The 6 Step Plan to Nurse Practitioner Certification Success

I love creating to-do lists, schedules, and filling in calendars. Having a written plan is grounding, giving my day, week, month, or year, direction. The task is particularly enjoyable when it relates to a new beginning, drafted on a blank sheet of paper and color coded with a brand new pen. Then, the hard work begins…

If you’re a nurse practitioner student with spring or summer graduation impending, now is the time to break out a fresh notebook (or maybe a document on your laptop) to use as you prepare for your NP certification exam. On the first sheet of that notebook, draft your study plan.

Planning your certification study approach is essential to test success. In my last post, I talked certification timelines. Today, I will break down the certification preparation process further looking at how to pack exam material into a manageable study strategy. The following steps will help NP students create a practical, actionable nurse practitioner certification study plan.

Step 1: Evaluate how you study best

Your personalized study plan must be tailored to meet your personal schedule and learning needs. If you do best studying in lengthy Saturday afternoon sessions, create your plan accordingly. If setting aside 2 hours, twice weekly fits better into your schedule, make note. For most people, studying in multiple sessions lasting a few hours each is more effective than one lengthy cram session.

Going so far as to determining where you will study is also helpful. This helps you plan so roadblocks like having disruptive children or roommates in the house are less likely to occur. Reflect on where you focus best, and secure this location for your study sessions.

Step 2: Choose your study resources

Check out online reviews for study materials including books, practice questions, and recorded or live nurse practitioner certification review sessions. Continue to reflect on the your learning style. Which resources will cater most to your needs? Are you independently motivated, or will the public forum of an in-person review session help keep you accountable? Some students make flashcards to help commit material to memory while others rely on audio materials. Identify which resources suit you best. 

Purchase at least one written certification exam guide outlining the content covered on the exam for your specialty for your reference. Complementing this guide with an additional resource containing supplemental practice questions is also advised.

Step 3: Assess your knowledge

Taking a practice NP certification exam will help you develop your study plan. Don’t worry about your score. Remember, you haven’t started studying just yet. Rather, use this test run as a method for identifying your strengths and weaknesses so you can prioritize your study time accordingly.

Step 4: Break down exam content 

Once you have your study materials in hand and have assessed your performance on a practice exam, check out the contents of the exam outlined in these resources. Break up content into sections based on how much you think you can cover in each study session. Devote more time to content covering your weakest topics and less to those where you are strong. Ideally, each study session should include a review of content followed by practice exam questions based on the topic. Leave plenty of time to learn from and understand questions you answer incorrectly during your practice sessions.

Step 5: Put a date on it

Pencil study sessions in on your calendar weeks or even months in advance. Note the content you plan to cover in each session. You will be more likely to follow a detailed, written plan. Prioritize these study sessions over other activities that may come up. You only have a few months to review for the test and without passing it will be unable to take the next steps to starting your NP career.

Step 6: Celebrate!

On the day you don your graduation cap, breathe a sight of relief and do a happy dance. Don’t forget – every NP student needs a little down time every once in a while. It’s OK to take a day off from studying here and there to celebrate your accomplishments.

How do you plan to study for your upcoming nurse practitioner certification exam?

You Might Also Like: How Do Pass Rates on the ANCC and AANP Certification Exams Compare?