Saturday, June 27, 2015

What to do while waiting for your books and CDs to arrive...

You have ordered your books right? (If not, links are in my first post.)  Have you checked out eBay auctions for the review CDs? If not, hop on over there and get looking.

Review CDs.  You do not need to buy the latest and greatest.  I started out with a set (CDs and manual) from 2011.  Most of the information was still accurate, and what was not (JNC 7 and 8, pap guidelines, etc.) I had just learned about.  I don't know about your program but my professors always made a big deal about it, "These are the newest guidelines, they just changed in the last 2 years".  So you will already be familiar with the latest changes and can update the manual based on your knowledge.
     Check out both eBay and Amazon both for available study sets.  You may even consider purchasing just the CDs without the manual.  Look at your options and see where you can get the best bang for your buck.  I purchased an older bundle (the CDs, a manual, and two review books) for less than $150.  Watch and wait, your best buys may be in July and August when most students have passed their boards and the market is glutted with review sets. When you find a good deal, grab it!
     Search for "Family Nurse Review", "FNP review," and similar.  If you want a specific lecturer, search for him/her.  Watch the prices, check out what they are selling for, make a choice, and then a bid.  I use for my bids, it places the bid in the last few seconds (yes, I am an eBay sniper), and I can bid on several sets (grouped together in Gixen) and Gixen automatically cancels the other bids once I win one. It's a great auction aid (I am not an affiliate, just a regular user of this service.)
     As soon as you get your CDs, start listening to them every chance you get, just in the background for now.  Later on you will do an intensive study with the CDs.

While you are waiting for your books and CDs to get here, research and decide which test you will take.  Both the AANP and the ANCC certifications are well-accepted.  Talk to your preceptors, ask which one they took and why.  Do some internet searches as well.  MidLevelU has some good articles about how to decide which one to choose.  Make the decision that is right for you and your philosophy.
     I can share a little about my thoughts and why I chose AANP.
- first of all, I want to be associated with an organization for Nurse Practitioners.  That may sound a bit elitist, but dog-gone it, I worked hard to be more than a nurse and I am going to associate myself with organizations that promote that.  My perceptions are probably also affected by my first certification through the American College of Nurse Midwives where it is not an option to get certified through ANCC.  When it came to NP certification, I didn't even consider a nursing certification, I went straight to the NP organization.
- financially, it costs less to be certified through AANP.  And I joined as a student member in the last semester, which saved me even more.  Why pay more if you do not have to, especially as a student?  See the exact costs here.
- let's be honest, both tests are hard but with the AANP exam I did not have to concentrate on learning the additional 23% information on ethics, research, etc. that the ANCC covers.  I was able to focus strictly on clinical concepts and get my knowledge base firm in those areas.  I know and will continue to learn about the other concepts but I did not have to worry about them for the exam.  I strive to be an excellent clinical practitioner first and wanted to focus my study on that.
- as of 2015, the requirements for re-certification also differ.  ANCC requires time as a student preceptor, and AANP does not.  This is set to change in the future but for now it is a selling point.  If you do not preceptor a student, you must do double the hours of CEU  (300 instead of 150 in 5 years!) for ANCC re-certification.  And it is not just the time to preceptoring students, it is the paper work involved as well to validate your preceptor-ship.
- once you join there are all kinds of free CEUs that you can use for state and national requirements.  Be sure to check this out and take advantage of it.  I find that pharmacology hours are the hardest to find so I look for those first.  ANCC may also offer this, does anyone know?

So while your waiting for your study materials to arrive, do a little soul searching and think about which certification you might prefer.

What path did you choose for certification and why?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.  To move on to Part Three, click here.

Note: The links in this post are affiliate links and I get a small commission of you use them. 
Copyrighted 2015, N. Sturgill, FNP 

Friday, June 26, 2015

My study plan for passing AANP FNP boards

I know just how you feel - how am I going to condense and review all the information that I have learned in the past 2-3 years in order to take and pass a 150 question certification exam?  I was in the same place earlier this year (2015) and I have a plan that worked for me, and I believe it will work for you as well. 

After taking the exam on Saturday I got a  "pass" certificate from the test site, but it was clearly marked as preliminary.  I was still nervous and afraid to tell anyone about passing.  I even checked to see if anyone had ever received a "pass" notice when they had not passed!  (No one had that I could find although one person got a "fail" when she had actually passed.  AANP called her about it asap.)  I kept checking the AANP web site, and on Wednesday I was able to print off my on-line pocket certificate!!  I finally felt comfortable telling everyone about passing. 

Wait 2-3 weeks and you will get this.......

Yes!  This is the paper that you are working towards! (sorry for the poor photograph).  Let me share with you on this blog my plan to passing the first time.   I spent considerable time on this information and this process; it worked for me and I believe that it will work for you as well.  As you can see I did better than I had expected, scored 731 out of 800 (500 is a passing score).  I was not at the top of my class, but I was an A to A- student (B+ to A- on tests, my clinical score brought my grades up).  I don't test well, and I do have to study, in other words I was the typical graduate student. I am going to share with you some simple but effective study techniques that can help you to pass your AANP exam the first time like I did! 

This should not cost you a fortune!  I was able to study and pass the AANP exam without spending $500 for a live review course (I did take one after I had passed, I used it as a review and for the CEUs for state licensure).  The total cost for my study materials was less than $200 because I bought some used materials on eBay ($150 for a bundle which included 2011 Barkley CDs and manual, a used 2010 Fitzgerald book, and a used 2013 Hollier book; I also purchased a new 2013 Codina-Leik book for about $35 for a total of about $185).  You can even split the costs with a study buddy to make it cheaper yet.  And if you follow my plan, you will be able to sell your study materials at maximal price to help others after you have passed (more on that later).  I only ask that you do a few things if you use this Study Plan:

- That you share a link to this site.  Please don't cut and paste the information that I have here; send them the link instead.  It is easier on you and I appreciate the blog traffic, so it is win-win for both of us! 
- That you post a comment about whether or not this plan worked for you, and 
- That you use the affiliate links provided in this post for any purchases that you might make on Amazon based on my recommendations.  That's it! 

This is not a "quick study" plan, this is a plan that takes about 3 months at the minimum.  It can take up to 4-5 months or longer if your beginning knowledge base is weaker.  You will continue to study until you are scoring in the high 90s.   You can start this plan during the last semester of your classwork - don't worry, the time commitment is small at first.  The information gained should help you with your general knowledge for classwork as well.  It starts out slow, and becomes more intense after you graduate.  Until then, you will study about 15 minutes daily for six days, and one 30 minute session weekly (depending on your knowledge base).  You can do this!  It is very do-able even while in school.  Now is a good time to start a consistent study program, one that will benefit you in your current studies, in practice, and for boards.  If you do not think you can consistently dedicate a 15 minute time slot every day for studying, then this plan is not for you. 

Here are the building blocks of my plan: 

Commit to a study time every day.  Commit to studying a small amount every day, maybe a 15 minute time period or a certain number of questions (I recommend 20 questions).  You will have one longer study day once week.  The daily study time is extremely important because this is what helps with the slow, consistent learning process that takes place in small easy increments with minimal effort.  If you study just one day a week for a longer period it will not be as beneficial to you. You need to make a commitment to 15 minutes a day, every day, no matter how tired you are.  If you have a friend, you could keep each other accountable to study, or be accountable to a partner/spouse.  Chose someone who is interested in your progress and will ask you daily if you are staying on track. 
     If you miss a few days, don't panic!  Just pick up where you left off and restart.  You could even take a little vacation for a few days (you might have a big test coming up, so you need to study for it instead).  But just remember to start back up with the questions as soon as you can. 

Listen.  Buy and listen to Review CDs (Barkley, APEA/Hollier, Fitzgerald).  Consider buying them used on eBay to listen to during the entire last year of your program.  And you can even buy an older version (more than 2 years old) because very little changes from year to year and - get this - you just learned the new changes so you are one-up on the information. I started out with a 2011 set for the 2015 exam, then purchased a later version for intensive review (more on this later). There are several different lecturers available, I personally used Barkley, and also listened to Fitzgerald some as well.  
     If you have a study buddy, consider each of you buying one set and trading them off.  You will both have a set to re-sell after you pass and you will both benefit from the different perspectives.  If you have an MP3 player (or iPhone and iTunes), burn them and listen whenever you can (ear buds help drown out distracting noises) or listen to the CDs in the car whenever you are in the car.  Don't worry about memorizing the content yet,  just let it soak in every day.  

Buy at least 2 study sources.  I used: 
     Codina-Leik, Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Intensive Review: Fast Facts and Practice Questions, Second Edition (affiliate link) but be sure to see my corrections in a later post since she has many wrong answers.  This book should be about $35, maybe less if you pick up a used one.  I do not recommend her app because so many questions are wrong and you may learn incorrect information. 
     Hollier, Adult-Gero and Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Practice Questions, Includes Answers and Explanations (2013 Edition) (affiliate link).  I found her to be the most accurate source, with questions similar to some on the exam.  She will also respond to you directly by email if you contact her, which I found refreshing.  She also has a website (listed in the front of the book) where corrections are posted.  This book (even used) will be about $50-55. 
     You can use other sources but these two were the ones I primarily used.  I also used 
(affiliate link).  I found her questions to be a bit harder than the board questions.  Be sure to research her work, she also has some incorrect answers (I do not have a list of these yet.)  Since I started studying in 2014, I used the older version (2010).  I was able to review a copy of the newer version, and most of the questions were exactly the same.  It seems like she added about 4-10 questions to each section,and also rearranged the sections a bit.  If you want to save a little, consider buying a used copy of the older version.  Used copies of the newer version should be showing up soon on eBay, an even better bargain! 
     You could also consider Winland-BrownAdult-Gerontology and Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Examination: Review Questions and Strategies (affiliate link), the ExamEdge questions, or the APEA Q-bank. I have heard good things about these sources but I cannot speak to them personally. 
    If you have a study buddy, to save money you could even share books.  You could use one for the first month, then trade off for the second month.  Get together, compare your scores, and share learning tips every month or so when you trade books. 

Find a good study place - not at home.  I found a friendly restaurant that allows free refills (McDonald's or Starbucks for the 15 minutes sessions, and a Chinese restaurant that allowed me to stay for 3 hours for my intensive study periods after graduation).  I have trouble studying at home because I have so much that distracts me, so much to do.  Most other people have the same problem so do not attempt to skip this step.  Consider it a little treat to yourself for studying.  Remember, this is usually just 15 minutes, not a prolonged time period except maybe once a week.  You can stop for a coke or a coffee on the way home, study for 15 minutes while there, and a grab a refill before heading out.  It is your little "oasis" study time.  
Review your progress and identify weak areas. This may be the most important step, enough so that I have a whole post on what I did.

Are you ready to get started?  Are you ready to make a commitment to your career?  Gather your study materials and follow me to Part Two

Note: The links in this post are affiliate links and I get a small commission of you use them. 
Copyrighted 2015, N. Sturgill, FNP