How to Prepare for the CPC Exam for AAPC Medical Coding Certification

To ensure that you can perform all the necessary job requirements out in the medical coding field, the CPC certification examination itself tests for strength in all areas, including the following:

  • Anesthesia

  • Systems of the body

  • Radiology

  • Pathology and laboratory coding

  • Medicine, including injections, psychotherapy, and other office procedures, in addition to heart catheterizations and more

  • Evaluation and management service guidelines, including how to work with new patients, existing patients, consultations, and so on

  • Diagnosis coding

  • Medical terminology

  • HCPCS codes (which relate to implants, certain biologicals [drugs or vaccines], and other items used in patient care)

  • Coding guidelines, including bundling and modifier use

A reputable study program prepares you for all these areas so that you can both pass the test and perform well on the job.

To prepare for the exam, take advantage of resources offered by the AAPC. You can purchase CPC-specific study guides through the AAPC website.

The same people who made up the certification examinations prepare these simulated exams. So you’re getting the inside scoop on what to expect in the testing room when you take the sample tests from the AAPC. You can also sign up for an exam review class, sponsored by local AAPC chapters.

Prerequisites and more

Lucky for you, you don’t have to jump through a ton of prerequisite hoops before you sit down to take the CPC certification exam. The organization simply advises you to be academically prepared, but you aren’t required to show proof that you completed a program. Don’t interpret this to mean that you should just forego your education and walk in the testing room without any prior knowledge.

The level of prior experience you have when you take the exam affects the credential you earn. To earn the full CPC designation after passing the CPC examination, you must have experience in coding. If you don’t already have experience, you are eligible for only the apprentice level certification, the CPC-A.

Test specs: Cost, format, and more

Here is the vital info you need to know about the test that you’ll spend countless hours prepping for:

  • Cost: You may want to start saving your pennies now. The examination cost is $300, which is hardly insignificant, especially if you’re on a student budget. The good news is that, if you’re enrolled in AAPC accredited programs, you qualify for a discounted fee of $260. Students who fail the first test are allowed one retake at no additional cost.

  • Number and types of questions: The CPC examination consists of 150 multiple-choice questions.

  • Time: You are allowed 5 hours, 40 minutes to complete the test.

  • Resources you can use during the test: You are allowed to use approved coding manuals as long as the writing in them (that is, your chicken scratch in the margins) doesn’t contain notes such as word definitions and specialty advice from coding resources. Also, no papers can be taped or pasted inside them.

    The books you can use during the test are current year and/or previous year CPT books. You can use only the AMA standard or professional edition — not the expert edition — and no other publisher is allowed.

    You can also use officially published errata updates (which list errors in a book and furnish the appropriate revisions). As for ICD and HCPCS books, it’s your call: These books don’t have to be a particular edition or from a particular publisher.

  • ID: You need a government-issued photo ID.

  • Receiving scores: After you take the exam, the results are available at your own member area on the AAPC website between 5 to 7 days after the proctor receives them. Hardcopies of the scores are mailed within two weeks of receipt from the proctor. Unfortunately, you can’t get your results by phone.

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