Certified Professional Coder CPC® Certification Exam

Launch Your Career With the CPC Exam

The Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam is the conclusive step to attaining CPC certification—renowned throughout the world of healthcare as the gold standard for physician-based medical coding. By passing the CPC exam and earning the right to append the CPC acronym to your name, you become a healthcare business professional recognized for reliable mastery of professional-fee medical coding.

Who Should Take the CPC Exam?

After you’ve trained with AAPC to become a medical coder—or if you have substantial medical coding experience—you should take the opportunity to gain certification by registering for the CPC test. Passing the CPC exam elevates your earning potential by greater than $20,000 above annual salaries for persons without AAPC's medical coding certification. And CPC salaries, averaging $54,401 in 2018, maintain a 9% increase each year. What’s more, the demand for certified medical coders continues to grow, with a 22% rise in jobs projected by 2022.

What Is the CPC Exam?

The CPC exam is a test of medical coding proficiency consisting of 150 multiple-choice questions that assess 17 areas of knowledge. Most questions present a coding scenario to test proper application of CPT® procedure codes, HCPCS Level II supply codes, and ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes—all of which medical providers use to submit claims to payers. During the test, you will reference approved coding books—the AMA’s CPT® Professional Edition, as well as your choice of ICD-10-CM and HCPCS Level II code manuals. You must complete the CPC exam within five hours and forty minutes and answer 70% of the questions correctly to pass.

How Do I Prepare for the CPC Exam?

Get Ready for the CPC Test by Starting With the Essentials

New & Apprentice Coders

Education

The surest way to prepare for the CPC exam is to train with AAPC by enrolling in the CPC® Preparation Course. This program, designed by the creators of the CPC exam, will ensure you receive an effective and comprehensive education covering proper use of all medical code sets you'll encounter on the exam.

Looking for an exam preparation course?

Experienced Coders

Supplementary Courses

If your history hasn’t reinforced knowledge of anatomy and physiology, as well as medical terminology, you’ll want to study in these areas or enroll in the respective classes we’ve designed exclusively for healthcare business professionals.

Businesses & Employers

Practice Exams

Those who have earned their CPC credential accredit their success to taking practice exams once they began approaching the end of their studies. AAPC’s practice exams will take your training from book knowledge to working knowledge—giving you assurance that you know the material, as well as confidence needed to perform optimally on your exam.

Why Do Employers Look for the CPC Credential?

Medical coding accuracy is key to optimal, ethical reimbursement, which makes medical coders integral to the financial resources of every healthcare organization providing treatment and services to patients. For more than three decades, CPCs have established an unwavering reputation of excellence. The title of Certified Professional Coder therefore comes with high expectations, trust, and respect.

Passing the CPC exam unequivocally demonstrates to employers that you possess:

  • Expertise in assigning accurate medical codes for diagnoses, procedures, and services performed by physicians and other qualified healthcare providers in the office, as well as professional-fee coding as it pertains to facility settings (e.g., inpatient hospital)
  • Sound knowledge of coding guidelines and regulations to meet compliance requirements, such as establishing medical necessity, using modifiers appropriately, and observing bundling rules
  • Proficiency across a wide range of services, including E/M, anesthesia, surgery, radiology, pathology, and medicine
  • Thorough grasp of anatomy, physiology, and medical terminology to comprehend clinical documentation and code descriptors
  • Understanding of how to integrate medical coding and payment policy changes into a practice's reimbursement processes

Learn from the Creators of the CPC Exam & Double Your Chances of Passing

AAPC's CPC® Preparation Course will take you from ground zero to industry ready. Whether you need a refresher or a complete education, we’ll prepare you for the CPC test and your medical coding career.

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The CPC Exam Breakdown

Passing the CPC exam requires you to correctly answer a minimum of 105 questions from the series below. The exam questions, however, will not be identified or sorted by the series to which they pertain. The CPC test will rely on a level of understanding that enables you to identify the series.

10,000 Series CPT®

The 10,000 Series CPT® part of the exam will consists of ten questions related to surgical procedures performed on the integumentary system, which includes skin, subcutaneous, and accessory structures, as well as nails, pilonidal cysts, repairs, destruction, and breast.

20,000 Series CPT®

The ten questions in the 20,000 Series CPT® will home in on surgical procedures performed on the musculoskeletal system from head to toe. Specifically, these areas include the head, neck, back and flank, spine, abdomen, shoulder, arm, hand and fingers, pelvis and hip, leg, foot and toes.

30,000 Series CPT®

Ten questions covering the 30,000 Series CPT® focus on surgical procedures performed on the respiratory system, surgical procedures performed on the cardiovascular system, surgical procedures performed on the hemic and lymphatic systems, and surgical procedures performed on the mediastinum and diaphragm.

40,000 Series CPT®

Your knowledge of the 40,000 Series CPT® will be tested with ten questions targeting surgical procedures performed on the digestive system, which will focus on these areas: lips, mouth, palate and uvula, salivary gland and ducts, pharynx, adenoids, and tonsils, esophagus, stomach, intestines, appendix, rectum, anus, liver, biliary tract, pancreas, abdomen, peritoneum, and omentum.

50,000 Series CPT®

The CPC exam will assess your knowledge of the 50,000 Series CPT® with ten questions pertaining to surgical procedures performed on the urinary system, surgical procedures performed on the male reproductive system, surgical procedures performed on the female reproductive system, including maternity and delivery, and surgical procedures performed on the endocrine system.

60,000 Series CPT®

Ten questions directed at the 60,000 Series CPT® involve surgical procedures performed on the nervous system and will include codes pertaining to the skull, meninges, brain, spine, spinal cord, extracranial nerves, peripheral nerves, autonomic nervous system.

Evaluation and Management

Ten E/M questions will assess your coding proficiency related to place of services, such as office/other outpatient, hospital observation, hospital inpatient, consultations, emergency department, critical care, nursing facility, domiciliary and rest homes, and home services. It will also include questions directed at preventive medicine, non-face-to-face services, neonatal and pediatric critical care, intensive care, prolonged services, chronic care, transitional care, case management, and care plan oversight.

Anesthesia

Eight questions related to anesthesia will pertain to time reporting, qualifying circumstances, physical status modifiers, anesthesia for surgical, diagnostic and obstetric services.

Radiology

The ten questions in this section of the CPC test will focus on both diagnostic and interventional radiology, including diagnostic ultrasound, radiologic guidance, mammography, bone and joint studies, radiation oncology, and nuclear medicine.

Laboratory / Pathology

Ten path/lab questions will determine your knowledge of organ and disease panels, drug testing, therapeutic drug assays, evocation/suppression testing, consultations, urinalysis, molecular pathology, MAAA, chemistry, hematology and coagulation, immunology, transfusions, microbiology, anatomic pathology, cytopathology, cytogenetic studies, surgical pathology, in vivo and reproductive.

Medicine

Ten questions will cover numerous specialty-specific coding scenarios, as well as immunizations, biofeedback, dialysis, central nervous system assessments, health and behavior assessments, hydration, medical nutrition, therapeutic and diagnostic administration, chemotherapy administration, photodynamic therapy, osteopathic manipulative treatment, patient education and training, non-face-to-face nonphysician services, and moderate sedation.

Medical Terminology

Medical terminology for all systems in the human body will be assessed in eight questions.

Anatomy

Anatomy for all systems in the human body will be assessed in eight questions.

ICD-10-CM/Diagnosis

Ten questions will require proficiency in diagnosis for all the chapters included in ICD-10-CM, as well as thorough knowledge of the ICD-10-CM Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting. Additionally, diagnosis questions will appear in other sections of the exam from the CPT® categories.

HCPCS Level II

Five questions on the CPC exam will pertain to HCPCS Level II coding and include questions focusing on modifiers, supplies, medications, and professional services for Medicare patients.

Coding Guidelines

This section of the CPC test will involve six questions addressing the ICD-10-CM Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting, CPT® coding guidelines and parenthetical notes, and modifier use.

Compliance and Regulatory

Five questions testing your knowledge of compliance and regulations will pertain to services covered under Medicare Parts A, B, C and D; applying coding to payment policy, place of service reporting, fraud and abuse, NCCI edits, NCD/LCD, HIPAA, ABNs, and RVUs.

CPC Exam Certification FAQ

You need only to purchase the test to register for the CPC exam. You may then log into your account to schedule your exam when you're ready to take it. Do note that you must register three weeks prior to the exam date.

A certified professional coder reviews clinical documentation and translates medical procedures, diagnosis, supplies, and services into codes that are submitted on a medical claim to payers for reimbursement. CPCs need a good grasp on medical terminology and anatomy to understand medical charts and abstract important information. They serve a vital role in the financial wellbeing of their employing organization and indirectly influence patient outcomes through accurate medical coding.

Unless you have two years of medical coding experience prior to taking the CPC exam, you will receive the CPC-A credential when you pass. The “A” indicates apprenticeship status, which requires two years of experience to graduate from the designation. Upon submitting proof of two years of coding experience, your apprentice status will be dropped from your credential.

Practicode and Project Xtern both provide medical coding experience that AAPC will apply to your apprenticeship requirement, reducing your apprenticeship period by one year.

CPC's make between $18 and $25 per hour, varying by location, experience and additional credentialing. You can find the most recent salary survey results here.

Sitting for the CPC exam costs $399 ($325 AAPC Students) and includes one free retake. Additional expenses vary, depending on the coursework, books, and practice exams you select to successfully prep for the exam.

The first step to passing the CPC exam is—take the courses! And that includes the medical terminology and anatomy courses because this knowledge is essential to CPCs. Each course is a valuable investment that will profit you many times over. Our interactive lectures, reading assignments, timed assessments, and practical application are strategically designed to impart everything you need to know to earn your certification—including tips for taking the exam, such as:

7 Best Tips to Prepare for the CPC Certification Exam

Tip 1—Spend enough time in your code books to ensure you can navigate them quickly, including the essential appendices.

Tip 2—Though you may not attach additional information into your code books, you can—and should—write notes in the margins.

Tip 3—Because the CPC exam focuses on CPT® coding, invest extra time learning your way around this manual.

Tip 4—Use tabs to mark and quickly reference important pages and sections of your code books.

Tip 5—When taking the test, answer easy questions first. Be sure to return to skipped questions. Do not leave a question blank—a one-in-four chance of getting the answer correct is better than a zero chance.

Tip 6—You have approximately 2 minutes to answer each question, so hone your focus and save time by reading the possible answers before reading the question.

Tip 7—Lastly, do not panic. Breathe. Relax and focus.

Most people complete the coursework and pass the exam in 6 to 12 months.

AAPC's CPC certification is renowned globally by physicians, payers, and government agencies. There are other certifications, as well—all of which home in on a medical specialty or a specific business of medicine role. You can find a list of these on our website.

To pass the CPC exam, you need to achieve a passing rate of 70 percent or higher. That means you must answer at least 105 questions correctly.

>More FAQs

View sample CPC test questions.

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Approved Manuals for Use During Examination

Note:

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.

Any officially published errata for these manuals may also be used. No other manuals are allowed. Each code set is updated annually; it is essential that examinees use the current calendar year's coding manuals when taking the certification exam. Questions on the CPC and COC tests do not require the use of any other outside material.

Individuals with a solid understanding of coding fundamentals, anatomy and terminology should be able to answer each examination question through application of the CPT®, ICD-10-CM or HCPCS Level II manuals or through careful reasoning.

Approved Exam Manuals

Non-Approved Manuals for Use During Examination

Due to the advantages of additional information and/or ease of use, the following books cannot be used during the exam:

  • Any Procedural Coding Expert
  • Any Procedural Professional
  • CPT® Plus! - PMIC
  • CPT® Insider's View - AMA
  • ICD-10-CM Easy Coder
  • Study Guides

View sample CPC test questions.

Medical Coding Certification Requirements

  • We recommend having an associate’s degree (not required).
  • Pay examination fee at the time of application submission.
  • Maintain current membership with the AAPC.
    • New members must submit membership payment with examination application.
    • Renewing members must have a current membership at the time of submission and when exam results are released.
  • A CPC designation must have at least two years medical coding experience.
  • If you have not submitted proof of 2 years on the job experience, a CPC-A designation will be awarded. https://www.aapc.com/certification/apprentice_status.aspx
  • Membership is required to be renewed annually and 36 Continuing Education Units (CEU's) must be submitted every two years for verification and authentication of expertise. For CEU requirements please see out CEU Information page.

Note:

Each examination is separate and distinct from one another. To obtain all certifications, each examination must be taken separately and passed.

An overall score of 70% or higher is required to pass an exam. For examinees who do not pass, only the areas of study/categories with a score of 65% or less are provided for examinees’ preparation.

The areas of study reported reflect scores based on the number of questions in each category/section of the exam; each of the category/section may vary in the number of questions asked.

View sample CPC test questions.

CPC®, COC, Apprentice

Proof of education or experience isn’t necessary to sit for these exams.However, due to the level of expertise required of medical coders, AAPC expects certified coders to be able to perform not only in an exam setting but also in the real world. Those who pass the CPC®, COC exams but have not yet met this requirement will be designated as an Apprentice (CPC-A®, COC-A) on their certificate.

CPC-A®, COC-AStatus:

Requirements for Removal of Apprentice Designation

To remove your apprentice designation via on-the-job experience, you must obtain and submit two letters of recommendation verifying at least two years of on-the-job experience (externships accepted) using the CPT®, ICD-9-CM/ICD-10-CM, or HCPCS Level II code sets. One letter must be on letterhead from your employer*, the other may be from a co-worker. Experience includes time coding for a previous employer and prior to certification. Both letters are required to be signed and will need to outline your coding experience and amount of time in that capacity. Download our Apprentice Removal Template for easier submission. Letterhead and signatures are still required when using this template.

OR

Submit proof showing completion of at least 80 contact hours of a coding preparation course (not CEUs) AND one letter, on letterhead, signed from your employer verifying one year of on-the-job experience (externships accepted) using the CPT®, ICD-9-CM/ICD-10-CM, or HCPCS Level II code sets.

Send proof of education in the form of a letter from an instructor on school letterhead stating you have completed 80 or more contact hours, a certificate/diploma stating at least 80 contact hours, or an unofficial school transcript.

  • If you have completed the Distance Learning course by AAPC your 80 education hours will be automatically applied, you do not need to submit a certificate of completion
  • Completion of the AAPC Practicode is counted towards the 1 year of experience a completion certificate must be submitted.

All proof of education must be submitted as a scanned attachment to an email once ALL apprentice removal requirements have been met.

Please allow 2-4 weeks for processing.

* Employers can only verify time spent coding with their organization. Proof of experience letters may be from previous employers, current employers, or a combination of both.

Phone: 800-626-2633
Email: apprenticeremovals@aapc.com

View sample CPC test questions.

Tips for CPC Exam

  • It is all about the guidelines: In preparation for the exam, review all coding guidelines and understand how they are applied. This pertains to all codebooks (CPT®, ICD-10-CM, HCPCS Level II). Coding conventions and guidelines for ICD-10-CM are found in the front of the codebook. CPTT® guidelines are found in the introductory sections and throughout the codebook in selected subsections.
  • Get your materials organized: Well-marked codebooks can be extremely helpful during the exam. Because coding guidelines contain instructions for what can be reported and what cannot be reported, use different colored highlighters to quickly distinguish between the two.
  • Sequencing matters: Follow sequencing rules in coding guidelines and coding conventions. Example: A urine culture confirms the patient’s diagnosis of a UTI caused by E coli. The correct codes and sequence are: 599.0, 041.49. There is a note instructing you to use an additional code to identify the organism, such as Escherichia coli (E.coli). If there are code options with the same codes in a different sequence, pay close attention to the coding conventions and guidelines to guide you in the right selection.
  • Parenthetical notes provide valuable information: Paying close attention to information in the CPT® parenthetical notes prevents you from making coding errors. Example: There is a parenthetical note following code 10030 which states "Do not report 10030 in conjunction with 75989, 76942, 77002, 77003, 77012, 77021. This alerts the coder that imaging guidance cannot be reported with the surgical procedure code.
  • Know your modifiers: Review the proper use for each modifier. Understand when each should be appended.
    Example: Modifier 26 is appended to codes with a professional and technical component to indicate the provider you are coding for only performed the professional component. If the question/scenario indicates the procedure is performed in the hospital setting, the coder will be alerted that modifier 26 should be appended to radiology procedures and medicine procedures that apply. If the code description includes professional component (eg 93010), you would not append modifier 26.

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