Earning your CPC credential is an accomplishment to be proud of. It takes diligence and commitment to prepare for the five hour and forty minute exam and lots of man hours in work experience, education, and practice to be prepared for the big day. Without the work experience, you will earn the CPC-A apprenticeship credential, but either way, every potential coder commits to being the best coder they can be and being prepared to pass is the best way to do it.
What’s the best advice another CPC can give a future CPC? The answer is simple! Know your material.
Helpful Tips For The CPC Exam
The Two Important Components When Preparing For The CPC Exam: First, is the educational process and second, getting ready for exam day.
So let’s begin with your manuals. Do not be afraid to underline, bubble, highlight, and write notes in the margins of your code books. Loose notepaper will be removed from your books, so make sure everything is permanently marked. Once you become a CPC, get in the habit of preparing your books every year. It is a great review for you and also saves lots of time when looking up information. Although there are numerous programs on the Internet you can purchase for coding purposes, it is always good to have one hard copy to reference. Software helps with the correct coding initiative rules, RVUs, global periods, explanations of CPT procedures and ICD-9-CM diagnosis codes, but reading the guidelines in the manual, and being able to flip from one area to another while referencing your notes often remains in the coder’s memory longer than a quick look up on the computer.
The next step is education. It doesn’t matter how many years’ experience you have, most coders are proficient in some areas and weaker in others. Online training through www.cco.us or www.aapc.com sites, will guide you in the right direction. Practice exams with timers allow exam takers to monitor their progress. And don’t be afraid to take the practice tests more than once. Repeat test taking will demonstrate patterns in how the AAPC presents questions for the exam. If you practice, focus on the guidelines, and maintain a sense of calm knowing the exam is open book with your valuable notes in the margins, you will be fine.
There are 150 questions on the exam. In Laureen Jandroep’s CPC Blitz, she will show you how to bubble and highlight, review methods of taking the exam, and how to use your time wisely. There is a method to the exam process which involves the easiest questions being at the back of the booklet with one word answers, for example such as anatomy, and medical terminology, ruling out answers based on the questions with key words such as with or without, and focusing on the area you are most comfortable with if both a CPT and an ICD-9-CM are part of the correct answer.
Know where your CPC exam site is located. You can be denied access if you arrive late and disrupt the group. Lay out your clothes and books the night before. Do not study or cram the day before. You won’t forget what you have studied. Eat a high protein breakfast and bring snacks and a drink on the day of the exam. Ear plugs help if you are noise sensitive. Often times a building may be empty for a Saturday exam but the custodians show up and start vacuuming. This has happened in some of the best facilities. Bring #2 pencils, a photo ID, your AAPC membership card and erasers. And last of all, breathe. If you do not pass the first time, you will have the knowledge of how the exam is actually presented and will most likely pass the second time around at no extra charge.
One very important tidbit for anyone with learning or physical disabilities – you can contact the AAPC and let them know of your disability. With a medical record from your physician, you may be allowed additional time for test taking, so don’t be proud if you suffer from ADD, anxiety, or a disability that does not allow you to sit for an extended period of time.