Common Mistakes to Avoid During Nurse Practitioner Board Exam Preparation

Getting board certified is an essential milestone in every Nurse Practitioner’s career, and preparing for it can be stressful. However, with the right study skills implemented, you can set yourself up for success and make sure that you pass the exam on your first try. In this article, we’ll go over some important tips to keep in mind when preparing for the Nurse Practitioner Board Exam.  

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What is the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) Board Exam like? 

The AANP certification examination is a three-hour exam with 150 questions. The questions are categorized consistent with the nursing process: assessment, diagnosis, planning, intervention, and evaluation. To pass the AANP certification exam, you need a score of at least 500 (ranging from 200-800). 

When should I take the Nurse Practitioner Board Exam? 

Of course, you want to give yourself enough time for a (well-deserved) break after finishing your graduate degree, plus enough time to study properly for the exam. That said, don’t wait too long to take the board exam after you finish school. That way, you’ll still have the information you learned at your fingertips. Make sure you research when the exams are available in your area and schedule it before you forget. Don’t put it off! 

How long should I study for the Nurse Practitioner Board Exam? 

Everyone will give you a different answer on this. How long people need to spend studying depends on the person. Not giving yourself enough study time is a common board exam prep mistake that you want to avoid. Take all the time you need. You don’t want to wait too long, but you don’t want to rush, so you must find the balance.  

Most students will want to study for at least a month, probably more likely two or three. It really depends on how long you’re able to study each day, as well as how well you know the material and take tests. If you can’t dedicate more than two hours a day, six days a week, you’ll want to study for at least three months.  

Study time also depends greatly on the person. Take a practice test first to figure out your areas of strengths and weaknesses and build a study calendar around that. If you know you’re not a great test taker—maybe you get nervous and go blank—give yourself extra time to take more practice tests and overcome this.  

Either way, what is most important is that you don’t put off all your studying for the NP Board Exam until the last minute. Studies have shown that this kind of studying is ineffective, so you’ll only make yourself miserable while failing to equip yourself for the test.  

It’s best for your brain to study consistently and in the same way that you will later use the knowledge. In other words, studying at a desk, in a quiet environment, for a couple of hours at a time, will mimic the test environment and prepare your brain for success in this environment. 

What is the best way to study for the Nurse Practitioner Board Exam? 

The single best way you can prepare yourself for the exam is by taking an NP exam prep class. There are a few reasons why classes are the best way to prepare for exams. Firstly, a class will organize the material for you and help you maintain a successful and structured study schedule. The other key benefit of a class is accountability. You can join a study group, find a study buddy, hire a tutor, or take a class to make sure you show up and put in time.  

One understandable but serious mistake is attempting to put together a study regimen on your own. The board exam covers a wide breadth of information, and it is very easy to miss something or underestimate how long it takes to focus on a subject. Working with a prep class saves you a ton of time figuring out the curriculum, and you’ll be guaranteed to have a solid plan with the best study materials. While classes and tutors do cost money, they save a lot of time and may save you the expense of taking the board exam multiple times.  

Should I take Nurse Practitioner Board Exam practice tests? 

Yes, absolutely. One common mistake many people make during board exam prep is trying to get away with only answering practice questions. While studying practice questions is helpful and important, you should not forgo taking a full-length practice test. This mistake will cost you one important factor: Stamina. The exam is long, and your brain will be fatigued.  

It is important to practice taking a full-length board exam so you know how to pace yourself and how to cope with anxiety and fatigue. Studying practice exams is also a great way to understand the exam’s structure, the different sections, and the various types of questions (multiple choice, case studies, etc.) that you will encounter on the exam. Make sure to take a full-length practice exam early in your study regimen so you can understand your weaknesses, including what sections take you too long and which ones will require extra study time. 

Related: Optimizing your NP Career (free with Passport Membership)! 

What should I do the night before the Nurse Practitioner Board Exam? 

The night before the board exam, you should relax! Marathoners don’t go for a jog the night before a big race. It’s time to let your body relax to be in the best shape for the exam tomorrow. Trust that all your hard work studying paid off, and let yourself have a fun, stress-free day. Plan for dealing with test anxiety, and make sure you eat and sleep well. Take care of yourself so you will be in the best possible condition to ace the exam. 

How hard is the Nurse Practitioner Board Exam? 

The AANP expects between 80 and 90 percent of test takers each year to pass the exam, but this number varies a lot depending on specialty. For example, in recent years, the Adult-Gerontology Primary Care exam has tended to have a lower pass rate than the general NP or Emergency NP specialty exams.  

What happens if I fail the Nurse Practitioner Board Exam? 

You won’t, but if you do, there’s no need to worry. There is not technically a grace period before you can retake the AANP Board Exam. However, there is a homework assignment. The AANP requires you to complete fifteen hours of continuing education credits before retaking the exam.  

The contact hours should be in the area or areas of weakness that are identified on the score report from your board exam. You can continue to study while completing these fifteen hours, and make sure the second time around is smooth sailing. 

Earn CE hours with our online course on Optimizing your NP Career (free with Passport Membership)! 

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