How to Pass the CPC® Exam or Any Credential- The CCO Proven Process

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CCO Education Director and Coach Alicia Scott, CPC, CPC-I, CRC

One of the things we’ve learned here at Certification Coaching Organization (CCO) and also in the years that I’ve worked in medical coding is that people who want to get certified struggle with education and passing the CPC® exam. The CPC® exam itself is not necessarily easy. It’s easy if you have your goals in place and you have done studying. Or even if you had experience in the past with coding you still might not pass the exam because you can be as knowledgeable as the best coder but you have to take that exam.

Here at CCO we came up with an excellent proven process to help you 1) learn the material that you need to be a fabulous coder and as well 2) the tips that you need to pass that CPC® exam. Now we have people that again are coders that haven’t ever been certified. That was what I had. I was a coder. I had never been certified. I jumped in and took the exam. Guess what? I didn’t pass. It’s not uncommon to not pass the first time. So don’t let that intimidate you. But our goal at CCO is that you do pass the CPC®  CERTIFICATION the first time.

One of the brilliant things about a lot of these exams that you’re going to take (getting ready for the big exam for the credential) is that you’re going to get lots of practice. So let me go through the CCO Proven Process that’s going to make this easy for you.

The CCO Proven Process :
Step 1: Learn The Core Material

The first thing you need to do is Step One: You need to actually understand the core material. Now there are two parts to this. One: you could already be doing coding, but you could be in a niche market of coding. The standard CPC® exam for medical coders is going to include everything in the CPT, ICD and HCPCS Manuals. So it’s important that you have a very broad-based education first. With CCO, that’s the first step. Take the education you need.

Now again we want you to come to CCO. But if you’ve already gone to another organization and you’ve gotten your training, we can pick up from there. So the first step is to enroll in a course or have enrolled in a course that’s going to give you the knowledge base that you need to get the CPC®  credential.

What we do at CCO is this: When we get a new student, we set up a welcome call with them. That way we can have goals set in place.

This is what you want to achieve. This is how you’re going to achieve it. And this is what we’re going to do at CCO to help you along the way.

Also, we give you an active coach. That means every 7 to 10 days or however often beyond that that you want. If you say no- every two weeks or three weeks- that is fine. We’re going to have somebody available that is also a medical coder that’s experienced that can answer your questions.

You can send an e-mail to them and say “Hey, I stumbled on chapter 5 on Number 6. I read the rationale but it’s not clicking with me. What do I need to do.”

Then with that communication via email with your CCO coach they can say “Hey that is a very typical question that people stumble with. This is what you need to look at” or “this is where you need to go.” Look at this CCO YouTube video we did and I think it will unpack the situation for you.

So you have an active coach that’s going to help you along the way. Or that coach is going to check in with you and say “You know what? You’ve been doing great. You’ve been knocking out a chapter every week but it’s been a couple of weeks and you haven’t done anything. Is everything OK?”

And that way you can say “No, I’ve been really busy- the kids are active” or “this is going on in my life.”

Coach: “No problem. I’ll check back with you next week.”

So again they keep you on track. They keep you on goal. They want to make sure that you complete the course. Often with the students both CCO and when you teach at a college… You find that some people just kind of get stalled out. Life happens. You need somebody there in your corner coaching you along saying “hey, you are more than halfway through. You can get this done. You just have a few more chapters to do. And guess what. These chapters are really easy. You’re going to find that you’re going to get through them quickly. Now let’s work on the next step.”

So that coach is kind of like someone to prod you to keep you going where you need to go. So that you don’t fall back. That happens a lot with online courses. If they just give you the material and say “Here you go!” You know you need somebody that can be your advocate that will stand on your shoulder and whisper in your ear and tell you “hey you know you’ve got three more chapters to do. Let’s go.”

Step 2: Refine, Refresh and Review Your Skills

Step Two with CCO as we like to Refine, Refresh, and Review your skills. Now let’s say that you’ve already taken a course. But you want to still work with CCO and our Proven Process. That’s this step. You get to skip step 1 and jump into step 2. This is where the fun happens. Because this is where you know what you need to know to pass the exam, but there’s a little more to that. We have to make sure that you are prepared to go in and take this exam. It’s not going to be a board exam like the nursing exam because it’s not state-to-state. And some people call it and say “Well I have to go take my state board.” It’s not like that. However, it is similar in that you are testing for a credential. And right now this is almost a six-hour exam that you’re going to be sitting for. Sitting in a chair for six hours with your manuals and everything in front of you. That’s intimidating. So you need tools to make sure you can get through that. CCO’s Step Two of our Proven Process handles that.

And one of the things that we’re going to do is give you fabulous CCO Blitz reviews. We’re going to show you how to have those key concepts that we know you’re going to be tested on leap off the page. So when you read that question, you know this is what they want to know if I know. And I do know it. And then you can answer that question with authority.

We’re also going to learn time management skills. This is one of the problems that I had when I took the CPC® exam for the first time. I went in thinking that I knew how to code – which I did. I sat down and I ran out of time. I had 15 minutes left and almost 30 questions. And so I panicked. And of course, since I was running out of time I had to fill in and guess answers. Which was really difficult when you know the content, but you don’t have time to read the content. And so therefore I went and sought some help on my time management for the exam. CCO provides that for you and other little tips like – How to skip when you don’t know the answer. -How to make sure that you’re doing 30 questions in an hour. Keep your self-paced so that you can use all those little grey cells to focus on the questions and getting the right answer. Not being panicked and have to think about how much time do I have left. There’s so much more to it than that and you’ll find that when you talk to your coach in the Proven Process or you get one of our Blitz Programs.

The other thing is with the CPT or anything that you’re dealing with the CPT manual- we teach you how to Bubble and Highlight. We teach you the BHAT Technique is what we call it. Bubble, Highlight, and Annotate your manuals to get them ready to test. And what that’s going to do is that’s going to allow the codes and the guidelines to leap off the page for you. So you’re not revisiting a page two or three times trying to find the best codes. It’s the code that’s going to get you to the highest specificity and quickly. That’s what they want to know if you know.

Anybody can code quite honestly. It’s like looking up a telephone number in a telephone book. But the guidelines is what you have to know. The guidelines are what you’re going to be Bubble and Highlighting and understanding with the CCO Blitz that comes in Step 2.

So we’re going to be marking up our manuals showing you how not to over mark your manuals because that defeats the purpose but just making annotations and notes so that you can get to the highest specificity quickly. We have a lot of credentials that we help you with. And this technique works with all of them.

Step 3: Practice with Timed Exams

Next, after you’ve gone through Step 2 you’re ready for Step 3. Now I said Step Two was where the fun begins I think that is true. That’s the fun part because you know what you’re doing and you’re getting your manuals ready.

But the intimidating part… the one where you need your coach to hold your hand and walk through and you need your cheerleaders behind you- is when you start taking practice exams. You need to take as many practice exams as you can get your hands on. And we at CCO offer you several. We have free practice exams for almost every credential that we teach.

In addition, we have paid practice exams. But if you’re one of our students, say for our PBC course that helps you learn the CPT credential, you’ll find that included in your course are several practice exams. Now, these practice exams aren’t necessarily going to be the questions that you are going to have on the real exam when you sit down to take the credential exam. We’ve divided it up to where you can do this in an hour or a couple hours and then you can get a feel for what it’s like to sit down for one of these exams.

It also gives you amazing rationales. We’ve worked extremely hard to make sure that our rationales are meaty and that they give you the right and the wrong answers. Example: “You picked A. But that is wrong because… And B is the right answer… due to…” We want to make sure you see the whole picture. So we’re very proud of the rationales that come with our practice exams. And thankfully we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that we do this very well.

So again: get practice exams where ever you can get your hands on them. But if you’re one of our students and you go through our Proven Process we’re going to make sure you have a lot of practice exams. You want to be getting 80-85% on these practice exams before you sit for the exam. That’s part of our Proven Process as well.

So. We help you become educated in what you need to know to take the credential. We also give you a coach and hold your hand through the process if you need it. Now mind you- we’ve got students that do it all on their own. They don’t need a lot of help. And we have students that have a lot of questions. It doesn’t matter whether you have no experience in the medical field or you have a lot of medical experience and you’re a clinician already. An RN, LPN or maybe in the therapies or an M.A. Again it doesn’t matter because all of our Proven Process works globally for each of you.

Step 4: Take and Pass the Exam

Next, after step 3 you are finally ready to sit for that exam. You’ve gone through every one of the steps. You’re going to be nervous, because again- this is a big deal. This is not an easy exam and if anybody tells you it is they are not telling you the truth. It’s intimidating. But you’re going in with open eyes. You know what to expect. And you’ve got the training behind you that you can sit down with confidence and tackle that. The goal is to pass the first time. So we want you to take and pass the exam.

Post Certification: Continue Professional Development with CEU’s

We want you also to maintain your knowledge and that is part of our Step for the Proven Process. You’ve passed that exam and now you need to maintain CEU’s. CEU stands for Continuing Education Units that all professionals have to have. Whether you’re a schoolteacher, or a Firefighter. Whether you’re a Judge, a Lawyer or a Doctor… it doesn’t matter. If you’re a professional, you have to maintain something called CEU’s. And we have polished and perfected our CEUs. We have over 100 CEU’s in our CCO Club that goes along with our students as part of our Proven Process. So we want to educate you- we want to get you ready to take the exam. We want to have you take the exam and pass. Then we want you coming back to us to maintain your knowledge of what you need to know to get to the next level. To master medical coding. Maybe you also want to jump into another niche area like cardiology, oncology or something like that. You can do that through these CEU’s.

You may want to just pick up a couple of CEU’s and say “is cardiology what I want to try? Grab a couple CEU’s and watch a couple excellent video lectures that’s applicable to the subject. Not dull. Exciting and relevant to what you’re working in. Take a quick quiz at the end. Capture those CEU’s and you can say “Yes. Cardiology is exciting. That’s what I want to get some more education in and pick up a credential in that.”

So moving on with that. The last thing we do in our Proven Process is we include video lectures all the time. We have several a week that we do. A lot of these are free to the public. You’ll see them on our Facebook page and on our YouTube channel. And please “like and Subscribe” those channels that way you’ll know about what’s happening.

But we also have a monthly CCO QandA Webinar where people have sent in questions that they have that’s relevant to their working environment as well as new students. People that are just interested in the coding world. And we answer those questions live for you. We bring up an answer sheet so that you can go back and reference it. Then we transcribe that and we send that to you. Not only is that worth CEU’s, but it’s a great way to get questions answered that you might have.

Above and beyond all of this. We have a way for you to check in with us and ask your questions. Call us and set up an appointment. If this is something you think you’re interested you can use this number that you’re seeing on the screen. Call and set up an appointment with myself or one of the other CCO members. We will answer your questions or you can send an email to and they’ll make sure that you talk to the right person.

Let’s find out where you are on this journey. If you have no medical experience then what do you need to need to get started? If you’re already a coder and you want a specialty credential we can help you with that. Or maybe you’re a clinician you’re just tired of being on your feet anymore and you want to start working remotely so that you can do some traveling with your spouse. Then again we’re here to help and we’ll be able to help you with the CCO Proven Process that CCO has come up with that has been shown to work for people in all areas of medical coding.

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