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How to Prepare Your Resources for Medical Coding and Billing Certification Exams

As the time nears for your medical coding and billing certification examination, look through your ICD-9 and CPT books. Make sure you’re familiar with all the sections and highlight the areas you want to focus on. If you prefer, you can put identifying tabs on the book to help remember different sections.

Professionals don’t tab their books. Books with tabs imply a lack of experience and familiarity with the material. Tabs are fine for the test, but remove them after you clear that hurdle.

Here’s how to use these resources effectively:

  1. First look in the ICD-9 index to find the diagnosis; then go to that section of the book, called the tabular list, to identify the corresponding diagnosis code.

    Make sure that you don’t leave off a fourth or fifth digit. The ICD-9 book guides you to the correct diagnosis code but may not provide the complete diagnosis code. So don’t try to save time and code from the index. Always code from the tabular list.

  2. After you have the diagnosis code, refer to the CPT book for the procedural code(s).

    Determine which part of the body the procedure(s) involved; then refer to that section of the CPT book.

    The CPT book has an index, but it’s not particularly useful when you’re looking for procedures. For that reason, look directly in the appropriate section of the book to identify the code that reflects the procedures.

  3. Check to make sure that the diagnosis code supports medical necessity for the procedural code you’re submitting.

    For example, if you are reporting a hernia repair, make sure that the diagnosis is a hernia.

The test proctors examine all materials brought into the testing area. Make sure you haven’t written any notes in your books that will bar you from using them during the exam. Highlighted areas are acceptable, and personal notes may be okay; definitions of medical terms aren’t. If you’ve noted something like “measles, mumps, rubella” next to MMR vaccine, you’ll need to erase it or use a book the proctor provides.

Also forbidden are notes that involve information from sources other than the approved coding materials. (This is another reason to attend local chapter meetings. The examination proctors are normally chapter officers, and they’re more than happy to advise you with regard to the acceptability of your books.)

Here are some other things not allowed into the test areas: reference or study materials, post-it notes, loose-leaf paper notes, calculators, cell phones, or any materials that give you an unfair advantage.

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