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please give me some advice about CPC exam

  1. Unhappy please give me some advice about CPC exam
    Medical Coding Books
    Hi I recently became a member planing to take a cpc exam soon.(my first try.)

    I just took a ICD and CPT classes as well as a short CPC prep class from continuing ed class.
    In the prep class, my teacher said "when you take CPC test, without going to alphabetical index, just directly go to tabular list and figure out which one is a right code by eliminating wrong ones. BECAUSE, in real test, time is absolutely not enough to answer all the questions if you go to alphabetical index and tablet both.

    My big big problem is that, when I go to alphabetical index first and then go to tabular,
    I can way easily find a right code.
    BUT ever since I directly go to tabular list, I can't choose a right code easily.

    Also, comparing to my school questions, AAPC prep questions are way longer so harder and taking longer... .
    I really don't know how to do... .

    I really need advice from those who passed CPC exam. (I am so jealous and admire you guys!!)

    Did you go to tablular list directly? OR did you go to alphabetic index and then confirm from tablular list?

    Did you read the questions pretty much every sentences or just read roughly?

    Also, please give me any useful advice regarding CPC exam.

    Please let me know.
    Thank you so much in advance!

  2. #2
    Dover Seacoast New Hampshire
    Before you even consider sitting for the exam, I suggest you obtain the AAPC's CPC Exam Prep and the online practice exams. These are very much like the real thing. I have learned that the 'coding school' exams are generally way off base and some are even erroneous. Make sure you have the three current year issue books: CPT Professional, ICD-9 CM for Physicians, Expert, and HCPCS Level II Expert. Otherwise you're at a distinct disadvantage. Know these books inside and out--not so much to memorize the codes, but to know where everything is located, to understand the basic coding concepts in each section, and to know the difference between the E&M, surgical and medicine code sections, which is where a lot of people get confused. That's the key to passing this exam.

    I've answered your specific questions.

    Did you go to tablular list directly? OR did you go to alphabetic index and then confirm from tablular list? Correct coding tells us to search alpha and then tabular....this is how you would do it in real life coding. However for the exam, you're working through the process of elimination with multiple choice questions, so it's faster to use the tabular list first.

    Did you read the questions pretty much every sentences or just read roughly? I actually look at the answers first, to find out where I need to be in my books to verify the question. Then I read the questions.

    Also, please give me any useful advice regarding CPC exam.

    Here are some tips I've gathered over the years from many coders who passed the CPC exam successfully. You'll have to decide what will work for you.
    1)Skip the index and go straight to the tabular to look up the four options that you are given

    2) Skip long and difficult questions on the exam (and bubble sheet) and go back to them at the end if you have time.

    3) When guessing make an educated one. Ex: If you are in the musculoskeletal section (20000 codes) your answer will likely have a 20000 code listed

    4) Knowing some med term and anatomy can help you more than you think. And use your CPT book index to look up terminology terms you may have forgotten. There are some terms in HCPCS. This is why it's important to know your books.

    5) A lot of the correct answers have codes that are repeated in at least two of the options with only a slight variation (Ex: Option A and B may be identical except A has a modifier and B does not)

    6) 95% of the question have the answer some where in one of the manuals. Read your guidelines and know your modifiers!

    7) Google "CPC practice exam", there are a lot of free and cheap practice out there and practice is the best way to study

    There's a good practice exam here (150 questions for $19.99) http://www.medicalbillingandmedicalc...cticeexam.html

    Also don't forget to get plenty of sleep and a good breakfast the same morning.

    I didn't take any breaks, I took a restroom break before and after the exam. I "sipped" water during the exam and chewed gum.

    I wrote and marked changes in the code books of the revised and new codes. (Just in case). And I highlighted the guidelines and special information for codes

    Since you're not "cold coding" - there is no need at all to look in the Index. You need to see the descriptions of the codes quickly.

    Be VERY careful if you skip a question. Make sure you skip that bubble line on our grid or your ENTIRE test is going to be wrong!!! Use extreme caution in skipping.

    I proctored an exam recently and i had several people that did not finish and they wanted to hand the exam in with 20 or so blank bubbles. If you run out of time, just guess!!! Just fill in a bubble, because you have a 25% chance of it being right. I also have read that B is a popular guess. I am not sure why that is, but I suppose if you have to guess, just fill all the bubbles in with the same choice.

    First, any questions that had 3-4 codes per answer I skipped as it would take a long time to look up, so I put a sticky tab on the page so I knew I had to go back and at least fill in the bubble if I didn't have time to look it up. Second, I started at the back of the test as it has alot of questions that don't require looking up an answer or mine had the dx section in the back and those to me were easier and took less time. Third, look at the codes on all answers and if there is one code used in all answer choices no need to look it up. I had to just blindly fill in about 10 questions at the end as I didn't have time to look them up and I still passed using these techniques and not spending my time on the really long questions/and many codes per answer. Of course go back to these if you have time..

    I advise ...
    1) read the question first (this will give you a clue as to what to look for in the scenario)
    2) read the scenario and underline or highlight key words/phrases (e.g. consult, new patient, inpatient, decision for surgery ... etc)
    3) look at the answer choices - is there one or two that are obviously wrong? Cross those out and you only have to look up two or three possibilities.

    Pam's note: I looked at the answers first….to see what section of CPT or ICD-9 I needed to be in….before looking at the question, I grabbed the book, and went to that general section. Then I read the question to drill down to the details.

    I wanted to add to this...when marking your answers in the grid, pay CLOSE attention to what question number you're filling in - the answer key has the questions grouped 10 at a time, in 3 columns, and if you're not paying attention, you can fill in answers in the wrong place (for example, instead of filling in the answer for #11 in the right place, you might accidentally fill it into #61, thinking that you're on #11.) They're numbered, so it's not hard to do it right, but if you're worried about getting through the test in time, you might forget to look.

    Bring something to sit on, like a small pillow or a blanket. You never know what kind of chair you'll have to sit in, and if it's hard and uncomfortable, it makes for a miserable 5 1/2 hours (not to mention that having a sore butt is really distracting). And speaking of distractions, if you are distracted easily when taking tests, bring earplugs to drown out ambient noises - just don't put them in until the test starts!

    Bring a highlighter and make sure that your pencil has a good eraser (really, it's better to have 2 or 3 pencils in case one breaks, but the proctors usually have extra ones, if you forget).
    Pam's note: I used pencils to underline, but didn't use a highlighter. Too much extra work to cap and uncap the highlighter and change writing implements.

    I agree with everyone else about not getting hung up on hard questions - I go through the entire test, and knock out ALL of the easy ones first - if I can answer it in under 10 seconds (at a glance, or with minimal searching for codes), I'll answer it on the first round, but if it's a longer question, or one with a multi-part answer, I don't even read it until the second round. (Hint: I don't know if it's still like this, but when I took the test, medical terminology was one of the very last sections...) Once I've gotten all of the obvious ones out of the way, it's all about the process of elimination, which I've already told you about in another post.

    Pam's note: I did not skip any questions. I stuck with the question until I got the answer. I had ‘banked' some time by answering many questions very quickly, so I had extra time for those more difficult questions. Bottom line…you should know your material well enough so that you have a pretty good idea of the answer as soon as you finish reading the question, and all you have to do is verify between the two similar answers. Make sure you know the coding guidelines (front of the ICD-9 book, and in the beginning of each CPT section).

    If you have a question with 3-4 codes as an answer, see if there is a code that would be easy to figure out, like an E code. You can eliminate incorrect answers sometimes by looking up the E codes, or diagnosis codes instead of CPT codes. Also read the code descriptions to see if one code is never to be billed out with another….that would give you an answer you can eliminate.

    Another thing I suggest is, in your test booklet, don't just circle the answer; write the letter you chose out to the side of the question #, where it's easy to see on the edge of the page. It will help you at the end as you're checking to make sure you filled in the answers on the grid correctly (since you won't be losing your place by searching through the actual answers), and it will also help to draw attention to questions that you skipped over earlier - don't leave any questions unanswered - even if you guess, you've still got at least a 25% chance of getting it right. This is extra work….My advice is to work consecutively, or at least a section at a time.

    Finally, I've got an emergency back-up plan if you get to the point that you're desperate, to help you avoid panicking in the last few minutes:
    If you're not anywhere near being done, at the start of the last hour (like, 30 or more questions), lightly fill in the same answer on all of the ones you still have open (eg, make them all A's), then spend time going over the questions and taking your best shot at picking the right answers with the time you have left - you have to fill the dummy answers in lightly 1) so you can tell them apart from other questions you've already answered with the same letter, and 2) so it can be easily erased when you replace it with the answer you choose. Try to get through as many as you can; but if you run out of time, you'll at least have all of the answers filled out.

    Take a breath. You do NOT need to remember everything you learned in school. You DO need to remember how to look things up. That's it. The answers are on the test, Don't ponder on any one question too long. If you are having trouble, move on to the next one. You can go back and look at those troublesome questions when you've completed the other questions, as you already know.

    Take the time to thoroughly review your books. Read your ICD-9 and CPT guidelines. This is information you need to know….how to sequence codes, how to use the modifiers: these are coding rules. You won't have to audit, or scrub a surgical note, but you will be asked to decide what code is the best, based on the description. Don't use payer guidelines….this test is based on the coding books, not Medicare.

    Give yourself two or three opportunities to do a practice exam. Use that year's version, not an old exam. You might remember information on old tests that might be incorrectly answered if those codes or rules change in the following year.

    The night before the exam, don't cram. I was given this advice, and I followed it and passed first try.

    They tell you that you may bring snacks. Frankly, I'm not sure how people could possibly eat at a time like this…but if you do decide to eat, bring silent food….bananas are a good option. No noisy wrapper, and nutritious.

    Once you finish, do not change any answers. Your first ‘guess' is usually correct.

    If you take the CPC prep course in a classroom, DO NOT MISS A CLASS. Believe me, all of the information is very important and valuable, and this test is hard enough without missing a class.

    I'm not a rocket scientist, but I took the CPC prep, did all the homework, and studied pretty consistently for those few weeks before I sat for the exam. I was very comfortable with the material, and although I was nervous, I found that once I sat down and started taking the test, I knew the material and finished early. You have to know these books front and back, and understand how to sequence the codes, so you have to know the guidelines the way the CPT and ICD-9 publish them. And they're in your books.

    I would plan on taking at least 4-5 months to study if you want to be sure to pass the first time. I'd even recommend the 20-week PMCC course. I took it and passed with confidence. This is not a weekend cramming project. It's difficult for a reason, and those that don't pass the first, second (or fifth....) time are simply not prepared at the time, and don't understand the concepts well enough to be successful. Do yourself a favor and don't sit for this until you are ready.
    Good luck with your studying and exam!

    Pam Brooks, MHA, COC, PCS, CPC, AAPC Fellow
    Coding Manager
    Wentworth-Douglass Hospital
    Dover, NH 03820

    If you can dream it, you can do it. Walt Disney

  3. #3
    Default CPC exam
    The correct way to code is to go to the Alpha section first and then the Tabular. See the Guidelines. Otherwise you can miss things that are essential to code selection.

    Just take the test and be done with it. Its hard. Its long. Just dump your emotions and just do it. All the fussing around in the world does not do it. Just take it.

  4. Default Cpc
    At the end of the test, leave no blanks. At the 5 minute warning I had 30 questions unanswered. I filled in C for all.

    I passed on that try.

  5. #5
    Go in with confidence - read the answers first, then the notes. I agree tabular first. I did not skip over any and passed the first time - used all of the time given though!! Good luck - you can pass!!

  6. #6
    Richmond Virginia
    i dont think anyone could have put it any better!
    I would stick with what Pam said, I am sitting for a specialty exam soon and I plan on taking this advice too. Read the question to see what you need to find. I was leveling an E/M for 5 minutes and when I turned the page they did'nt even ask me the level, just an ICD question. Thats 5 minutes i lost. And when you see a code range flip to it in the cpt or icd book. PROCESS OF ELIMINATION!!
    I brought food and drink to my CPC but was so involved I dont remember touching any of it. DONT study the day before, just relax and get a good night sleep.
    Time will fly during the exam!

  7. Default Test
    Good point. READ TO THE PERIOD. Sometimes you can stop reading too soon because you THINK you know what the rest of the question says. Make sure you read all the way to the period.

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