Study Tips

Review the current Certification Registration Manual, including the Test Content Outline (Test Blueprint) and Reference List.

Identify your learning needs.
Use the Test Content Outline to identify the subject areas on the test. Identify which subject areas are your strengths and weaknesses. Pay attention to how each area is weighted (the percentage of scored items from each subject area). If a subject area is weighted at 22%, multiply the number of scored items by .22 for the number of items in the subject.

Build a study plan.

  • Focus on the content that you are least familiar with or study each area based on its test weight. Become familiar with the generic names of drugs used in treatment. ONCC does not use brand names on tests.
  • Create a study schedule. Most candidates allow several months for test prep. Include time to obtain study materials. 
  • Consider individual study, a study partner, group study, review courses, etc. It may help to use multiple study methods. 

Collect your study materials.

Review the reference list for potential study materials. The test is not based on the content of any one book. You may want to use a general reference for overall study and supplement with references for your specific needs.

Investigate review courses.

  • Check with your local ONS/APHON chapter or local institutions for options, or look into online courses. 
  • ONCC does not conduct or recommend certification review courses.
  • Be cautious about courses or resources that imply knowledge of ONCC exam content. ONCC does not release test items, except for sample items published on the ONCC website or on ONCC Practice Tests.

Carry out your plan.

  • Pace yourself. 
  • Allow time for study sessions. Include a few breaks in your schedule.
  • Use study methods that have worked for you in the past, such as reciting or visualizing (Miller, 1993). Try taking notes, highlighting books, or preparing quiz cards. If you use practice tests, look for patterns in the items you answer incorrectly (Rollant, 1994). For example, if most of your incorrect answers are in one subject area, focus on that area. If most of the missed items are at the beginning or end of a practice test, try concentrating more intensely during those times. If you find you know the answers to the items you miss on practice tests, you may have a tendency to misread the questions or responses. Remember that practice items in review books and courses were written by the authors and may not represent ONCC exam content.

Reduce your anxiety.

  • Prepare a checklist of items to take to the test. Take two acceptable forms of identification (see your Authorization to Test), directions to the test site, etc. Review the instructions in your Authorization to Test. Allow time to arrive on schedule.
  • Finish studying before test day. Plan to relax and be well-rested on test day. A long study session can be counterproductive.
  • Make yourself comfortable on test day. No food or drink is allowed in the testing room. There are no breaks during the test. You may not leave the testing room without the supervisor's permission. You may not make up time lost if you leave the room. Dress comfortably. Do not bring study materials to the test site. Small lockers will be provided to secure valuables.

Test with confidence.

Your score is determined by the number of items you answer correctly. There is no penalty for incorrect answers. It is to your advantage to answer every item rather than leave it blank. If you're unsure of an answer, mark the answer you think is correct and flag the item for review. You can return to it later if time permits. The exam consists entirely of multiple-choice questions. Consider these tips for taking multiple choice tests (Rollant, 1994).

  • Look for words such as most, first, initially, immediately, usual. Look for absolutes such as always, never, every, none, all, all of the time. These words can help you choose the best answer.
  • Read the question systematically. Read the question first and think of the answer. Then read all of the responses.
  • Turn each multiple-choice option into a true/false statement. Use the process of elimination to select the optimal choice. 
  • Look for answer options that embody good nursing judgment and that enhance communication, respect, and acceptance of patients' feelings. Choose options that are correct in all respects and that relate to common needs or the population in general (Coleman, Stanley, Chenevey, Sullivan, and Cardin, 1988).
  • Do not change an answer unless you have misread the question or recall new information.
  • Pace yourself. Don't spend too much time on any one question. When you have answered all of the items review your test for incomplete items or those for review.

Results reports.

You will see your test results on-screen and receive an official results report at the test center. The report will include a graph that illustrates your performance in each subject area. The report will not include the number or percentage of items answered correctly. You will not see items you answered incorrectly (doing so would compromise test security).

References

American Nurses Credentialing Center. (1995). How to take an ANCC certification examination. (Publication No. AC-9 3M 8/94). Washington, DC: Author.

Coleman, B., Stanley, M., Chenevey, B., Sullivan, & Cardin, S. (1988). CCRN certification: Exclusive or expensive? Focus on Critical Care, 15(5), 23-27.

Miller, S.E. (1993). Tackling certification exams confidently. Nursing 93 Career Directory, 30-31.

Rollant, P.D. (1994). Acing multiple-choice tests. AJN Career Guide for 1994, 18-21, 36.

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