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4 Tips to Successfully Pass the ANCC or AANP FNP Board Exam in 2023

Being a Family Nurse Practitioner can take your healthcare career in a lot of impactful directions. Focusing on children and adults, making preventative care and wellness your priority, working with underserved populations, and even having your own practice are all possible with your new career. But, before you can practice, you need to pass the FNP board exam.

Step one, let’s choose the FNP exam you’d like to take.

You’ve made it! You accessed all the top nurse practitioner student resources. You used the best tools for nurse practitioner students. You mastered your nurse practitioner coursework. You aced the NP school exams. You impressed your instructors with your clinical knowledge and bedside manner. So, what’s one more little test? Kidding! We know the FNP board exam – whether you’re taking the exam for the ANCC Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC™) certification or AANP Family Nurse Practitioner certification – is a big deal. That’s why we’re here to help. 

You’ve got the passion, education, drive, vision, and skills to help patients. Teaming up with Picmonic for Nurse Practitioners will ensure you do well on the board exam standing between you and your dream career.

Organizations Offering FNP Certification

First, a reminder, two governing bodies offer the FNP certification for nurse practitioners looking to practice — the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) Certification Board and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). The AANP is a national membership-based organization led solely by NPs whose mission is to empower all NPs to advance accessible, person-centered, equitable, high-quality health care for diverse communities through practice, education, advocacy, research and leadership. The ANCC is an independent, non-profit certifying body whose purpose stated on their website is to provide a valid and reliable program for the evaluation of individuals wishing to enter, continue, and/or advance in the NP profession through the certification process.

The AANP exam is newer and was considered by many to be easier due to a higher passing percentage in the past, as such the ANCC exam being older was considered by some to be the better exam. Throughout the past few years, these previously (perhaps erroneous) preconceptions have been challenged, and now both are considered equally as prestigious leading recent nurse practitioner graduates to ask: 

Which FNP certification exam should I take?

The truth is, either the ANCC or the AANP FNP exams are widely accepted and weighted equally when hiring. There are slight differences between these exams including:

American Nurses
Credentialing Center

American Association
of Nurse Practitioners

Questions: 175 – 200 Questions: 150
Length: Approximately 4 hours Length: 3 hours
2021 Pass Rate: 87% 2021 Pass Rate: 84%

If you still want to know more about the ANCC and AANP? No worries, go ahead and dig into more of the format and content of each exam.

Tips for Passing the FNP

Okay, we promised tips for passing the FNP, but first, let’s get something out in the open. You are smart. You have studied for more hours than you can count. You’ve planned, practiced, and made lifelong friendships from study groups. We know you know a thing or two about taking and passing nursing exams. Now’s the time to give it all you have to pass the 2023 FNP exam.

1. Schedule your FNP exam studying

Schedule your FNP exam studying

Plan to start studying about six months before your FNP exam. This gives you time to plot a timeframe for different areas of the ANCC FNP Exam or the AANP FNP Exam, and also allows you to schedule time for the areas in which you need additional review. Don’t fret if your exam is sooner than six months, keep reading for great tips and we’ll get you there! The important thing is to take whatever time you have, and thoughtfully and realistically schedule your studying.

2. There’s no wrong way to study

There’s no wrong way to study

If it helps you learn, retain and actually use the information, how you learn doesn’t really matter. There are so many different studying formats for the FNP exam:

  • Elaborative interrogation – ask questions about the information such as, “Why?” “How do I know this is true?” “What makes this happen?”
  • Self-explanation – explain or teach the information to others
  • Studying before bed – research has shown your brain does some of its best work while you sleep and studying before falling asleep can help
  • Visual or Auditory learning – seeing or hearing the information to better comprehend and retain information, rather than reading it

No matter your FNP study method it’s important to forgive yourself for errors and learn from them. You will learn so much from mistakes and missteps, and when you learn how to work through them now, it will be a tremendous asset in your practice later.

Chances are, you may be a mix of different styles. Some days you may have great success studying one way, and another day, that method just isn’t working. Mix it up! Working with Picmonic’s Nurse Practitioner videos and spaced repetition quizzes can help prepare you regardless of your study format. Our research-proven mnemonic learning system helps you retain important course information by using auditory and visual reinforcement techniques. And you can access it day or night on your computer, tablet or phone; whenever you are ready to study.

Quiz → Learn → Repeat Method for FNP Exam Studying

If you’re looking for a more specific plan for studying for your FNP, consider the Quiz → Learn → Repeat study model offered by combining the Family Nurse Practitioner Question Bank powered by TrueLearn with Picmonic. Turn weak areas into strengths and quickly zero in on what you need to review

Using this method you’ll create a schedule to take the 1,800+ FNP-style questions included in TrueLearn’s FNP question bank. When remediating the questions you answered incorrectly — and correctly for that matter — you’ll receive detailed explanations guiding you to the most important Picmonics to master. These in-depth explanations reinforce learning points to strengthen your understanding. And, of course, don’t forget to repeat this process daily!

3. Practice, practice, practice!

empty chair

Practice exams take time and money, but there’s a reason you hear about them from everyone and every advice blog providing tips and techniques for successfully studying for the FNP (like this one); because they work! 

Practice exams give you the experience and confidence to approach each question efficiently. It will also help you build the stamina needed to complete the three- or four-hour exams. You can opt from full practice tests that, we’ve heard, can have some of the same questions as the exam. 

The important thing is to get in a lot of practice questions (see above for a method for incorporating a highly-effective question bank with Picmonic). 

Doing practice questions and exams will set expectations for the ANCC or AANP FNP exams, and will help you know which areas to spend more time studying. 

Bonus tip: Practice questions and exams are mapped to exam content so you’ll know what to expect. And, each organization offers an FNP blueprint, so you’ll know which are the highest-yield areas to study.

4. Be the boss on exam day

Be the boss on exam day

When the big day gets here, it’s only natural to be nervous, excited, anxious or have a little bit of an adrenaline rush. Stay as calm as possible. Take your time to read everything thoroughly. We mean it. If you are one of those people who get excited and rush through things (we are all “one of those people,” it’s okay), remind yourself to chill out! You’re in control, you’ve prepared for this day and you are going to do well.

If you used Picmonic you not only increased your retention by more than 300%, but you also joined the ranks of thousands of NP professionals who used Picmonic on their way to a successful career. 

The exam results are available immediately upon completing the exam. So after the celebration, you can get started making a difference in the health and wellness of countless people.

Bonus content: Ultimate Strategies for Dominating Nurse Practitioner Exams

Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and social media influencer, Jenean Sampson joined us to share her go-to strategies for studying for the PNP Exam. Sure, the PNP is not the FNP, we get that. However, Jenean discussed her go-to tools, tips for understanding material, must-do study habits, and why it’s never too early to start preparing for your board exam. And — in our humble opinions  — the techniques and methods she shared for one nurse practitioner exam are really applicable when prepping for your family nurse practitioner exam. You won’t regret watching this!

Frequently Asked Questions About the FNP Certification Exam

Is the FNP exam hard?

Becoming a Certified Nurse Practitioner isn’t easy, and yes, both the AANP and ANCC certification exams are challenging — very challenging. They will take a great deal of analytical thought, clinical judgement, and preparation. In 2021, the AANP exam pass rate for the Family Nurse Practioner (FNP) and Adult-Gerontology Primary Care NP (AGPCNP) exams was 84%. Similarly, for the 2021 FNP exam pass rate for ANCC certification was 87%.

How do I pass the FNP exam?

Passing the FNP exam will take a great amount of preparation, critical thinking, and a solid study plan. Successfully studying for the FNP should include Picmonic (of course), a question bank (we suggest TrueLearn’s FNP SmartBank), and taking several FNP practice exams.

What is a passing score for the FNP?

The passing score for the FNP certification exam depends on which credentialing body exam you take. Both of these exams are scored on a scaled score.

The ANCC Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC™) certification is a competency-based exam featuring 175 questions. After completing the ANCC FNP-BC™ exam your raw score — the number of test items you answered correctly —  is then converted to a scale score. The highest possible scale score on the ANCC is 500 with a passing scale score of 350 or higher.

The AANP Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam consists of 150 questions. Of those 150 questions, 15 are pretest questions not counted toward your final score. You’ll have three hours to complete the exam covering four domain areas including assessment, diagnosis, planning, and evaluation. The AANP-FNP exam is scored on a range of 200 to 800 and a passing score is 500.

What happens if you fail the FNP exam?

Each FNP exam, the AANP or ANCC, has rules for retaking. The ANCC can be taken a maximum of three times in a year with at least 60 days in between testing dates. In order to retake the AANP, the Certified Nurse Practitioner candidate must first take 15 contact hours of continuing education focused on the area(s) of weakness.

How many questions are on the FNP?

The ANCC Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC™) certification is a competency-based exam featuring 175 questions. The AANP Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam consists of 150 questions.

How long should I study for FNP boards?

In our opinion, studying for either the ANCC or AANP FNP board exam starts on day one of your nurse practitioner program. This being said, the ideal timeframe for dedicated FNP board exam prep is six months.

How many questions can you miss on the AANP exam and pass?

AANP Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam consists of 150 questions. Scoring works on a scale of 200 to 800 points with a minimum passing score of 500. Your score is neither a number or a percent correct score.

How many times can you take the FNP exam?

The ANCC Family Nurse Practitioner Certification (FNP-BC™) certification exam can be taken a maximum of three times in a year with at least 60 days in between testing dates. Candidates who don’t pass the AANP Family Nurse Practitioner certification exam must first take 15 contact hours of continuing education focused on the area(s) of weakness prior to retaking the test. AANP policy limits a candidate to two testing attempts per calendar year (January to December).

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