Chapter 3: FNP Study Guide and Prep Tips
After you’ve met the conditions required to sit for your FNP exam, decided which test to take (AANPCB or ANCC), and familiarized yourself with exam content overviews, it’s time to start studying.
Due to the comprehensive nature of the FNP certification exam, you’ll utilize concepts, facts, and skills that you’ve gained through years of schooling and hundreds of clinical hours.
Additionally, there’s an element of strategy involved in selecting the best possible responses to deliberately complex questions.
It may feel overwhelming, but with the right tools and strategies, you’ll soon join the ranks of nearly 188,500 certified FNPs in the United States.
Your FNP Study Guide
Family nurse practitioners have lots of questions about how to prepare for the AANP FNP exam or the ANCC FNP exam.* This guide is intended to give you the background, strategies, and techniques which, in combination with building your knowledge base, will give you the best possible chance at earning your FNP certification.
Please note that you will need to supplement what you read in this guide with a thorough review of clinical content across the lifespan, using your academic resources, family nurse practitioner certification exam review courses, and books.
FNP Exam Study Tips
Review your chosen exam’s content:
Learn what concepts and skills are covered, and the distribution of topics and look for areas that you need to strengthen. A review course will help you refine areas where you don’t feel confident and need further study.
Take a close look at the content domains and associated tasks/skills, references, and procedures that are listed in the FNP exam outline.
If you completed a review course, you’ll be aware that the content of certain parts of the program is truly review, whereas other sections reveal areas where you need to expand your knowledge base. Knowing what areas you need to focus on helps you decide how to allocate your study time.
Divide these topics, tasks, and skills into two lists:
- List 1: Areas in which your knowledge base is secure, and a basic “refresh” will be sufficient preparation.
- List 2: Weaker areas where you’ll need to concentrate your review efforts.
This method helps you prioritize your study efforts, so that the bulk of your time is spent turning weak areas into strengths. The best study guide for the ANCC FNP exam or the AANP FNP exam is one that is created and personalized for you, by you.*
Takeaway: Don’t save the tough stuff for last, and don’t spend too much time reviewing subjects where you already feel confident.
Create a study schedule
Map out your schedule and obligations by day, week, and month including work, family, personal and professional commitments. Look for a consistent chunk of time that you can designate as FNP study time, ideally:
- 2-3 hours at a time
- 5-6 days a week
- For a duration of 4-6 weeks after you complete your review course, if you’ve chosen to take one
Referring to your lists of strong subjects and weak areas, assign your study sessions to various topics. It’s best to dedicate more hours to your weak areas, and cover them early on.
Pick your exam date after you’ve gotten into a systematic, certification-focused study routine. A fuller schedule means you may need more time to study before you take the exam, and that’s ok.
Takeaway: This is not a “crammable” exam. Start early, study regularly, and give yourself ample time.
Check your progress
Once each week, analyze what you’ve reviewed in the past 7 days. Are your weak points getting stronger? Are you finding new areas that need work?
It’s important to be honest with yourself. For example, was that thyroid review REALLY a review of content you already understand well, or are you still struggling with some issues?
Although it seems obvious that you’d focus on areas that need improvement, it doesn’t always happen that way.
In a high-stakes situation like ANCC or AANP exam prep, it’s not uncommon for examinees to gravitate towards familiar subjects that make them feel confident and less apprehensive about the upcoming certification exam.*
Adjust your study schedule and outline as needed to make room for topics where you need further study.
Takeaway: False confidence and apprehension can both hinder your studying. Be honest with yourself and keep planning ahead.
Form a study group
Study groups, whether in-person or virtual, can be a great way to pick up new study skills, get help with tough concepts, and strengthen your own knowledge and skills by helping others.
Clear expectations can help keep a study group from turning into a social hour, or from members consistently missing study times. Try establishing some guidelines up front:
- Session dates and times
- Session goals/objectives
- Assign a “leader” each session to keep everyone on task
- Schedule social/leisure time after the meeting to make it fun and give everyone a chance to catch up after objectives have been met
Takeaway: Study groups are very helpful, but do your best to choose responsible members and stick to the group’s goals.
FNP Practice Exams
Practice ANCC and AANP board questions and additional review course practice exams are a useful tool to wrap up your studies and confirm your knowledge.*
It’s tempting to use FNP sample questions before you begin your FNP certification review, to help you decide what to study. However, this is not advised. Your studies should follow recommendations and materials from your FNP review course and from the study schedule you designed.
Sample FNP certification exam questions should be used to test how well you apply the concepts you’ve reviewed. Post-study, you should be scoring 85%+-on ANCC, AANP certification exam practice questions or review practice exams.*
If you are not scoring well on sample family nurse practitioner board review questions, revisit your study schedule to make room for additional review of the associated content area(s).
Practice Exam Tips
As you study and complete FNP practice tests, you can increase your chance of success by preparing for the exam and practice with these hints from Fitzgerald FNP certification experts. If you master these skills during your study and practice sessions, you’re less likely to have difficulty answering AANPCB and ANCC FNP review questions.
Health history forms the primary database necessary to arrive at a diagnosis. Patient assessment starts with the health history, and there should be few surprises when you get to the physical exam.
Increasing your skill in obtaining an accurate health history in a timely manner will help you in your FNP practice and enhance your certification exam performance.
Know which pathogens cause which diseases. The newly graduated FNP often comes to outpatient practice with experience providing inpatient care as an RN in hospitals. Often, they’ve only cared for extremely ill patients who have not improved with outpatient care or have multiple health problems that complicate every illness.
In contrast, the majority of FNP practice is delivered in the ambulatory care setting. The organisms that cause community-acquired pneumonia differ significantly from those that cause nosocomial or healthcare-acquired pneumonia.
If the NP sitting for certification knows only the pneumonia pathogens that commonly cause inpatient cases of pneumonia, they are likely to give an incorrect exam response.
Know why and when to use different types of history-taking questions. Open-ended questions like “tell me what you mean by having less energy lately?” are best for clarifying the patient’s perception of a problem.
Know the difference between a symptom and a sign. A symptom is the patient’s description of a problem, while a sign is an objective finding. Watch for these subtle but important words in ANCC and AANP certification questions and answers.*
Want more tips like these? Our practicing FNP certification experts have plenty to share in our Fitzgerald FNP Certification Review Courses.
Where to Find Practice Questions
High-quality family nurse practitioner board exam review courses include practice exams with FNP sample questions as part of a package, or separately for those not taking the review course. Remember to use practice questions to wrap up, not start your study.
Looking for purported ANCC and AANP practice questions online can be risky, since many are from unreliable sources and are not likely to include up-to-date exam content and authoritative references.* As a result, relying on free FNP practice questions or free FNP predictor exams might be surprisingly costly, after you factor in test retake fees and delayed entry into FNP practice.
There are a few reliable options online to help you get started. Here’s where to look for quality samples of family nurse practitioner board review questions:
- The ANCC has a sample of practice questions available on their website.
- Official AANP practice exams are available for purchase in three different versions through this testing provider.*
- Fitzgerald offers a set of five tests (350 questions total) including comprehensive rationales and knowledge gap analysis to help you study. These questions are included in all packages. All Fitzgerald review courses include a practice exam and hundreds of practice questions. This exam is also included in review packages.
FNP Testing Tips
While there’s no replacement for a comprehensive knowledge base and solid application skills, try these tips from the experts at Fitzgerald to help you navigate FNP certification exam questions and avoid choosing incorrect answers:
If the multiple-choice answers cover a wide range of numerical values, a value at or near the middle is often correct.
Make sure that the extra information usually found in a particularly long answer is pertinent to the question and not simply there to distract you.
Pay close attention if two answer choices look similar. In most cases, one of these items is the correct answer.
When two answers convey the same information or have the same meaning, usually both are wrong.
Allow evidence-based practice to guide your choice of an answer. Expect that advice on health screenings and interventions is based on nationally recognized standards of care from authorities such as the American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and the US Preventive Services Task Force, not simply what you have observed being done in clinical practice.
Don’t dismiss an option because it seems too obvious and simple to be correct. If you are well-prepared for the exam, some of the answers will appear straightforward.
Don’t select an option just because it contains factually correct information about the clinical situation. With multiple-choice questions, often more than one answer is technically correct, but one is the best answer.
Pass the Exam with Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald has helped over 140,000 NPs achieve certification through in-depth review courses and resources.
The Fitzgerald method delivers the most up-to-date, evidence-based NP certification review, with a 99%+ pass rate plus our Pass Guarantee.
We offer review packages for every need, all crafted to help you pass your family nurse practitioner certification exam on the first try and move on to the next exciting chapter of your career.
We’re proud to offer the best review book for the family nurse practitioner exam, plus expert-developed supplemental resources to aid you in your studies.
Dr. Margaret Fitzgerald’s recently expanded, revised, and updated FNP exam review book is required in over 191 NP programs and includes access to online practice exams
Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam Prep, Sixth Edition
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