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 


  1. CONGRATS!!! Quick question--when you were studying the Leik questions, how were you scoring on the questions? I seem to be hitting about 80% and I'm doing them in blocks of 50. I'm trying to take my exam in the next month, so I'm in full panic mode (as you well know!) :) Thanks!

    1. If you read through my plan, you'll see I did about 20-25 a day, and I totaled the score up every 100 questions. I got anywhere from 70-80 the first time around, and got better at each round. My plan discusses how to mark the questions and how to focus on what you need to learn or review. Keep reading!

    2. Hi, Nelda I wanted to let you know your tips for preparing for the AANPCP exam really helped me. I am happy to say I passed my exam! The time I e-mailed you regarding my taking the exam I had to put my studying on hold because my father became ill and I had to take care of him but with your tips and perseverance I was able to pass my exam. Thank you for the advice.

  2. Your blog has helped me create my own study plan. I have a good starting place after reading your study plan. I just didn't now where to start. thank you!