What’s the Difference Between the ANCC and PNCB Certification Exams?

After graduation, pediatric nurse practitioners have the option to earn certification from one of two governing boards: the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB) or the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The decision about which exam to take can be daunting. After all, NPs must be certified in order to land a first job. What exactly are the differences between the two tests for pediatric nurse practitioners?

While the PCNB and ANCC both offer certification exams for primary care PNPs, the PNCB is the only certifying body that offers certification for acute care PNPs. So, if you’re an acute care pediatric NP, there’s no decision to make – you will certify through the PNCB. In addition to this significant difference, there are several other considerations PNPs should make before choosing the test that’s best suited for their area of interest, experience and academic strengths, and not to mention, which test takers have a better chance at passing.

Since the PNCB is the only certifying board for acute care PNPs, we’ll be looking at the differences between the two primary care certification exams.

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The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP) publicly supports the PNCB. In fact, NAPNAP, together with the American Academy of Pediatrics, chartered the PNCB. The PNCB is also endorsed by the Association of Faculties of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.

The ANCC is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association. NAPNAP also recognizes the ANCC’s certification for PNPs. So, as far as official recognition of your status as a certified nurse practitioner, you’re OK to take either exam. 

The Credentials

PNPs who take the certification exam with the PNCB can earn the credential of Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner – Primary Care (CPNP-PC). PNPs who test with the ANCC are awarded the credential of Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner – Board Certified (PPCNP-BC). Essentially, these credentials affect only to letters behind your name. When it comes to seeing patients, there isn’t a difference in what is allowed with either credential. 

Eligibility Requirements & Application Process

Regarding eligibility to test and the application process, the only significant difference between the two exams is that the PNCB will allow candidates who have graduated from a formal dual primary/acute care program to sit for both the primary care PNP and acute care PNP exams.

Otherwise, both certifying bodies share the same eligibility requirements such as that applicants have an active RN license to test and hold a master’s, postgraduate or doctoral degree from a pediatric primary care NP program accredited by the ACEN or CCNE, as well has have completed a minimum of 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours in primary care pediatrics.

Test Length & Content

PNPs who wish to certify with the PCNB must take the CPNP-PC exam which consists of 150 scored questions and 25 pretest questions. The CPNP-PC exam content includes four areas of focus: health promotion, assessment and diagnosis, management and professional issues. PNPs have 3 hours to complete test.

The certification exam through the ANCC has 200 questions; 175 scored questions and 25 pretest questions. The test consists of three main categories: foundations for advanced practice, advanced professional practice and advanced clinical practice. Candidates have 3.5 hours to complete the PPCNP-BC exam.

Pass Rate

Perhaps one of the most significant considerations to make when pediatric nurse practitioners decide which exam to take is which test they’ll have a higher chance of passing the first time.

Here are the stats on the 2016 pass rates:

PCNB: 92% first time pass rate out of 1,030 test-takers

ANCC: 79% for first time pass rate out of 68 test-takers

Renewal Requirements

One of the most significant differences between the PNCB and the ANCC are the renewal requirements. Certification through the PNCB is only valid for one year. To maintain certification, pediatric NPs must pay $65 – $160 annually depending on the recertification option selected, and either complete 15 contact hours or a variety of other accepted equivalents such as academic credits, clinical practice, and lectures (just to name a few). CPNP- PCs must also complete 15 hours of pharmacology every 7 years in order to maintain their certification.

On the other hand, PNPs certified with the ANCC are not required to renew their certification nearly as often compared with the PNCB; only needing to do so every five years. Depending on their membership status with the ANA and ANCC, PPCNP-BCs must pay a renewal fee between $250 – $350  at the end of their fifth year of certification. They must also complete 75 hours of continuing education (of which 25 hours must be for pharmacotherapeutics) as well as at least one of eight renewal categories as specified in the renewal requirement handbook.

So which exam should PNPs take? Most PNP graduates do choose to certify with the PNCB. At the end of 2016, 14,753 nurses actively held the CPNP-PC credential, whereas only 2,861 nurses held the PPCNP-BC credential.

Which certification exam will you choose?



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