Frequently Asked Questions

An unencumbered license is not currently being subjected to formal discipline by any state board of nursing and has no provisions or conditions that limit the nurse's practice in any way. Candidates and ONCC-certified nurses must notify ONCC in writing within 30 days if any restriction of any kind is placed on their RN license (including APRN license). Failure to notify ONCC may result in sanctions.

Continuing Medical Education (CME) is a form of continuing education created for physicians, although it can be completed by anyone in the medical field. Continuing Nursing Education (CNE) was created specifically for nurses. CNE and CME must be accredited to be accepted by ONCC.

Please note that for meeting the eligibility criteria for initial certification, a maximum of 50% of the 10 required CE contact hours may be CME. There is no limit on CNE.

For renewal purposes, CNE and CME are interchangeable and nurses may use either type. One contact hour of CNE is equal to one renewal point; one hour of CME is equal to one renewal point.

Yes, but only if the tumor board has been approved or accredited for CNE or CME. Not all institutions apply for approval of their tumor board meetings. All CE must be approved by an accrediting body or provided by an accredited provider. Most tumor boards are Continuing Medical Education (CME). For initial certification, candidates may use up to 50% (5 points) of CME.

The Authorization to Test is sent via email from ONCC, within 4 weeks of application if you are eligible to test. Please be sure to check your junk or spam folder, as the email will come from ONCC@oncc.org with a subject line of “ONCC Authorization to Test.”

Candidates are required to show two forms of acceptable identification, including one form of photo ID. Both forms of ID must contain the candidate’s signature, and be current, valid, and non-expired. The name on both forms of ID must match the name on the Authorization to Test (ATT).

Candidates will not be admitted to the test without proper ID. Candidates who are not permitted to test due to invalid ID will forfeit their test fee, and must reapply and pay the full test fee in order to test during a subsequent interval.

Acceptable Identification for Admission to an ONCC Test

A Testing Window Transfer Request Form must be completed and submitted to ONCC with $100 payment before the expiration date of the current Authorization To Test (ATT). Candidates who have scheduled a test must cancel the appointment by contacting Prometric at least two business days prior to the appointment start time. Transfers will not be granted to candidates who do not cancel their testing appointment at least 48 hours in advance. Failure to cancel an appointment will result in forfeiture of all test fees paid. Transfers are granted one time only, and the test must be taken within the ensuing 12 months. Once a transfer is granted, no refunds will be issued, and all test fees will be forfeited if the test is not taken within 12 months.

Test candidates may request a refund of all but $100 (processing fee) of the test fee prior to the expiration of their ATT. A written request must be received by ONCC prior to the expiration of the ATT and include the candidate's name, address, and test date. Refund requests received after the expiration of the ATT will not be granted. Candidates who have scheduled a test must cancel the appointment by contacting Prometric at least two business days prior to the appointment start time. Candidates who do not cancel a scheduled test appointment will forfeit their test fee and will not receive a refund.

Test candidates may request a refund of all but $100 (processing fee) of the test fee prior to the expiration of their ATT. A written request must be received by ONCC prior to the expiration of the ATT and include the candidate's name, address and test date. Refund requests received after the expiration of the ATT will not be granted. Candidates who request a refund also must cancel their test appointment at least 2 days before the test appointment. See the ONCC Test Candidate Handbook for information on how to cancel a test appointment. Candidates who do not cancel a scheduled test appointment will forfeit their test fee and will not receive a refund.

Test candidates may request a one-time transfer before the expiration of their ATT to a test date that falls within the next 12 months. A Transfer Request Form must be submitted to ONCC before the expiration of the ATT, along with a $100 transfer fee. Candidates who are granted a transfer must:

  • test within the next 12 months.
  • cancel a scheduled test appointment at least 24 hours (one business day) before the appointment.

Candidates who do not cancel a scheduled appointment will not be granted a transfer, will be charged the full test fee, and must pay another test fee in order to test at a later date. Renewal candidates who apply to renew by testing and subsequently transfer to a test date that falls after the expiration of their credential must meet all eligibility criteria for initial certification.

Oncology nursing experience may be in clinical practice, education, administration, research or consultation. The role must require that it be filled only by an RN to qualify as nursing practice. Hours or months worked in positions that can be filled by non-nurses will not qualify as nursing practice. (Learn why the ONCC Board of Directors has clarified nursing practice for the purpose of certification and recertification.)

ONCC may request a candidate submit a current job description from the institution(s) at which the candidate is employed. The job description must be an official position description, not a job posting. It must include the company name/logo, job title, primary duties and responsibilities, and job specifications such as the education, skills and qualifications required for the position.

Nursing certification is a process to validate a registered nurse's qualification and knowledge of a specific area of nursing. To become certified, a nurse must meet minimal competency standards, as set by the agency that grants the certification. One purpose of nursing certification is to promote public safety. Certification assures the public that a certified nurse has completed all criteria required for a specific credential. Another purpose of certification is to promote the development of specialty areas of nursing by establishing minimal competency standards and recognizing those who have met those standards.

ONCC offers six certification examinations:

  1. OCN® (Oncology Certified Nurse)
  2. CPHON® Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse)
  3. CBCN® (Certified Breast Care Nurse)
  4. AOCNP® (Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner)
  5. AOCNS® (Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist)
  6. BMTCN® (Blood and Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse)

In addition, ONCC offers renewal of AOCN® (Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse) certification and CPON® (Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse) certification to nurses who currently hold the credential.

The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) recognizes the benefits of certification to patients and the public. ONS encourages oncology nurses to become certified. Read the ONS position on oncology certification of nurses.

In addition to certification programs, there are assessment-based certificate programs and continuing education programs. It is important for nurses to understand what each of these programs represents. The Institute for Credentialing Excellence has defined the differences between these types of programs.

The term "certification" doesn't mean the same thing to everyone. “Certification” programs offered by different providers may not represent the same level of achievement. For example, some providers label continuing education (CE) programs as "certification." They tell participants they may call themselves "certified" upon completing the program. Nurses who have passed a comprehensive, broad-based certification examination, such as the OCN® test, know that completing a weekend CE program does not represent the same level of achievement. Nurses, as consumers, need to understand what each type of program represents in order to make wise decisions about programs. Nurses often spend their own money to become certified or attend CE programs. Employers also pay for these programs. Both nurses and employers should assess programs so that they understand what the program provides. Nurses and employers should not misrepresent themselves or those they employ as "certified" when they are not. Read full article.

The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) recognizes the benefits of certification to patients and the public. ONS encourages oncology nurses to become certified. Read the ONS position on oncology certification of nurses.

In addition to certification programs, there are assessment-based certificate programs and continuing education programs. It is important for nurses to understand what each of these programs represents. The Institute for Credentialing Excellence has defined the differences between these types of programs.

No, ONCC does not provide study materials for certification tests. However, a Test Blueprint (content outline) and Test References are posted on the ONCC website for each credential. The Test Blueprint describes the content areas of each test and how they are weighted. Candidates should consult the blueprint to determine where to focus their preparation. The Test References are the resources that were used to reference the test items, to ensure they are current and up to date. It is recommended to study from the resources on the Test Reference List. Candidates may also be interested in review courses to prepare for testing.

No. ONCC cannot release test items or correct answers because those items could then no longer be used on future tests. ONCC maintains a large bank of test items for each certification program, and new items are written often. However, it would be cost prohibitive to develop a new set of items for each test form that is administered. Candidates will receive a score report that indicates their performance in each of the test subject areas. This is shown by a bar graph that indicates the percentage of items the candidates answered correctly in each of the content areas of the test. The score report will not include numeric scores or percentages. Candidates are encouraged to use the performance indicators to identify subject areas where further study or professional development may be needed.

ONCC tests are scored using a scaled score. A scaled score is not a percentage score; it is a transformation of a raw score (number of items answered correctly) into a different unit of measurement. Two well-known tests administered in the United States that report scores as scaled scores are the ACT and SAT. A scaled score of 55 is the passing score for all ONCC tests. The 55 equates to different raw scores on various forms on the test depending on the difficulty of the form. Read more information on passing scores here.

Yes, ONCC will mail a congratulations packet to your home address including your certificate, wallet card, information about your certification maintenance and renewal, and other relevant information. You should receive your packet 4 – 6 weeks after passing the test.

Candidates who fail an ONCC test for a first or second time may apply to retake the test immediately following their 90-day window with no waiting period. Candidates who do not pass the test after three attempts are required to wait a minimum of one year before retaking the test. Candidates who fail the test on subsequent attempts must wait one year before retaking the test. If the three failures occurred over a period of more than three years, the candidate may retake the test without waiting a minimum of one year. Candidates must submit an application and test fee for each test, Candidates may not take the same certification test more than one time during a 90-day testing period.

Yes, the ONCC Certification Programs Managers are available to assist candidates with understanding their score reports and preparing to take the test again. Please contact ONCC Customer Service at oncc@oncc.org or 412-859-6104.

Certified Nurses By the Numbers
October 2017

OCN®31,316
AOCN®718
CPON®985
AOCNP®1,478
AOCNS®452
CBCN®953
CPHON®2,194
BMTCN®1,395

The ILNA method will make the recertification process more meaningful for nurses. The oncology certified nurse will concentrate on specific areas to improve his/her competency. He or she will not need to spend extra hours completing CE or other professional development that isn’t needed, just to meet a specific number of points. Much of the impetus to develop more meaningful methods of ensuring continuing competence among healthcare professionals has come from healthcare consumers.

ONCC will notify you when you are eligible to take the assessment. In most cases, shortly after you renew your current certification by Option 1 (Professional Development Points) you’ll be notified that you’re eligible to take the assessment and begin preparing for your next renewal. The earlier you take the assessment, the more time you will have to complete the requirements. You cannot earn points for renewal until after you take the assessment. (Note: AOCN® and CPON® candidates do not take the assessment.)

There is no fee to take the assessment. You can take it at home or work, at any computer with a stable internet connection. You can access the assessment after you receive login information from ONCC. The earlier you take the assessment, the longer you will have to earn points for renewal.


It will take about two hours to complete the assessment. It must be completed in one sitting. For security purposes you may not exit the assessment and return to it later. Take the assessment alone, not with nurse colleagues. The assessment will begin with a brief survey, followed by a short tutorial on how to use the assessment’s navigation features. The learning needs assessment will include approximately 100 items, based on the current test content outline (test blueprint).


Your assessment results will include a diagnostic report of your knowledge strengths and weaknesses. These results are your learning plan for certification renewal. You will not receive a score or pass/fail results. The assessment results are confidential. They will been seen only by the candidate and ONCC. A candidate may renew certification regardless of how she/he performs on the assessment.

If you don’t take the assessment you may renew by submitting a minimum of 100 ILNA points that exactly match the weighting of the respective test content outline (test blueprint) categories, or by successfully retesting. By taking the assessment, you’ll likely need fewer points for renewal.

You can earn points immediately after passing a certification test or completing the assessment. If it’s your first renewal after passing a test, your test score report will identify your learning needs and the points needed for renewal.

If you take the learning needs assessment, you can earn points after you take the assessment. It’s to your advantage to take the assessment as early as possible in your certification cycle, to provide plenty of time to earn the required points.

You can record your points on your Learning Plan, on a system called LearningBuilder. You’ll have access to LearningBuilder a few weeks after passing a test or taking the learning needs assessment. ONCC will notify you when you can access your Learning Plan. You can log in using your ONCC/ONS Profile username and password.

Yes. Continuing Nursing Education (CNE) must be approved for contact hours by an accredited provider or approver of nursing continuing education. You can find a list of acceptable approval bodies at www.oncc.org/content/continuing-education. Continuing Medical Education (CME) also must be accredited.

Often, the title of the program is a recognizable match with a subject area. If not, look for words or concepts in the program description or content outline. Each test content outline (test blueprint) contains sub-content areas that can help you identify whether a program fits the subject area. You can find the current test blueprints here. Keep the program descriptions/outlines of any programs you complete for ILNA points, in the event there are questions about the program content. You can also contact ONCC to inquire about the applicability of a specific program if you have questions.

You can earn ILNA points by completing your choice of Continuing Nursing Education, Continuing Medical Education, Academic Education, Publications, and Presentations. You are not required to complete a specific type of activity to earn your points.

The points you will need for renewal will be identified on your learning plan in LearningBuilder. You may also contact ONCC for this information.

You will submit your ILNA points by completing your Learning Plan. After you have entered the minimum number of points required, you’ll be able to electronically submit your plan to ONCC. It’s a good idea to enter points as you earn them, and submit the plan between January 1 - September 15 in the year renewal is due. You should retain or upload copies of CE certificates and other forms of documentation (e.g., grade reports, copies of publications, program descriptions/outlines), in the event they are requested by ONCC for an audit or clarification.

If you’re uncertain whether your activities will be accepted for ILNA points you may submit more than the required number of points. In addition, if you submit your renewal application and learning plan well before the application deadline date, you will have time to submit or earn additional points. You may also contact ONCC to verify the applicability of specific activities for ILNA points.

ONCC sends certified nurses reminders and other communications via mail, email, and phone. It is important to keep your current contact information in your ONCC profile at all times.

If you have unsubscribed from bulk emails, or use a workplace email address you may not receive email messages as intended. Please use a personal email address, or request your employer not block ONCC emails. Also, be sure to check your spam or junk mail folders regularly for communications from ONCC.

To find out how to resubscribe to national emails, visit the Manage Your Email Subscriptions page.

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