fluctuates.
  • Successful examinees have well-thumbed code books. Become familiar with all parts of your CPT, ICD-10 and HCPCS code books. Learn how to quickly locate the codes, guidelines, tables, and instructions within them. This may be the most important tip we can give you.

What To Do During The CPC Exam

  • Listen carefully while the proctor reads the instructions. Ask questions before the examination begins if you do not understand the instructions given.
  • Be especially careful about marking your answer sheet. Be sure to correctly fill in your selected bubble on the test grid. Exams are machine graded. To ensure an accurate score, bubbles must be filled out as shown on the example on your test grid.
  • Scan the entire test when you are instructed to begin. Answer the easiest, shortest questions first – this gives you the experience of succeeding and stimulates associations.
  • Remember to pace yourself. You have an average of 2 minutes and 15 seconds to answer each question. Stay relaxed and do not panic. You will be able to finish.
  • Read each question carefully. Note such words in the question as “not, except, most, least and greatest.” These words are often crucial in determining the correct answer. However, there are no “trick” questions on the exam, so don’t worry about hidden words or meanings.
  • Answer every question. If you do not know the right answer, eliminate as many wrong answers as possible, then select among the remaining answers. If you don’t have a clue – guess. A guess is better than a blank response.
  • If you finish with some additional time, use that time to go back and review any questions you were not fully sure you had the correct answer. Use the code books again to confirm.
  • Some people find it helpful to look at the possible multiple-choice answers (not the question), first. That way, you can see the sections of CPT®/ICD-10 or HCPCS that you’ll need to reference to answer the question. Next, look at the question carefully to rule out your incorrect answers. Typically you can rule out one or two possible answers, quickly.

Here are some additional, general tips to keep you determined and dedicated to pass the CPC exam:

  • Passing the CPC exam should be a priority. Do not watch TV, use your cell phone, etc., until you have studied for the day or week.
  • Plan your day to include quality study time. Quality is more important than quantity. If your schedule is hectic, include short bursts of 15-minute study sessions throughout the day instead of planning two-hour study sessions that are not productive due to fatigue, distractions, etc.
  • Believe you can pass the exam. You won’t pass the exam if you have doubts. Recite positive reaffirmations.
  • Remember: Most employers are interested in the credential(s) you possess, not the length of time and number of exams it took you to earn them.
John Verhovshek

John Verhovshek

John Verhovshek, MA, CPC, is Managing Editor at AAPC. He has covered medical coding and billing, healthcare policy, and the business of medicine since 1999. He is an alumnus of York College of Pennsylvania and Clemson University, and a member of the Asheville-Hendersonville AAPC Local Chapter.
John Verhovshek

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John Verhovshek, MA, CPC, is Managing Editor at AAPC. He has covered medical coding and billing, healthcare policy, and the business of medicine since 1999. He is an alumnus of York College of Pennsylvania and Clemson University, and a member of the Asheville-Hendersonville AAPC Local Chapter.

11 Responses to “Tips to Pass AAPC’s CPC Exam”

  1. genia says:

    What type of notes are allowed to be written in your books?

  2. Kwilts says:

    Any hand written notes are allowed. The proctors only check your books for loose papers, sticky notes, etc. They will not be reading your notes. Therefore, write as much as you think you may need in your books.

  3. Annie McKenzie says:

    Can you give me any idea as to the best way to tab the resource books?

  4. Tamyra Shaw says:

    Definitely by series!

  5. Zen Weller says:

    I found it very helpful to tab the sections that are most used, and that I knew I would need immediate reference to. For example, if you know you have trouble remembering POS numbers, it would be a good idea to tab the appendix that lists them (in my CPT version when I tested, this is Appendix M). You may want to tab the HCPCS modifier appendix, or the CPT modifier appendix; Both good ideas for taking the CPC exam. Look through your conventions in the ICD book as well. These rules are extremely important for the exam.. Get familiar with them, and tab the ones you may have trouble remembering. Sepsis, HIV, and pregnancy conventions are a few to note. Basically, go through your books, and note the areas that you feel the least comfortable with, so that you can reference them quickly.. Keep in mind that the exam is really only to prove that you know “how” to use the references. Cater your notes and tabs to your own specific needs. Great luck to you!

  6. Eva Baker says:

    Thank you so much for all of these tips. They took me right out of panic mode and my exam isn’t until October.

  7. Connie says:

    Are we allowed to have the AMA QUICK Reference sheet that came with the 2017 ICD 10 code book at the exam? It is loose but it did come with my 2017 ICD_10 .

  8. sareena says:

    How to pass the exam . am writing exam soon ,its difficult to pass

  9. cherelle says:

    Please do! I take mines oct 7

  10. Maria Martinez says:

    I failed my cpc exam and the next available dates in my area will be feb 2018. Can I still use my 2017 books?

  11. M says:

    Yes. From my understanding, we can continue to use our 2017 books for the exam until March or April 2018.

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