What I’m about to share with you are the very, very best tips from me on how to pass the CPC exam on your first try and I’m teaching this method since 1999. This is more of a “how to prepare for the CPC exam,” and it’s very successful. People follow my strategies, they always pass when they go to take it the next time, but it’s very key not to skip or skimp on any of the steps that I’m about to share with you.
It is going to require some more work if you want to follow my techniques, so if you’re taking the CPC board exam there will be a lot in these that will help you, but there might be some extra things you might not have time to do, like, a way to prepare your manual and practice exams. I will also show you our CPC Review Blitz that we do and what’s it all about.
Video: How To Pass the CPC Exam On Your First Try
By Laureen Jandroep, CPC, CPC-I, COC, CMSCS, CHCI, CPPM | CCO Founder and CEO
I started off as an occupational therapist and coding was just a way for me to bill six different things, PT, OT, speech, “eval”, and “reeval”, that was it, so the diagnosis side was really more of the biggie for me. So, now getting into this when I went to go get myself certified it was, wow, I had no idea all the little layers of everything. A lot of what I’m going to share with you is how I taught myself as someone who took a week-long boot camp, and then a month later took the exam. And during my boot camp I didn’t even know what an E/M was, I thought it was a new M&M candy.
If I can do it, you can do it. I want to teach you how. I’m a very visual learner myself and a lot of these techniques came from that.
How to Pass the CPC Exam On Your First Try
Alright, so let’s get into the step-by-step process on how you can ace the CPC exam on your first try. I call it the “Formula for CPC Exam Success”:
Step 1. Take a Full Medical Coding Course
You want to make sure you’ve taken a Full Medical Coding Course, or you’ve had some equivalent of experience like working for a multi-surgery center, or something like that.
Step 2. Take a Review Class
Like the Review Blitz that we do. It’s a two-day review, where we cover everything that you would encounter on the CPC board exam.
Step 3. Use the BHAT® Method to Mark Up Your Book
I’m going to teach you that technique today. It’s not a hard technique but it’s something that we’ve trademarked and we’ve taught since 1999, and it does take time to do, but it is well worth it.
It saves you a lot of time on the CPC exam, and it saves you time in real world coding, too, to help you compare and contrast codes, and to do process of elimination.
Step 4. TIMED Practice Exams
Until you score an 85%. You need a 70% to pass the real CPC board exam but an 85% is what we want you to shoot for in the practice exams to kind of give you that cushion, that buffer. I have “TIMED” capitalized because it’s very important. If you’re just doing questions to see that you understand the concept, then that’s like doing homework. That is, in a practice exam, you need to get that timing element in there to really learn that and I’ll go over that more before we’re done.
CPC Exam Layout
Before going deeper in our discussion, first let’s talk about the CPC exam layout. This is all from the AAPC website; when you click on certifications and you go to CPC it tells you it’s 150 questions. You have five hours and 40 minutes to complete it. It’s up to you how you manage your time.
You need to get a 70% overall. Years ago they used to have us get a 70% in section one, section two, and section three, they don’t do that anymore; so really you want to get to all the easy questions, which are easy for you, so that you can get a 70% or higher. That’s really the goal.
When you break that down, you can get 45 questions wrong and still pass, that’s pretty good. So, when you’re doing your practice exams, what you’re really going to be practicing is skipping questions. You’re skipping hard ones to get to easy ones, that’s the goal because if you get where you’ve missed 45 and you’ve got all the other ones correct you could basically stop. Of course you’re not, you’re going to keep going to maximize your chances, but keep that in mind when you’re skipping. “OK, this is going to be one of my 45.” That makes it less stressful, if you will.
CPC Exam Tips
Learning how to take the CPC exam is really a lot of what we’re going to be talking about today. So here are some general CPC exam tips for you. Know that the exam is not specialty specific. You’re not going to be asked detailed vascular interventional radiology questions but you’re going to be asked broad basic questions and hence you’re not going to need to know deep, deep, deep knowledge that you would need to go for a specialty certification.
Tip #1. Focus on principles of good coding.
That’s really what they’re testing you on. If you could go look up a code real quickly in the index and verifying in the main part of the CPT manual you’d be done, but they’re not going to give you those easy ones. They got to give you ones with better testing your ability to read and interpret the guidelines, that’s really what it’s about.
Tip #2. Throw out your billing and reimbursement knowledge.
If you are currently doing coding or doing billing and reimbursement, sometimes that knowledge is going to hurt you because there’s the manual way, the guidelines, or what I like to call “the perfect coding world” – and that’s why I like to teach because I get to live in the perfect coding world – you have to temporarily throw out your billing and reimbursement knowledge. When you’re looking at a board exam question, focus on the core of the question, don’t read into it, don’t overthink it, just what is it about? So that billing and reimbursement knowledge you’ll need to throw out.
Remember, on the CPC exam, you’re going to code according to CPT guidelines and that’s just an example of how billing knowledge could hurt you, so really make sure you’re looking at what the guidelines are telling you, not what you know how you do it at work.
Tip #3. Confidence and time management are vital.
The more you do those TIMED practice exams the more your confidence is going to go way up. If you know you’ve gotten 85% on a practice exam that’s very similar in difficulty level to the real CPC exam, you can go in with confidence. You’ve got your technique down, you know how to skip questions, you know how to spend about an hour per column, and that’s going to boost your confidence. Practice that when you’re doing the practice exams. Practice how to take the exam, in addition to the content.
A lot of people if they only have a week or two prior to exam date and say, “What do I study?” I said, “Stop studying. You need to do TIMED practice exams,” and the TIMED practice exams will reveal your areas of weakness and content knowledge, but at the same time you get to practice how to take the exam, and that’s really what’s most important
Tip #4. Plan on having some unanswered questions — don’t freak out!
You want to plan and expect to have unanswered questions, it’s OK. You really only have about two minutes per question on the exam. That might be fine for medical terminology question but for one that has a mini op