How to Study for Medical Coding and Billing Exams: Develop a Strategy

Your first reaction when you begin to study for a medical billing and coding exam is likely to be, “Where do I start? There is so much information!” True, you do need to know a lot. Here are some helpful study techniques and strategies that can help you retain important information:

  • Focus on the key ideas and concepts. How do you know what these are? Simply look over the review exercises at the end of a chapter or section before you begin reading. By looking at the review questions first, you’ll be more focused on the main ideas of the assignment as you read.

  • Use a ruler as you read. Doing so helps you read faster and stay focused. Plus, much of the material you’re studying may be completely foreign to you, which means you can easily skip lines without being aware that you’re doing so.

  • Rewrite the key ideas in your own words. If you understand the topic enough that you can explain it in your own words, you’re good to go.

  • Mark up your books. When you come to something important in the text, use a highlighter to make it stand out. Write notes in the margins to serve as reminders.

    Anatomy books are full of diagrams and illustrations. Pay special attention to how these relate to the text and make any notes that can help you remember.

    Although you can and should make notes in your coding books, keep in mind that books you use on your certification examinations can’t have definitions or notes that supplement other parts of the examination. For example, when you’re taking the medical terminology portion of the exam, your notes in the CPT or ICD books shouldn’t have terminology definitions.

  • Regularly review topics you studied previously. If you don’t have much time to devote to studying on a particular day, use what time you do have for review of past lessons. If you mark up your textbook as I suggest in the preceding bullet item, you don’t need to re-read the old chapters entirely; you can hit the highlights, literally!

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