How are Nurse Practitioner Certification Questions Made?

Certification is on the minds of soon to be nurse practitioner school grads. A spring graduation date means that now is the time to start studying for the dreaded boards. Piling additional certification study sessions on top of your already strapped schedule isn’t ideal. But, putting time and effort into preparing for the nurse practitioner certification exam is essential to securing employment after you graduate. 

One frustration of nurse practitioner students studying for the certification exam is that some questions don’t seem ‘fair’. The exam often includes theory based questions or questions about patient safety, topics that can be easy to neglect as you prepare for the test. To assuage any feelings of bias and give some background as to the basics of the test, it is helpful to understand how questions for the nurse practitioner certification exam are created. 

To start, certifying organizations base general test writing standards on those of outside organizations such as the American Educational Research Association and the American Psychological Association. They also collaborate with outside companies specializing in the creation of assessment and credentialing exams. Following guidelines of outside organizations and collaborating with testing companies helps make sure the exam is developed in a manner that accurately measures test takers’ abilities

Next, subject matter experts are identified and trained to map out test content as well as construct test questions. The ANCC, for example, uses a panel of experts to create a ‘blueprint’ for test content. Once the outline for the content of the exam is finalized, trained subject matter experts write the questions. These experts are nurses certified and experienced in the discipline for which they are creating test content. Certifying organizations take into account the experience, academic credentials and geographic location of these experts to create a well rounded exam.

Are You Ready to Thrive?

Learn more about our online residency program; we pair clinical and professional development to take advanced practice providers to the next level. Get More Info>>

Once questions are created, they undergo a lengthy review process. The AANP, for example, reviews each test item four times. Exam questions are scrutinized by nurse practitioner subject matter experts, by an outside agency for psychometric quality, by editorial staff for grammar, spelling, and usage, and by additional nurse practitioner content matter experts. Test questions are then pilot tested to confirm quality. 

Once a test question bank for the nurse practitioner certification exam has been created, the certifying body sets the minimum passing score. Passing the exam depends on the performance of each individual test taker. Test scores are not weighted or determined by looking at the group of test takers as a whole. 

What’s the bottom-line? You may feel that your nurse practitioner certification exam has thrown you for a loop. But, rest easy. These questions have been vetted by subject matter experts and reviewed by outside parties. The questions you feel were unfair or irrelevant may have been pilot questions not affecting towards your overall score. Completing practice questions is the best way to study for your nurse practitioner boards, so get a study plan in place and crack open those books…


You Might Also Like: The Emotional Stages of Life as a New Grad Nurse Practitioner


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share Post:

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Are you ready to Thrive?

Support + education for early career nurse practitioners.

Have you signed up for our newsletter?

Stay up to date with the latest advanced practice news!

Are you struggling as an early career NP or PA?

Learn more about ThriveAP, the program designed to boost primary care clinical knowledge.

Support and education for early career NPs & PAs

Download the ThriveAP info
packet for more information!

Are You Employed
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.