Welcome to this megathread on NP school. In this post, we’re gonna go over common Q&A’s, recommendations, costs, talk about boards, life in NP school, etc. Please comment below with anything else you’d like covered in this post and we’ll update as possible.
Is online a good option for school?
It depends on what kind of learning style you do best with.
For me, online made the most sense. I hate in class lectures where I have to be present and sit for hours listening to someone drone on at their own pace. I also can’t stand when classmates ask endless pointless questions that aren’t relevant to me or the material and hold up the whole class.
I am a self guided learner. I am happy to read over powerpoints and required reading in my own time and at my own pace. If this is you, then online is great.
I also enjoy the asynchronous nature of a quality online program, one that I can make my own schedule work with and not worry about missing assignments or check-ins. I recommend you double-check that your online program is asynchronous learning because if not, it’s probably not worth it, minus the commute times you’ll save.
What schools do you recommend?
Two recommendations. I went to Maryville University and I recommend the program. It was good cost relative to other programs, the learning was adequate to prepare me for boards (which I passed on the first try without purchasing or doing any additional review programs) and the asynchronous learning was right up my alley.
If you want a brick and mortar school to attend, then I recommend looking at local schools to benefit from in-state tuition.
For either option, you definitely need to do your homework on programs and we’ll discuss important qualities of NP programs below.
What is important in a program?
I think a good program will conform to the working adult RN life. If you have to attend full time and struggle to find time to work, then you’ll have to have savings for years without a salary and that is not realistic for most everyone.
I think your program should be able to co-exist with at least part-time or PRN employment so that you can continue to work while you’re in school. Nevertheless, I suggest everyone save up at least some money before starting NP school because you’re probably gonna have to cut back at least a little bit from work, especially when clinicals start (time-consuming).
Online or a good physical location
With online, you don’t need to worry about getting to class on time, you just need an internet connection. It’s simple, and I think in the modern-day, online learning is a perfectly acceptable substitute for in-person learning.
If you want to be at a physical program, I suggest you don’t pick one too far from where you live. You will have to commute a lot, and that could definitely suck if you have to drive hours both ways for years or risk failing.
Obvious, but it needs saying, price is important. I am not a degree snob and I don’t think most employers will honestly care whether your program costs 6 figures, so long as you are qualified and passed boards, they are all fine. So save yourself some money and be economical with your school choice.
For eligibility to sit for boards, get a license, and just to ensure your program is decent and reputable, only go for a program that is accredited by the appropriate agencies that you will need.
There are a bunch that will suffice, some of the more well-known ones are The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education ( CCNE ) and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission ( NLNAC ).
Certification passing rate
A good program will probably have a high pass rate for boards. What use is a program that takes $50k of your hard-earned money and leaves you high and dry when it comes to preparation for boards which you’ll need to get a job?
Do your research and see what programs have high pass rates, like 85% or higher.
Which certifying body is recommended?
So you’ve graduated or are nearing it, and you’re looking to sit for boards. First, congrats. Now there are a couple of choices, so lets break them down:
This is my preference, and they are the boards that I sat for. Here are some fast facts:
- Price $315 for non-AANP members, $240 for AANP members
- 150 total questions (15 practice)
- Test breakdown:
- Assessment 35%
- Diagnosis 25%
- Plan 21%
- Evaluation 18%
This is the other big choice, and it might be better for you if you plan on taking on an education route in your career such as teaching. Here are some fast facts:
- Price $360 for non-ANA members, $255 for ANA members
- 175 total questions (25 practice)
- Test breakdown (As of March 2019):
- 21% assessment
- 26% diagnosis
- 43% clinical management
- 10% professional role
What are the boards like?
NCLEX feels, my man. It was a nervous time for sure. I studied all of my powerpoints from the last couple of clinically based classes which covered all of the pertinent systems.
I also used an app called Med Challenger that Maryville made us purchase as part of our program. This app is a question bank that really challenges you and has thousands of questions to help round out your learning and get you into test-taking mode.
Like I said above, I sat for the AANP boards, and it was a 150 question test that took me a little over 2 hours to finish. It is not computer-adaptive like the NCLEX, and you have to take all the questions in the test bank. They don’t change based on your performance, so if you feel like you’re doing poorly, then you probably are (unlike the NCLEX where that feeling can be completely normal).
The test was all multiple choice questions with 4 answer choices. The majority of the questions were tough, but not outrageous. I would go into detail on some example questions, but it’s illegal and I don’t find the idea of jail appealing, so we’ll forgo all that
I feel like NP boards are more knowledge-based rather than safety-based like the NCLEX was. This means it is harder to figure out the correct answers with testing strategy alone.
The questions are all weighted differently, and the answer choices are also weighted, so if you pick a common distractor, you’ll get more points than if you pick something totally wrong. I also imagine the easier, most basic questions are weighted heavily, because if you don’t know that info, you probably don’t need to be practicing. For the AANP, you get a score between 200-800 and you need a 500 or better to pass.
Thank God that the boards actually tell you whether or not you passed in real-time after your test ends, because the PVT is great, but it still sucks having to wait. You won’t get your actual score, but you can get a preliminary analysis “Pass” or “Fail” so you’ll know the important part before you leave the testing center. That’s sweet!
What do you recommend for success with the certification exam?
Lots of practice questions. Similar advice that I recommend for NCLEX takers. Practice questions just get your mind ready for tests. And if you take enough practice questions from good sources, you might see very similar questions on your boards… just sayin’.
Some suggestions for practice questions:
- Med challenger
- Board vitals
Use school resources
I think reviewing all of my powerpoints before the boards was invaluable. It quickly refreshed my mind and they contained the highlights of NP school which I feel the majority of the test questions were on.
Get confidence from school pass rates and overall board pass rates.
Pass rates vary depending on the specialty but are generally over 75%. If you were a good student with good grades, then you should feel confident that you will pass with statistics alone.
For Maryville NP programs, the passing rate is 91%+.
For the AANP in general, here are the passing rates:
- FNP: 81.6%
- A-GNP: 75.7%
- ENP: 88%
General test-taking strategies
So with any big exam, I have some suggestions to improve your chances of success:
Plan your route ahead of time
It should come as no surprise that knowing exactly where you need to go to test is a good idea. You don’t want to be late as they may not let you test, and you’d probably lose your money as well.
Plus, if you do manage to show up on time but you got lost first, you’re going to be in a panic state of mind and that is not a healthy place for an exam.
The AANP exam guidelines stated that I should arrive 30 minutes prior to the test start time. This is to do the required steps at the testing center such as take my picture, show ID, and get oriented to the computer and take the practice questions.
Read your instructions to have necessary items
The AANP requires two different forms of ID, and they tell you specifically which ones will be accepted. Also, you should know that you cannot bring certain items into the testing center such as smartwatches and cell phones.
I didn’t have to do fingerprinting, show the contents of my pockets, or pull up sleeves for observation like a lot of NCLEX testing centers make you do. However, you do have to sign an agreement that you will not cheat under penalty of law and having your exam nullified, you have your picture taken, and you are filmed on camera the entire time so it’s not like you really have to do all of those other steps.
That being said, I did hear another person in the testing center’s phone go off on vibrate once, so don’t be that person.
Eat food with carbs but not high GI, have some protein to sustain energy
I guess if you’re on the keto diet your brain can use ketones, but the rest of us are in need of some easy glucose. I suggest food with low glycemic index carbohydrates such as oatmeal mixed with some protein to maintain satiety and energy levels and prevent a carb crash.
Don’t eat a bunch of simple sugars before a long test… you will regret it.
Caffeinate but don’t go overboard
I may have overdone this one as I had my morning cold brew coffee and a shit ton of black tea on the way. I do believe it is important to stimulate your mind (in a legal manner), and caffeine is a good way to do it.
However, go overboard and you’ll be shaky and jittery, but I guess that is better than sluggish and foggy.
Before hitting “end exam” I reviewed all of my answers (you can jump and skip around all of the questions) and I knew I was about to end and my nerves really started up. My heart was pounding out of my chest and it may have looked like I was having an AMI on camera because I kept grabbing at my chest and having some labored breathing. It was insane. But getting those immediate results saying “passed” was so satisfying, and the best way to end my higher education journey.
I hope this has been useful, inspiring, funny, etc. If you have any questions for me, please let me know and I’ll do my best to update this post with the answers. Good luck to you all, and have a great day!