National Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam: What is the Best Way to Study?

Even if you have some time before you graduate from your nurse practitioner program, the national certification exam has probably crossed your mind. How should you study?  What is the most sure method of passing the exam?  Having taken the exam myself, I have experienced how anxiety-provoking the national certification experience can be.  Your ability to practice as an NP rides on your results therefore it is essential to prepare adequately, but how do you start?

Hands down, the best way to study for the nurse practitioner certification exam is to do practice questions.  In my attempt to study for the exam myself, I went back through text books, reviewed my old notes and also purchased a few books containing practice questions.  I found that my old notes and text books were unhelpful in my preparation.  They contained so much information that they caused my stress level to go through the roof.  I was so overwhelmed by the amount of information I was supposed to have learned and couldn’t remember that my study time was spent memorizing material that did not appear on the exam at all.

So, what helped me the most in my preparation?  Practice questions!  I would recommend this as the only necessary method of study for the AANP and ANCC certification exams. Somehow, authors of these study books have unbelievable insight as to what will appear on the exam.  In fact, many questions in my exam appeared almost exactly in my study books.  NP certification study books contain loads of practice questions prompting you to review the exact information you need.  Which books helped me the most?

I am a family nurse practitioner and therefore used study books geared toward this specialty.  My favorite NP certification study books include Margaret Fitzgerald’s Nurse Practitioner Certification Examination and Practice Preparation and Hollier and Wirfs’ Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Prep Exams.  Fitzgerald’s book contains case-studies, discussion and the all-important practice questions to effectively guide your study sessions.  If you are not studying for the FNP certification exam, the book is also offered for multiple other specialties.  Hollier and Wirf’s book is an excellent supplement as is provides hundreds of practice questions to get you up-to-speed.  Although I did not use Barkley and Associates’ materials to study for my exam, I have heard they offer excellent NP certification study materials as well.

If you are disciplined and will do practice questions and review on your own, I do not think it is necessary to attend a live review course.  I have heard many nurse practitioner students say that in live courses, instructors tell you what topics are most important to study for the exam, but you are still left review and learn the material on your own.  NP students often feel their time would have been better spent studying a review book rather than paying hundreds of dollars to attend a live review session.  My advice? Complete 20-50 practice questions each day depending on how much time you have before your exam.  When you get a question wrong, review the material you have learned covering that topic to familiarize yourself.  We look forward you officially joining the nurse practitioner community soon!

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If you are a nurse practitioner, do you have any advice for NP students on effective methods for certification review?

9 thoughts on “National Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam: What is the Best Way to Study?”

  1. Thank you very much for your kindness to put your time in helping other NPs to get certified. I agree with you the study approach by practicing questions!

  2. Great advice. I graduate next summer and I am about to start my clinical rotation in 4 months. Therefore, I want to start practicing review questions now in preparation for school exams and the certification exam. I’m fortunate to have the study materials mentioned above.

  3. Kanitra.clyburn

    Where can I find a book of questions for the pediatric nurse practitioner certification exam?

  4. Thanks so much for your comments. I have the Fitzgerald book you mentioned. I also have CDS and the prep book. The CDs and prep book have good info but essentially leave you on your own. I will concentrate on Fitzgerald. Thanks again for sharing with others who are anxious and need advice.

  5. I haven’t taken my certification yet, but I did take the Fitzgerald live review class. I felt that although the information and review book provided had lots of great information I did not leave the class feeling anymore prepared for the exam. Now i’m using the technique of doing practice questions and studying the rationales and looking up subjects that I need to brush up on. I also listen to the Barkley recording and I find that i’m starting to feel better about taking the test.

  6. I have heard from others who have just passed their certification exam and they said the Leik review book is great as well as doing online practice tests. Several said they used the online review courses (verses live) and were able to stop and resume as needed. I take mine in 3 month, so greatly appreciate all of the information provided from all of you! Thank you!

  7. Maria Leik Family Nurse Practitioner Intensive Review
    Had great questions and pearls on how to study. Example:Reading the last sentence of the question and then the answers. Very helpful. Great sections on stress relief. I studied Leik, Hollier and Barclay. I did not take any live classes. Lots of practice questions. Studied for about a month before my exam. Make sure to not study STRESSED.
    I passed on my first try.

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