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How to Pass the CPC Exam

Everything you need to know about the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam

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In the vast sea of medical information, the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) emerges as a skilled navigator, bringing order, accuracy, and integrity to the coding landscape. With their in-depth knowledge of coding systems and their unwavering commitment to compliance, CPCs play a pivotal role in translating intricate medical procedures into universally understood codes. By meticulously assigning the right codes, CPCs ensure that medical services are accurately documented, billed, and reimbursed. They safeguard against fraud, optimize revenue cycles, and enable effective communication among healthcare providers, payers, and regulatory bodies. CPCs bridge the gap between clinical care and the financial ecosystem of healthcare. The CPC certification signifies mastery, precision, and a passion for ensuring that the language of healthcare is understood and translated with unwavering accuracy.

In this article, we’ll cover various aspects of the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) Exam, including eligibility criteria, how to register for the exam, tips on how to study effectively, along with highlights of the subjects and procedures covered in the CPC exam. Additionally, we’ll explore educational and training options available to prepare for the CPC exam and the process for renewing the CPC certification.

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What is the CPC Exam?

How Long is the CPC Exam and What Does it Cost?

The Certified Professional Coder (CPC) is the gold standard for medical coding in a physician’s office setting. The CPC certification exam tests the competencies required to perform the job of a professional coder who specializes in coding for services performed by physicians and non-physician providers (e.g., nurse practitioners and physician assistants).

The length and number of questions on the exam can vary depending on the specific jurisdiction or organization that administers the exam but generally consists of 100 multiple-choice questions. The exam may be divided into multiple sections or components, each assessing different areas of knowledge and skills. The exam application fee is usually $399.00 for the first attempt and $499.00 for two attempts. Students who train for the exam are more likely to pass the certification exam on the first try.

CPC Exam Eligibility

A high-level knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy, and pathophysiology, along with an understanding of the proper application of CPT® procedure codes, HCPCS Level II procedure and supply codes, and ICD-10-CM diagnosis codes. For those who don’t have medical experience or working knowledge of these subjects, there are prerequisite courses that help students prepare for the certification training course.

How Do I Register for the CPC Exam?

To register for the CPC exam, visit the website of the certifying organization that offers the exam, such as the AAPC. The AAPC is the nation’s largest education and credentialing organization for medical coders, billers, auditors, practice managers, documentation specialists, compliance officers, and revenue cycle managers.

How Do I Study for the CPC?

Sample Multiple Choice Questions You Might Find on the Exam

Studying for the CPC exam requires a comprehensive approach to cover the various topics and skills assessed in the exam. Here are some general tips for studying:

  • Concentrate on complex areas, investing time to ensure an understanding of key concepts and difficult coding scenarios.
  • Understand the purpose of each modifier and when the modifier should be appended.
  • Know medical terminology.
  • Know the letter ranges for ICD-10 and number ranges for CPT codes.
  • Review guidelines for each code set.
  • Understand the basic applications.
  • Know what topics will be covered in chapter-specific guidelines.
  • Review coding conventions.

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Here are five sample questions to give you an idea of the format and content you may encounter on the CPC exam. However, it is essential to refer to the official exam materials, study resources, or practice exams to get a more accurate representation of the actual exam questions.

1. Which vessel does the tip of a central venous catheter terminate in?

  • a) Basilic vein
  • b) Subclavian vein
  • c) Aorta
  • d) Pulmonary artery

2. Which chamber of the heart is the most muscular?

  • a) Right atria
  • b) Left atria
  • c) Right ventricle
  • d) Left ventricle

3. A patient with hypertension and chronic kidney disease, stage 5, is admitted by his primary care physician. What ICD-10-CM code(s) is/are reported?

  • a) I10
  • b) I12
  • c) I10, N18.5
  • d) I12.0, N18.5

4. A patient comes into the ED complaining of nausea and vomiting for a couple of days. The ED physician performs a detailed history. Also supported by the documentation is an eight-organ system comprehensive exam and moderate medical decision-making. The ED physician’s final diagnosis is acute gastritis. What E/M and ICD-10-CM codes are reported?

  • a) 99285, K29.00, R11.2
  • b) 99284, K29.00
  • c) 99285, R11.2
  • d) 99284, K29.01, R11.2

5. A physician prescribes digoxin to treat a patient with congestive heart failure. After six months, the physician performs a total digoxin blood test to monitor the level of the drug. What lab code(s) should be used for the six-month evaluation?

  • a) 80305
  • b) 80375
  • c) 80305, 80375
  • d) 80162

How Do You Pass the CPC Exam?

What is the Passing Score?

To pass the CPC exam, it is important to prepare thoroughly and familiarize yourself with the exam content. Here are some tips to help you increase your chances of passing the CPC:

  • Treat practice exams like real tests. Study for them, follow time constraints, and note which questions you answered incorrectly.
  • Keep practicing for time management. To complete the CPC exam in the allotted 4 hours, you need to answer questions in about 2.4 minutes or less. Practice like an athlete to improve your pace.
  • Keep practicing for test-taking skills. Eliminating answers is an effective strategy for both accuracy and time management. Practice using what you’ve learned to cross out answers.
  • Keep practicing for accuracy. Keep practicing until you score 80% minimum.
  • Read your guidelines. Read the guidelines a couple of days before the exam so they’re fresh in your mind.
  • Gather items you’ll be taking to the exam. Bring any code books, the ICD-10-CM Official Guidelines, photo ID, and member ID.

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In order to pass the CPC exam, you need to get a 70% or better on the test. Always keep that in mind when you’re taking the test. The long, multi-part questions that might have you look up three, four, or five codes are worth the same as the general knowledge questions.

Subjects and Procedures Covered in the CPC Exam

  • 10,000 series to 60,000 series CPT
  • Evaluation & Management
  • Anesthesia
  • Radiology
  • Laboratory/Pathology
  • Medicine
  • Medical Terminology
  • Anatomy
  • ICD-10-CM
  • HCPCS level ll
  • Coding guidelines
  • Compliance & Regulatory

Educational and Training Options to Prepare for the CPC Exam

The Certified Professional Coder (CPC) exam is a widely recognized certification for medical coders. To prepare for the CPC exam, there are several educational and training options available that can help you enhance your coding skills and increase your chances of success. Here’s an overview of the top options:

AAPC (American Academy of Professional Coders): The AAPC offers a comprehensive CPC exam preparation program that includes study guides, practice exams, and online courses. Their training materials are designed to cover all the necessary topics and provide a thorough understanding of medical coding principles.

Coding Classes: Many community colleges, vocational schools, and online platforms offer coding classes specifically tailored for the CPC exam. These classes provide in-depth instruction on medical coding guidelines, anatomy and physiology, ICD-10-CM, CPT, and HCPCS coding systems. Look for classes that are taught by experienced instructors and offer hands-on practice.

Online CPC Exam Prep Courses: Various online platforms offer CPC exam preparation courses that allow you to study at your own pace. These courses typically include video lectures, interactive quizzes, practice exams, and access to online communities for support and discussion. Examples of reputable platforms include Udemy, Career Step, and

Study Guides and Manuals: There are several study guides and manuals available in bookstores and online retailers that are specifically designed to help you prepare for the CPC exam. These resources typically cover coding guidelines, exam tips, and practice questions to test your knowledge. Look for updated editions that align with the most recent coding guidelines.

Local AAPC Chapters: The AAPC has local chapters throughout the United States that offer study groups and workshops to assist aspiring coders in exam preparation. Attending these events can provide valuable networking opportunities and access to experienced professionals who can guide you through the exam process.

Practice Exams: Taking practice exams is crucial for understanding the format and style of questions that may appear on the CPC exam. AAPC provides official practice exams that closely resemble the actual test, allowing you to assess your knowledge and identify areas that need improvement. Additionally, various online platforms and study guides offer practice questions and simulated exams.

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How Many Times Can You Take the CPC Exam?

In general, certifying organizations typically allow candidates to retake the exam if they do not pass on their first attempt. For example, the AAPC provides you with scores from your weakest areas to help you study for a second attempt. A free retake on the CPC is included with the price you paid for the first attempt. You can retake the exam as soon as another exam date is available.

Renewing CPC Certification

Renewal of CPC certification occurs every four years. For CPC compliance, you will generally need the following:

  • 60 Class A credits and 40 Class B credits (Note: you can use extra Class A credits over the required 60 towards the Class B requirement).
  • Based on your progression through the CPC Program, Core Modules may be required.
  • The CPC Assessment component is required every other four-year CPC cycle.
  • See your personalized CPC Program by logging into the NBCRNA portal and clicking on CPC Timeline.

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