Facing Your Final Exam Fears

Coding and Billing6 Comments

Medical Coding & Billing Certification Exam | Preparing & Applying Updated January 9, 2017

Many students in medical coding schools fear the final exam because it’s far away and they cannot yet see themselves being successful to the point of finishing. Others are getting closer and are now starting to worry about whether or not they will pass, making all the money, time, and energy they have invested into the program worth it. Sometimes fear comes from the unknown, and therefore, we are here to answer your questions and provide you with information so you have no need to fear!

What’s on the final exam?

Objective Breakdown of the final Medical Coding & Billing Exam: 150 multiple choice questions, 50 questions from pre-coding modules (ie: Terminology, Anatomy, Pharmacology, etc). 5 ICD-10-CM guideline questions, 5 ICD-10-PCS Guideline questions, 10 CPT/HCPCS guideline questions, 15 ICD-10 Coding Scenarios, 15 ICD-10-PCS Coding Scenarios, 35 CPT/HCPCS Coding Scenarios.

I feel like I’m struggling in the practicum. Does this mean that I’m not going to do well on the final exam?

While the practicum is an important part of the learning process in your medical coding & billing training, and it is important to do well on the reports, it is not necessarily an indicator of how you’ll do on the final exam. Many students do better on the final exam because it is multiple choice rather than fill in the blank.
Understanding the sequence of codes and the corresponding guidelines is something that comes with practice. Do not give up because you are feeling discouraged; instead, know that the practicum is an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and improve along the way. If you are struggling on specific reports in the practicum, contact support by email at codingsupport@careerstep.com or by phone at 888-657-5752. We are happy to help you and offer additional advice, tips, and resources.

Once I’m ready, how do I request to take the final exam?

You can do so by completing the Final Exam Overview and Preparation Module of the program. There, you will find a request form you need to fill out and submit at least two business days in advance. If you meet the requirements for taking the final, you will be emailed a link to take the exam online on the date you scheduled.

How long do I have to complete the final exam?

Students have 48 hours (two full days) to complete the entire exam. Although it will not take the entire 48 hours to complete the exam (it typically takes an average of 6-7 hours), you may want the additional time to go over your answers before submitting the final.

Can I use my reference materials on the final exam?

You may use reference materials on the final exam, including your reference books or 3M, code books, the program, and the internet, but you may not use human resources (ie: Career Step Student Support, the forum, chat room, or friends/relatives).

What is a passing score on the final exam?

A score of 75% or above on the final exam is considered a passing score. Although the standard graduation range (85-89%) shows a good grasp of medical coding skills, a higher score on the final exam is an indicator that you will likely do better on pre-employment exams and the national certification exam. For that reason, if you pass the final in the standard graduation range, we recommend retaking the final until you score honors (90-100%).

If I do not pass the final, can I retake it?

Career Step students are afforded up to three opportunities to pass the final exam. You are required to wait two weeks after receiving a no pass to ensure you have time to study before retaking the exam. This two-week period will give you time to schedule a consultation, identify what areas you would like to improve, and practice, practice, practice. If you get a lower score on the retake, it does not count against you in any way, but it is a strong indicator that you need to spend some additional time reviewing and perfecting your skills.

Is there anything I should do to prepare for the final?

The Medical Coding & Billing program is designed to prepare you for the final exam. By reviewing the material you learned in the program you will be well prepared. It is helpful to let those around you know when you’re taking your final exam so you can have some alone time and avoid outside distractions.

Leave a comment below »

  1. Ashley Paugel January 09, 2014

    Are there inpatient coding scenarios on the final exam?

  2. Career Step January 13, 2014

    Hi Ashley,

    Yes, there are multiple choice inpatient coding scenarios and questions on the final exam.

    Best of luck!

  3. Julie Grant June 12, 2014

    How many practicum questions are there on exam?

  4. Career Step June 16, 2014

    Hi Julie,

    The Career Step final exam has 150 questions. 80 out of the 150 questions are coding scenarios. There are 20 or so questions on the guidelines, leaving 50 to cover the rest of the information in the other modules.

    Hope that helps and best of luck on your final!

  5. Rey Anne Banes September 16, 2014


    On the practicum part, Am I required to score 85% and higher on every scenarios? Or it’s ok to get lower than that.
    Will it affect my grades if so?


  6. Instructor Craig Laursen September 30, 2014

    Hi Rey Anne,

    You are NOT required to score an 85% on the practicum reports. Check out this blog on the practicum for more info.


    Keep up the good work!

  7. Kayla February 12, 2015

    Hi there. So i am getting ready to finish my course and take my exam. Everything is multiple choice?? There is no actual coding of reports?? Just trying to clarify so I can be prepared. Thank u!

  8. Career Step February 16, 2015

    Hi Kayla,

    There is a portion of multiple choice questions, but you will also be required to code reports. From the post above, the exam breaks down in this way…

    Objective Breakdown of the final Medical Coding & Billing Exam:
    - 150 multiple choice questions
    - 50 questions from pre-coding modules (ie: Terminology, Anatomy, Pharmacology, etc.)
    - 10 ICD-9 guideline questions
    - 10 CPT/HCPCS guideline questions
    - 40 ICD-9 Coding Scenarios
    - 40 CPT/HCPCS Coding Scenarios

    Our goal is to help you prepare for the CPC or CCA exams with your Career Step final exam experience. You may also want to review these posts for more information…

    - Dear Coding Support: Calming the Final Exam Panic
    - CPC & CCA Exams vs. Career Step Final Exam

    You can also contact your coding instructors at 1-888-657-5752 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for more information on how you can prepare for the final.

    Best of luck as you’re finishing up!

  9. Lisa July 30, 2015

    I seem to be having difficulty in the pharmacology section. Is it absolutely necessary to remember all drug names to pass exam?

  10. Lisa,
    We are not expecting you to memorize all of the possible drugs that are in the pharmacology module, as they are numerous. The final exam is open book and open resource, so you will have access to the course to answer questions on pharmacology. You will also have access to pharmacology drug reference. Hopefully, this helps ease some of your fears, and good luck with your studies.

  11. Christa L February 09, 2016

    I’m getting ready to complete icd-10 billing and coding and my teacher stated you need a 85% or higher on all the practicums in order to take your final exam. Is this correct?

  12. Ananya April 07, 2016

    Hi ,
    I’m planning to give my career step final exams soon and having a tough time with Icd 10 pcs , so wanted to know approx how many questions might be from pcs in the final exams !!

  13. Ananya April 08, 2016

    I’m a student of medical billing and coding and m about to give my career step exams soon, but I had upgraded my course from Icd 9 to Icd 10 and also I did receive Icd 10 2016 books ( not cpt 2016 ) . Now I have completed my course with Icd 10 2016 and cpt/hcpcs 2015 . I was wondering if this will be problem for my career step final exam or cpc/ccs exam ?? Is there much difference between cpc 2015 and 2016 ?? Or can I give my exams with reference to cpc/hcpcs 2015??
    Thank you

  14. Craig Laursen April 12, 2016

    You will be fine using the 2015 CPT book for the Career Step final exam.
    There are about 30 PCS questions on the final exam. The key for PCS is to know your Root Operations very well and make sure you use the multiple choice options to your advantage. This just means looking at all the codes in all the multiple choice options.
    Best of luck!

  15. Geoff Beck August 06, 2016

    There are 10 iCD-9 practice questions?

    I have had no practice with ICD-9. It has all been ICD-10 for me.

    How do I study for that portion?

  16. coding support August 08, 2016

    Hi Geoff,
    Thanks for your question!
    The CPC exam has been updated to ICD-10.
    Hope this helps!

  17. jennifer Lane August 24, 2016

    The above information says 85% is a passing grade but I emailed support services and the response says 75% is.  Can you verify?

  18. coding support August 25, 2016

    Hi Jennifer,
    Thanks for reaching out to us! A passing score for the Career Step final exam is a 75%. We prefer you score around an 85% to ensure your skills are advanced enough to pass the certificaton exam.

    Hope this helps!

  19. Val Griffin September 16, 2016

    Will the final exam for pharmacy technician with administration and billing part 1 have any question in regards to the first modules like computer fundamentals, grammar and punctuation and microsoft and excell? Or its all based on the coarse?

  20. Sajina October 03, 2016

    I am very nervous. I scheduled the exam for next week. If I don’t pass the final exam after the third time, what happens next? Can we buy extension time and take the exam again?

  21. Instructor Michelle October 04, 2016


    Good luck on your final exam. If by chance you happen to not pass, you can call the instructors to schedule a Final Exam Consultation to see where you need to improve prior to take the exam a second time.

  22. Career Step Student Support October 04, 2016

    Hi Val,

    Yes, your medical administration final exam will contain questions on computer fundamentals, grammar, and the Microsoft programs, along with all of the other modules in your medical administration portion of the program.

    Hope this helps!

  23. prerana November 17, 2016

    Will there be E/M reports on the coding part of the final exam?

  24. coding support November 22, 2016

    Hi Prerana,
    Thanks for your question. Yes, the final exam is comprehensive and you will see Evaluation/Management questions on the final and on national certification.

    Hope this helps!

  25. Wayne November 29, 2016

    Being there are several steps to arrive at the correct E/M code is there any way to prepare to do these exercises on the CPC being we cannot bring notes into the examination room?

  26. Randy November 30, 2016

    Hi Wayne,

    On the CPC exam you will not be required to go through all of the steps to determine the E/M codes. This is because in the question the key components will be listed. You will use these key components to choose the correct E/M code. Based on this the best way to prepare for the assigning the correct E/M codes is to review the guidelines for each category in the E/M section. 

    Best wishes,
    Randy Johnson
    Career Step Instructor

  27. Patti Willette December 05, 2016

    Are there External Cause and/or Z codes on the final and/or CPT exam (s)?

  28. Randy December 05, 2016

    Hi Patti,
    Thanks for your question!
    There are external cause codes and Z codes on both the final exam and CPC exam.

    Best wishes!

  29. CodingSupport December 06, 2016

    The CPC exam will contain 10 questions on ICD-10-CM, from all chapters of the ICD-10-CM code set, including external cause and z-codes.

    Hope this helps.

  30. Liana Parsons December 17, 2016

    I just submitted a request for two separate final exams, one for 48 hours and one for 2 hours, was that correct? I took my program through a college, so it was separated into two blocks. I sent in a request for PMCB with Applied PCS and one for Applied PCS. Of course with it being a weekend, I figured I wouldn’t hear back for a while.

  31. Terri January 02, 2017

    Hi, I just have a question about both the exam scores. I keep seeing different things said about the score you must achieve. It says on here 85% or better but the link posted in here says 75% or better? Also on the CPC, it says you must score 70% or better but the link posted on here is from 2014. Please tell me which is accurate for the scoring of both exams. Thanks

  32. career step January 11, 2017

    Hi Liana,
    Final exam requests go to our final exam department.  They require a 2 business day notice to schedule a final. If you were in the PMCB program there would be one final for that program, and an additional final for the Applied PCS program. If you need any additional help please call us at 1-800-411-7073 or email us at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Best wishes!

  33. Career Step January 12, 2017

    Hi Terri,
    You must score 75% or higher to pass the Career Step final exam. You must score 70% or higher to pass the CPC exam.

    Hope this helps!

  34. Taylor Mitstifer January 13, 2017

    Hi, I have a question about scheduling the final exam. Are there set dates to pick to take the exam or can you schedule it a day that works best for you? Once I finish all my school work I am going on a two week trip to visit family and was wondering if it will be possible to schedule my final exam for when I come back.

  35. CodingSupport January 13, 2017

    Hi Taylor,
    Thank you for reaching out to us! You may choose when you would like to take the final exam with Career Step.  We require a two business days notice to schedule the final.  So please let us know at least two business days in advance before you want to start the final.  Final exam requests are made on the last page of the program, in the final exam preparation module.

    Good luck on your exam!



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