Chapter 1: AANPCB vs ANCC Family Certification Exams: What’s the Difference?

Many nurse practitioner students know exactly which board exam they’ll be taking because there is only one NP board certification that corresponds to their specialty.

For family nurse practitioners, it’s not quite so simple.

FNPs have two choices for nurse practitioner board certification:

  • The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB)
  • The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)

Ask around, and you’ll find that every FNP seems to have their own opinion as to which family nurse practitioner certification exam is best. However, as with anything in health care, it’s best to look at the facts.

We’ll compare AANPCB vs ANCC exams in several key areas. This is not to indicate that one exam is “better” than the other.

Instead, we aim to clearly present the differences between the two nurse practitioner board exam options so that you can choose the one that best suits you.

Background: AANPCB vs ANCC

AANPCB FNP Certification Exams

The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB) is an independent, non-profit certifying body. FNPs who pass the AANPCB exam receive the FNP-C credential, which stands for Family Nurse Practitioner-Certified. This FNP-C credential is valid for 5 years, at which point it will need to be renewed.

Along with FNP certification, the AANPCB also offers certifications for the following specialties:

  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGNP)
  • Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP)

ANCC FNP Certification Exam

The American Nurses Credentialing Center is a subsidiary of the American Nurses Association Enterprise.

FNPs who pass the ANCC exam are awarded the credential Family Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (FNP-BC). This credential will need to be renewed after 5 years.

The ANCC certifies the following specialties, along with FNP-BC:

  • Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP-BC)
  • Adult-Gerontological Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (AGACNP-BC)
  • Pediatric Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (PPCNP-BC)
  • Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC)

Content: AANPCB vs ANCC

This section is intended to help you understand the differences between your FNP exam options. Please see Chapter 2 of the guide for a more detailed look at the makeup of each test.

AANP Exam Content

The FNP AANP exam blueprint covers clinical knowledge in family/individuals across the lifespan, including prenatal, pediatric, adolescent, adult, older adult, and elderly primary care.* (Please note: AANP is often used as shorthand for AANPCB, which stands for the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board.)

There are four domains included in the FNP AANP certification exam:*

  1. Assessment: 36% of content
  2. Diagnosis: 24% of content
  3. Plan: 23% of content
  4. Evaluation: 17% of content

ANCC FNP Exam Content

In 2019, the ANCC FNP exam content was revamped to focus on clinical test items as opposed to nursing theory and professional roles and responsibilities for board certified nurse practitioners. (see ANCC Family NP Test Content Outline)

While the pre-2019 version of the ANCC exam focused on three content areas, the current exam covers four. These four content domains encompass 10 areas of knowledge and 13 skill sets.

ANCC certification exam content domains:

  1. Clinical Management: 43% of content
  2. Diagnosis: 26% of content
  3. Assessment: 21% of content
  4. Professional role (research, ethics, scope of practice, regulatory guidelines, insurance, etc.): 10% of content

Questions and time: AANPCB vs ANCC

How many questions are on the AANP FNP exam?*

The AANP FNP exam consists of 150 questions, with 135 being scored. The limit for this test is 3 hours.*

Questions for the AANP exam are all multiple choice with one answer being correct.*

The ANCC exam consists of 175 questions, 150 of which are scored, with a time limit of 3.5 hours.

There are four different types of questions in the ANCC exam:

  • Multiple choice questions: Select one option from many
  • Multiple answer questions: Select all the options that apply
  • Hot-spot questions: Mark a certain area of an image
  • Drag-and-drop

Question formatting is one of the key differences between the AANP and ANCC exams, as AANPCB exams utilize multiple choice questions exclusively..*

AANPCB vs: ANCC: What do the FNP exams have in common?

Both FNP certification examinations assess the broad base of knowledge and the critical thinking skills necessary for entry-level NP practice. The largest proportion of exam items focuses on assessment and treatment of the health problems common to Family practice. Each exam also contains items that require the examinee to select the appropriate diagnostic studies and screening tests for given clinical scenarios, as well as interpret subsequent findings and evaluate response to care.

Questions related to intervention cover both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic therapies, as well as principles of therapeutic communication.

Other areas of practice assessed on the certification exams include professional issues, health promotion, and disease prevention.

Cost: AANPCB vs ANCC

The testing fee for the AANPCB FNP exam is $315, or $240 for AANP members.*

The testing fee for an ANCC FNP exam is $395, $295 for ANA members or $290 for ANCC student members.

Retesting: AANPCB vs ANCC

Retesting for AANP FNP certification

If you do not pass your AANPCB exam, you will need to complete 15 contact hours of advanced practice CE in a subject that relates to the area of weakness indicated in your score report.

If you have not yet completed your degree program, you will need to graduate and provide proof that your degree has been awarded before you may retake the AANPCB exam.

You may attempt the AANPCB FNP exam TWO times within a calendar year (January to December).

Retesting for ANCC FNP certification

If you do not pass your ANCC exam, you can retest again after 60 days, a maximum of three times within any 12 months.

You’ll need to retain eligibility at the time of your retest and pay a retesting fee.

If you fail the AANP exam, can you take the ANCC exam (and vice versa)?*

The AANP and the ANCC are completely separate organizations and they do not communicate about an individual’s exam status.* You may take and retake either exam as long as you meet the board’s eligibility requirements for testing and retesting.

*AANP is often used as shorthand for AANPCB (the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board).