Taming the Beast: Tips for the CPC Exam
The CPC is a beast you need to tackle and defeat after you complete your medical coding and billing training. It’s a 5 hour and 40 minute exam on paper, which means you will be filling in bubbles with a good old #2 pencil. There are 150 multiple choice questions on the exam, and the multiple choice format is key to your success on this test because of the time constraints. I took the CPC a few months ago; the following is the rundown of my experience with some tips thrown in for good measure.
My prep for the CPC was focused on the CPT codebook. I studied one CPT section at a time as well as reviewing the modifiers (this was probably about 8 hours of total study time). I decided on this strategy from looking at the tested categories listed on the AAPC website, it looked like they focused on all the sections of the CPT. This was made clear during the exam when I found that the test questions were broken down into sections—the majority of which were CPT codebook sections.
I also used one of the 50-question prep exams that I purchased online from the AAPC. This was a decent tool, mostly for judging my timing. I figured I would have about 3 minutes for each of the coding scenarios, which made me sweat a little. Sitting for a big test makes me nervous enough without adding in the element of timing.
I reviewed a little the day before the exam to calm myself down. I went to bed early, partially because I’m an old man about my bedtime, but mostly because I had to get up at 5:30am to make the drive to Salt Lake City in order to take the exam. The exam was in a conference room at a hospital, and they let us bring snacks and drinks. If you’re allowed to bring snacks too bring things that are quiet (not in a plastic grocery bag that rustles every time it moves) and don’t stink (hardboiled eggs do not smell good, people!) to be courteous to others.
Here is my short list of testing tips:
- Skip the index. Use the multiple choice options given and go straight to the codes and start matching the code descriptions to your scenario.
- Keep your CPT book open to the section you are being tested on. All the questions in a section are from the same category in the CPT book. Flipping pages all over the book is a waste of valuable time.
- Skip the questions that look like they will take a long time. Work through the rest of the exam and come back to the long ones at the end. Make sure you keep your answer sheet straight when you skip!
- Move quickly but pay close attention to key words in the scenarios that change code selection.
- When you working through the items you skipped and any that you get stuck on, use the process of elimination. You can usually eliminate 2 possibilities very quickly and focus on good codes.
- Don’t leave any items blank. A guess has a 25% chance of being correct, a blank has 0%.
CPC is a highly sought after credential on job postings. Career Step’s medical billing and coding course does a great job preparing students for this exam. With your CS training and the tips above, you too can tame the beast!
If you’re looking for tips for the CCA exam, check out this blog post.