Deciding Between A CCRN Review Book and Online Course Which Is More Worth Your Time

Nurses are busy professionals, so optimizing your CCRN study time is vital.

Signing up to get your CCRN certification is relatively straightforward: you meet your eligibility requirements, fill out your CCRN application, and pay your exam fees. However, the real work begins once you schedule your test date and begin to prepare to take the exam. Many nurses question what their best option is for preparing for the exam: should I do a self-paced review with a CCRN review book or try an online review course? Here’s a look at which option will best serve you in preparing for your exam

Pros of a CCRN review book

As adult learners, most of us made our way through school with the weight of a textbook in our backpacks. Some of us highlighted every single phrase and even answered unit questions in them. Others of us barely cracked them open and took great pride in selling them back in “New Condition” for a higher rate at the end of the semester.

Familiarity and self-paced

No matter how you used your textbook, most adult learners are familiar with having a book to accompany our studies. Therefore, many nurses opt for a CCRN review book because it is how we studied in the past, and it can be self-paced. An added benefit is that you can re-read material repeatedly until it sinks in and return to the information whenever you want.


Aside from familiarity and offering a self-paced study course, CCRN review books are relatively affordable. In general, books cost between $25-$70. There are numerous review books available for purchase online. You can buy a CCRN review book straight from the AACN, or you can browse around for different variations of study books.

Cons of a CCRN review book

Some of the pros of a review book can also be cons. Specifically, the self-paced nature of a review book may be problematic for nurses who are incredibly busy with work and life obligations. Thus, nurses who study from review books are more likely to push preparation aside and save it for a later day when it is more convenient.

Requires a specific setting

For nurses to focus on the material in a review book, they often require the right atmosphere. You need to bring your book with you and find a quiet place to sit and potentially write. Therefore, if you want to optimize your time in a waiting room before an appointment, a review book may not be the most ideal option.

Is one-dimensional

Review books deliver the information you need to know only one way: through reading. Sometimes, there will be a visual to accompany a complex physiological process. If you are a visual, auditory, or hands-on learner, a review book may not be your best option for retaining the information you need to know.

Difficult to engage

CCRN review books do not offer an interpersonal, relatable learning experience. We know that obtaining information in various formats and having access to discussion groups is beneficial for learners of all ages.

Review books are a useful tool but are not the solution.

There is no doubt about it: review books can be beneficial. However, the type of learning they offer encourages you to memorize over actually understanding the material. Having a solid understanding of CCRN material is vital for caring for your patients as a critical care nurse.

Pros of a CCRN online course


Nurses need to be able to set their own schedules when it comes to preparing for the CCRN. Often, our work schedules are not set in stone. So, it is tremendously helpful when we can choose when we want to study. Bonus points go to courses that allow you to learn on-the-go with mobile access.

Offers a variety of learning modalities

Whether you learn from reading, hearing, seeing, or participating, good CCRN online courses tend to check all of those boxes.

Virtual study groups

Often, our schedules do not align with other nurses on our unit. Therefore, it can be challenging to find time to study together. Some CCRN online courses offer virtual discussion groups with fellow critical care nurses preparing for their CCRN certification.


Most online courses are self-paced, meaning that you can go as fast or slow as you would like. Additionally, you can revisit materials as often as you need to until you have a solid understanding of the content.

Cons of a CCRN online course

Online learning is the way of the future and has become indispensable in light of COVID-19. Yet, just like with anything, there can be some drawbacks to online learning.



Can feel less personal

Many CCRN online courses do not feel as personal and relatable. When you are looking for a CCRN course online, look for one that is taught by real nurses, and has a video component. Video modules can make the information easier to digest and offer a more human experience.


Can be expensive

When you compare a CCRN review book’s cost to an online course, it can feel like a no brainer to buy a book. CCRN reviews books generally cost between $25-$70, whereas online courses can range from $100-$350. Yet, when you are deciding how to study, keep in mind that nurses who take a CCRN review course have a better first-time pass rate than nurses who do not. Re-testing costs $170 for AACN members or $275 for non-members.


Requires self-discipline 

Online review courses do require some level of self-disciple. Unlike a lecture where you have to be physically present, online learning requires that you sign in and work through the material. It is a more proactive approach to learning, as opposed to a passive form of learning that can occur when you only listen to material in a lecture.

Ready to start studying for your CCRN certification at your own pace

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