Reports From The Trenches: Taking The CPC Certification Exam For The First Time

One of my students (and this is pretty common) had a hard time finding the testing location and arrived a bit late for the exam and totally frazzled — not a good way to begin an intensive five hour and forty minute marathon.┬áSolution:┬áMake sure you get an early start and know exactly where you are going. Remember, your exam may be in another city or town so if possible, locate the exam location the night before and test drive the route to the site rather than depending on a map or GPS Security+ certification.

Another prospective CPC had a difficult time physically managing all three manuals (CPT, ICD and HCPCS) as her desk was very small (typical for CPC exams). She had to use a chair for her ICD-9 manual which she felt really slowed her down. Add to that, there was not a lot of space left over for her exam booklet and answer sheet. Solution: This is not something you can really control so practice at home using your manuals in a small area. Here’s another tip: place your ICD-9 manual under your CPT manual. You’ll use your CPT a lot more often than your ICD-9 on the exam but when you need your ICD-9, you’ll know exactly where it is. Another great idea to save space: mark all the answers in the exam booklet then transfer them to the bubble form toward the end of the exam.

Time management is very important when taking the CPC. It’s excellent advice to decide ahead of time how you are going to tackle the test. Most take the “easiest to hardest” approach, where they make a pass through the 150 questions, answering the easiest questions first (such as medical terminology, anatomy, HCPCS) then going back, making another pass, answering the second hardest questions next. However, another student told me that she could only answer the questions in order (1, 2, 3) marking each on the bubble form as she went and that worked best for her. Solution: decide on your approach and practice, practice, practice.

The final report from the trenches is the “freak out.” This student found himself getting frustrated early on in the exam due to not being prepared for the challenges mentioned above. He lost track of what question he was on (after looking up the codes and losing track of where he was in his exam booklet). Then he marked the wrong answer on the bubble sheet, probably numerous time and didn’t have the time to go back and double check. Solution: There is no better way to prevent the “freak out” than being prepared.

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