The CCS examination for medical coding certification consists of multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank questions that are based on medical terminology and coding examples and that include questions based on pharmacology (drugs and the conditions they’re prescribed to treat).

Prerequisites and more

If you want to take the CCS examination, you must have a very basic paper in hand: your high school diploma or an equivalent like the GED. Beyond that, AHIMA recommends (but doesn’t require) that you have a minimum of three years’ experience in a hospital setting coding for multiple types of inpatient and outpatient cases.

AHIMA recommends that you are proficient in anatomy, pharmacology, and the disease processes. You’ll also want to have a demonstrated proficiency in abstracting pertinent data from patient records. The CCS is able to assign procedure codes and the supporting diagnosis codes. Because of that, healthcare providers rely on competent coders to report data that is used for reimbursement.

Also, public health agencies and research organizations use data derived from your coding patterns to identify developing needs of the industry. So your coding has lasting effects that go well beyond reimbursement for the provider.

Test specs: Cost, format, and more

Here are the vital stats for the CCS:

  • Cost: Currently, the cost for CCS examinations is $299 for AHIMA members and $399 for non-members — which is why it pays to be a member of AHIMA before you sign up for the CCS test. Who wants to turn down $100 savings right off the bat?

  • Number and types of questions: The CCS exam consists of 81 multiple-choice questions. (Of these, 18 are considered “pre-test” questions. The pre-test questions aren’t counted in your score; they’re used to assess the usability of the test itself.) In addition to the multiple-choice questions, the test also includes a fill-in-the-blank portion that consists of medical record cases that you have to respond to.

  • Time: The test lasts 4 hours, with no breaks. So ease up on the coffee and be sure to make time for using the restroom before you go in the exam room!

  • Resources you can use during the test: During the test, you can use approved books (listed on the AHIMA website), but you can’t use any kind of coding software, so leave that at home. Other things not allowed: cellphones or other electronic devices, food or drinks, or purses.

  • ID: To get into the test, you need two forms of signed identification, at least one of which has a picture of you. Examples of acceptable IDs include a valid drivers’ license, military ID, passport, Social Security card, credit or debit card, and so on. Go the AHIMA website for more information on acceptable forms of ID.

  • Receiving scores: After you take the test, you have to wait until AHIMA releases your test results, and times may vary. You can contact AHIMA directly to get an approximate turnaround time. Contact information is available on the website.

If, for some reason, you don’t do as well as you’d hoped, you have to wait at least 91 days before you can apply for a re-test. The re-test requires another test fee, and you have to go through the whole application process again.