Recently Passed ANCC Exam: How I Prepared

My experience of preparing and passing the ANCC exam. Students NP Students Article

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  • Specializes in Nurse Practitioner.
Recently Passed ANCC Exam: How I Prepared

I passed the ANCC exam last week and while I felt adequately prepared, I was not one of those individuals that was making an A on every practice exam, so I just wanted to share my experience in hopes that it will benefit others.

To start, it took 5 weeks from date of graduation to receive my authorization to test. The process of getting all required documents submitted and then verified by ANCC isn't quick. I signed up immediately after receiving the authorization email - the soonest date available was 6 days later. I chose to do it from home because the nearest Prometric testing center was 50 miles from my house. Initially I wanted to go into one of the centers because I feel that being in that environment allows me to be more focused than testing from home. That said, I did spend the last 2 years doing online tests from home so I was quite familiar with the home proctoring process.

The checkin process was very thorough. I had to scan the room, floor, ceiling, under my chair, and stand up and do a 360 on camera. After doing all of that, it was go time! My heart started pounding and the nerves kicked in as the first question popped up. I had heard from many people that the first 30 or so questions seem really hard, but you'd get settled in and get into the zone after that. I didn't personally experience this, I think that a mix of hard/easier questions were evenly scattered throughout the test. 

After the exam was over, I found out my result - PASS - within about 20 seconds. 

Now I'll go into what I did to prepare

I took the Fitzgerald (FHEA) online review

She is extremely thorough - almost too thorough, but there is a ton of useful knowledge and she is pretty much a FNP licensure guru. There are hours and hours of video lecture available, each video can be watched up to 4 times. I kept a spread sheet that I titled "Need to study" and I would put down what areas I felt weak in. After I watched every lecture one time, I went back and rewatched the areas that I had noted to be weak in another time. The program came with a spiral bound book that complements the lectures. To be honest, I had good intentions to use this, but I never did. 

There are practice questions that she goes over during each lecture, then you're tested on them after you complete that group of lectures for the particular topic. There is also a comprehensive exam at the end of the program (after each lecture has been watched), she states that if you can make a 70 on it then you're likely to pass, and if you can get about a 75 then your chances of passing are very high. I scored a 74. After reviewing the correct answers it was easy to see a few areas that I needed to beef up before taking the real licensure exam. 

I did this by purchasing her book - Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam Prep 6th edition. Again, very thorough - almost too thorough. But it has a ton of useful knowledge and hundreds of practice questions. I plan to keep the book to refer back to during during clinical practice. I read every chapter for the areas that I was weak in and took the applicable practice questions, then I really took my time to go over the rationales for all questions - even those that I got correct. 

Timeline to the exam: at this point in my studies I still hadn't gotten my authorization to test (so frustrating). About 1 week after putting a solid check beside each area on my list that needed extra time I finally got the email allowing me to sign up! This is when it finally felt real - I was about to take the test that I had spent over two years preparing for. With that said, I wanted to do all that I could to ensure success the first time.

I decided to do Hollier's (APEA) online FNP review course & clinical update

When looking at my choices on her website I was really wanting to do the live class, but it had a hefty price tag of $590. The prerecorded package was $375 and it is on demand, so this is what I decided to go with. It states that it is the exact information that's given in the live classes, just at your own pace. Her website was easier to navigate than Fitzgerald's, which was nice.

She too has an exam similar to that of Fitz. If you can make a 70 or above on the predictor exam then she states you have an excellent chance of success on the licensure exam. I chose to take the test before watching any lecture so that I could see where I stood in preparation at this point. Almost immediately I could tell that this exam was harder than the Fitz test. There were a few questions that I really had no clue about. I scored a 61. This is where the stress set in and I had a little bit of panic. What's different about her test is that it gives you a complete break down of weak areas and strong areas. This was incredibly useful for study focus. Several of the areas that I didn't do well in were not a surprise to me, but I also struggled in some areas that surprised me. So...It was time to really get to work!

Now is when I began viewing the on demand lectures. She was VERY to the point. Each lecture was about 20 min, compared to some that are 2.5 hours for Fitz. She gave the basic need to know information about a ton of topics rather than information overload. I will say, you need to have a solid understanding of the information if you're going this route. While her "get to the point" style of teaching was awesome, if you didn't already have a good body of knowledge then you won't be adequately prepared for the exam. Each of her lectures can be viewed twice before they're locked. She is very engaging and even entertaining, which made it much easier to keep on studying. I did the entire program in about 2.5 days - again I just wanted this to be a sort of crash course right before taking the exam. For the areas that I was struggling in, I watched each lecture twice. 

After intense review I was feeling good about my preparation.

At this point I was just two days from taking the exam. The day before the test I put in about 10 hours - I know they tell you not to do this, but let's be real, nerves and tensions were high. How was I supposed to just lay around and chill? Besides, my two toddlers don't allow me to just chill. That being said, this day wasn't as intense as the previous week or two. I put in a full day, but it was more laid back. The day of the test I was up and studying by 0700, again just casually. I decided to spend these hours on my weakest area - Derm. 

Leik FNP Certification Intensive Review

A book that I already owned but never opened until a few days before the exam is the Leik FNP Certification Intensive Review. This is another to the point and only needed information. Given that I was on a time crunch at this point, this book was awesome. I referred to it a lot when going over my weak areas. There are also hundreds of practice questions in the back.

Board Vitals

My school gave us free access to Board Vitals. I did practice questions most nights before bed. My wife would watch TV and I would do about 25 or so questions on my phone. I would take my time and read each rationale thoroughly. 

What I recommend

  • I do recommend the Fitzgerald review if you are adequately preparing for the exam and giving yourself plenty of time to study. I also recommend her book, even if you don't go through every chapter before the exam, it is a great resource for a new NP to be able to refer back to. 
  • The Leik book is great. I wish I would've opened it sooner than I did. 
  • Hollier's review is excellent. She's entertaining and easy to follow when you're tired of studying.
  • Please give yourself plenty of time to prepare.
  • Don't rush into the exam. 

How ready are you?

I think that the predictor exams are great, but DO NOT get caught up on your scores. Truly be honest with yourself. How ready are you? How thorough have your studies been? Use the tests as a diagnostic tool for areas that you're struggling. If I had allowed the APEA predictor score get in my head, I would have rescheduled my exam and I still wouldn't have taken it as of the time I'm writing this post. But I passed on my first attempt and I felt very good all the way through the test. There was only one question that I really didn't know about. Out of 175, I'm OK with that. Fitzgerald and Hollier will give you an excellent overview of the needed information. 

Good luck with your studies!

Please feel free to message with any questions. I would love to help. 

8 years of ICU nursing experience Recently passed ANCC exam

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Specializes in ICU, Triage, Home Health, primary care FNP.

Thank you so much for this article! This is just what I needed to read right now.  


1 Article; 3 Posts

Specializes in Nurse Practitioner.

Happy to help! Best of luck and let me know when you PASS!

Editorial Team / Admin


17 Articles; 44,720 Posts

Specializes in Education, FP, LNC, Forensics, ED, OB.

Congratulations on passing the ANCC, @tc3791.

And, thank you for this very helpful Article.


2 Posts

Specializes in Labor & Delivery.

Hello, thank you for your information. I’m currently doing the Fitzgerald online review course to take my ANCC exam. 
Are the normal lab values listed on the ANCC exam? I’ve been getting mixed information, I just want to confirm. Thanks so much!


1 Article; 3 Posts

Specializes in Nurse Practitioner.

On my exam it did list normal values. And the lab that the question was focused on was way out of range - they didn't give anything that was very close or questionable. 

Don't get caught up focusing on all the normal lab values. Have an understanding of what is and isn't normal and then spend your time on other areas that you're lacking. 

Good luck!

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