How to Prepare for CPC Exam Day

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Laureen: And, we’re going to talk about exam day. This comes up a lot, you know. What should I bring? Should I cram the night before? You know, what do I do the night before? They just feel like they’ve done all this prep, they’ve done our CCO Proven Process, which is take a full medical coding course, do the CPC Review Blitz, apply the BHAT® technique to your books, and do timed practice exams. If you do all of those things, you’re ready for exam day.

But now, let’s talk about some of the other things. Specifically, how to prepare for CPC exam day.

Drive By The CPC Exam Site

One thing that I recommend that people do is do a drive-by. You know, go to the exam site, see how long it takes you to get there especially if it’s not like around the corner, know where to park. If it’s in a medical facility, sometimes it’s in these rooms that are like really hard to get to. So, you know, reach out to the proctor, send them an email, say, “Is there anything unique I need to know when I get to the main door to get to the exam room?” And they might give you some tips or you can ask them, say, “Will it be well signed?” like you know, will there be signs that say, ‘AAPC exam this way’ kind of thing because that will ease a lot of your anxiety. And, plan to be there early like at least 30 minutes early. It’s much better to sit there and have 30 minutes to just kind of calm yourself, take in the environment and get yourself ready instead of rushing, you know.

Any comments in that area?

Alicia:   I agree. I think it’s very important to find out where you’re going to test especially if you’re going to be traveling a little bit. This time of year, it’s a busy test season and some people find that they have to go a little farther than they expected to sit for that exam.

Networking, Positive Thoughts and Rest

Here’s another tip I would give you when you want to prepare for CPC exam day, above and beyond what we’ve said in our CPC Blitz Review because it has a large section of testing tips. When you sit down and you’ve got everything organized, you signed in, you give in your ID and everything, take some time to network a little bit with the other people.

Find out what they’re testing for. I’ve made some really good friends that are testing. It’s going to help you calm down, but it’s also going to actually kind of help them without knowing it. You don’t need to just sit there and stiff like a board thing “I can do this, I can do this.” You’ve already done all that, you know, there’s nothing else you can do. So take the opportunity to network. If you have business cards, pass them out. Let them know where your local chapter is. And I think that will make you go into the test with a positive attitude meeting new people.

Laureen: Yes, and that’s key. I mean, they’ve proven it. It’s the same with surgeries. You know, if you visualize a positive outcome, you’re more likely to have one than if you’re fretting and “oh, what’s going to happen if I don’t pass?” and all that negative energy and self-fulfilling prophecy stuff, you know. There’s some truth to that.

As far as what to do the day before, get good rest. No, I would not recommend cramming the night before. If you’ve done your last timed practice exam and you scored over an 85 percent and it was a timed practice exam, then you’re ready. You’re ready.

Alicia: That’s right.

Prepare Your CPC Exam ‘To-Go’ Bag The Night Before

Laureen: I would make sure that you have all of your manuals and your pencils and your snacks in your bag by the door, ready to go, so that there’s no rushing around trying to get everything you need and you forget something critical. Dress in layers, you know, so make sure you have a sweater packed. Some of those rooms with air conditioning if you’re in a warmer area like Florida or whatever, in Texas, it’s freezing. And then if you’re in a colder area where they have the heat cranked, then you’re hot. So, you know, dress in layers so you can add or take off as necessary.

Alicia:   Another reason to get there early, too, because you can find a place to sit that’s most comfortable. You’re not under the air vent.

Laureen: Yes, yeah. As far as snacks – this comes up a lot too – you want to be mindful or your neighbor. You’re allowed to eat snacks during the exam. You can take two breaks. But, you don’t get that time back. That’s why they changed the exam from 5 hours to 5 hours and 40 minutes.

How to Prepare for CPC Exam DayIt’s your time to manage how you see fit. So, you know, I wouldn’t plan on drinking 2 liters of water while you’re in there, so you have to keep running to the bathroom. But, I would bring water and I think cheese sticks are a really good snack. They’re quiet, they’re soft, they give you that protein that you need or maybe some almonds, something like that, trail mix kind of thing. But you don’t want to have something like potato chips and you’re crinkling the bag and crunch, crunch, crunch. You know, that wouldn’t be good for your neighbor. And I don’t think it’s the greatest brain food myself but…

Alicia:   I have noticed that about halfway through the test, you’re sitting in one spot for 5 hours, and about halfway you can almost feel yourself melting. You’re so excited when you open up that test booklet, you break the seal and you look at the first question and you’re doing your questions. But then, you get to where I noticed my mentality changes and I get frustrated, it’s like, “Why am I doing this to myself again? Why am I sitting for another exam? I can’t believe…” you know. And then I realize, “Hey, wait a minute, something’s changed. I need some protein.” So, I do. Cheese sticks are amazing. I’ve seen people bring even carrot sticks. You can eat carrot sticks and not eat them loudly. Celery is probably not the best thing. But, you know, high protein with a little carb, even if you need energy bars or something. Make sure you open the packages before you start, then you don’t have to worry about that crinkling noise, you know.

Laureen: Nothing with a strong odor, that’s going to affect other people.

Alicia:   Oh yeah. Well, don’t be getting some fancy cheese or anything. Those little cheese wedges that come with the little red wrap, that could be something good too, you know.

Laureen: Yes, those are all perfect.

Alicia: But again, you will feel, you know, I think your sugar kind of drops. Bring that back up. And I wanted to say something about the bag, too. Think of it as for us who are mothers and you get ready for that day before you know you’re going to go in and have the baby, right? You get that bag ready before you’d leave.

Laureen: Right. To-go bag.

Alicia:   Your to-go bag either the night before or first thing in the morning, and set it off to the side so that you are telling yourself “I’m ready to go, I’m all prepared, but I’m not going to think about it.” Your to-go bag is essential when you want to prepare for CPC exam day.

Mentally Prepare For The CPC Exam the Night Before

And they have said, studies have shown that laughter and getting oxygen in your body is really good for those brain cells. So, go out and have a good walk. Go to the mall or walk on your treadmill. Watch a funny movie the night before. Just completely take your mind off of the testing. And I think that will be a positive thing for you.

I also was thinking about networking too when Laureen was talking and I mentioned the networking. You know, the coding field, they’re a pretty tight-knit group. And we’re really not in competition with each other like some career paths, right? There’s plenty of coding jobs to go around. But, networking. These people that you’re testing with, you want to get to know them because they may be your peers, they may know about a position in the future. If they know you sat for a specific exam, you know, “Oh, you sat for the OB-GYN. Dr. Phil Good is looking for somebody in his…” you know. So always network wherever you go, and that’s important as well.

Laureen: Definitely. And as far as the night before, no, don’t cram, but what I do recommend is have a visualization of passing the exam. Visualize logging in, and seeing your name, comma, CPC or CPC-A because it’s like it’s already happened and now you just have to go through the steps to fulfill it. But, also visualize what you practice how to take the exam, doing the one hour per column method that we teach on the Blitz Review. The skipping, the art of skipping, go through it in your head, rehearse it in your head. So you’re not cramming, you’re not getting out content in doing that but you’re just mentally rehearsing it, and you’ve heard of that with athletes who rehearse the pole vault or whatever their athletic thing is. They rehearse it in their mind to where they’re almost training their muscles; when they go to do it, it happens. So, do the same thing. That would be a worthwhile exercise and relax, watch a funny movie like Alicia said. And then get up early and don’t view it was the end of the world. Don’t view it as “oh, this is the exam” and build it up so big. Put it in perspective.

And someone that used to work with us would say, “You know, we’re not curing cancer here. It’s an exam.” Let’s keep it in perspective so that it doesn’t have this power over us. If you pass, wonderful. Then, what’s next? And if not, then you need to do a little more work, and that’s okay. Many people have been there before.

Alicia: A lot of people have test anxiety and one of the brilliant things the AAPC has done is allow you to take the test twice for the one fee. And again, this is a hard exam, you know, nobody is going to debate that. But, you have that security knowing “I got to get one under my belt. Now I know what to expect.” And you can do what Laureen said. You can visualize. I sat down, I broke the seal, you know, I looked at the first question and, you know, I didn’t have an anxiety attack. So again, that’s very important. It’s an adventure. You’re starting your new adventure by sitting down for that exam.

The “How to Prepare for Exam Day” video segment originally aired on Live with Laureen #009.

List of CPC Exam Resources

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