The AAPC CPC medical coding certification exam is not a walk in the park despite it being an open book test. You have 5 hours and 40 minutes to answer 150 multiple choice questions regarding the correct application of CPT, HCPCS Level II procedure and supply codes and ICD-9-CM diagnosis codes. The passing rate for first-time exam takers are almost less than half. With so much pressure to pass the CPC exam, it is easy to fall for simple and common exam mistakes if you’re not careful. These mistakes apply in almost any multiple choice tests, so knowing how to avoid them can definitely help you in your effort to become a certified medical coder.
Multiple choice exams are a fact of life. Whether it is for certification, assessment, research, or even in elections, we all have taken multiple choice tests at some point in our lives. Through experience we learn that there are some common themes to the mistakes that people make in these exams.
Listen or read the instructions carefully
You might know what to expect in the exam, but never disadvantage yourself by skipping the instructions. The CPC exam is a proctored exam so listen carefully while the proctor reads the instructions. If you have any doubts or aren’t clear about something, make sure to ask before the examination begins. The worst thing you can do about an instruction that you’re not clear about is to assume or put if off until later to correct it.
Misreading the question
The questions are there to test your knowledge and skill, not to trick you or see how clever you are. If a question seems easy or straightforward, then just answer it and move on. Sometimes we fall into the trap of over-thinking a question and start to doubt or second-guess ourselves. Given how pressed for time we are in the CPC exam, it is better to move on rather than waste time trying to get the perfect answer.
Answering a question
Before you even enter the exam hall, make sure you have the correct tools for the job. The AAPC certification exam requires you to use #2 pencils, so make sure you have plenty to work with. Bring along several erasers that work best on exam answer sheets, so you don’t waste time fiddling and smudging the answer sheet with a bad eraser. Always follow instructions, so make sure you fill in the answers as shown or illustrated to ensure the machine or person who will be checking your answers does not disqualify you.
Leaving an answer blank
Depending on the test, each question might carry different weight or points. The CPC exam questions are all worth the same, despite the effort to answer them. So you need a strategy for answering questions that keep you moving forward. If you have problem answering a tough question, just move on and come back later when you have the time. Even if you ran out of time, leave a few minutes at the end to make an educated guess for all unanswered questions. You’re not penalized on wrong answers so leaving it blank is the worst you can do.
Letting the pressure get to you
You spent a lot of time, money, and effort to prepare for the CPC exam, so understandably there is a lot of pressure riding on it to pass and get certified so you can move on with your life. But if you let it get to you during the exam, mistakes are sure to follow. Learn to control your emotions and relax. Come up with a plan and strategy for time management and answering questions and stick to it. There are plenty of cases where people who are under too much pressure and think too hard about the answers make simple mistakes like:
1. Filling in the wrong answer.
2. Getting the question numbers wrong in the answer sheet.
3. Ignored or forgot about the clock.
4. Filling up the wrong name or details in the form.
Hopefully now that you know some of the most common mistakes you can make in a multiple choice exam like the CPC exam, you can avoid it come exam time. The key is to be prepared and relax so you can focus.