Nurse Practitioner Certification Study Timeline

If you’re a nurse practitioner student graduating this spring, it’s time to start thinking about your NP certification study plan. Sure, you’ve got midterms, finals, papers, and clinicals as part of your jam-packed schedule. Neglecting to get a certification study plan in place, however, could render all your hard work useless. When do you need to start preparing for this all important test?

The amount of time required to prepare for the nurse practitioner certification exam depends on the individual student. So, we’ll shoot for the middle here, and outline a general study timeline. If you fancy yourself a brainiac, cut back your prep time. If nurse practitioner school has been a struggle, start preparing early. Don’t forget to take other commitments into account as you get your plan in place. Nurse practitioner students balancing school, work, and family may need to pencil study time in sooner due to competing obligations.

6 months before graduation

Six months before your NP program graduation, create your certification study timeline and approach. Research available study materials and review courses. Purchase or sign up for those you plan to take.

Once you receive your study materials, familiarize yourself with the exam content. Determine your areas of strength and weakness. The more unfamiliar you are with the material covered on the certification test, the more time and intensive study you’ll need to prepare. Taking one or two practice exams can help you assess where you fall.

3-6 months before graduation

Depending on your practice exam performance, the amount of material you determine you need to master, and other time commitments, start studying 3-6 months prior to graduation from your NP program. Most nurse practitioner students will fall closer to the three month preparation timeline. Depending on how quickly you are completing your program, starting study sessions too soon may prove ineffective as you have not covered the requisite material in your classes. Create a study calendar dividing up exam content giving you a concrete plan to follow as you prepare. 

6 weeks before graduation

Reassess your NP certification exam performance. Take one to two additional practice certification tests. Has your score improved? In what areas were your scores the lowest? The highest? Refine your study plan as needed to prioritize mastery of content in the areas where you are weakest.

Research your certification options. Which certifying body will you choose? Gather the materials you will need to sign up for the exam.


Congratulations! You’ve completed your nurse practitioner program, however your work is not complete. Sign up to take your certification exam. Some students may opt to give themselves time after graduation to study. Others may take the exam as quickly as possible following graduation. Whatever your testing timeline, remember, the sooner you take the certification exam, the sooner you can kick off your nurse practitioner career.