CCRN study guide

How To Create a CCRN Study Guide

Remember back when teachers gave you a study guide for exams in high school and nursing school? Indeed, you were almost guaranteed to pass if you studied everything on the study guide. Regrettably, the CCRN exam does not come with a thorough study guide, so you may need to create your own if you do not take a CCRN review course. Does that sound like a major time investment? Well, it is if you want to create a comprehensive study guide. Here are some tips on creating a CCRN study guide and how you can maximize your preparation before exam day.  

What you need to create a study guide.

Start by figuring out what topics are on the CCRN exam: You cannot create a study guide without knowing what is even on the exam. Fortunately, the AACN does tell you what body systems and nursing considerations will be covered on the exam. It also gives you an idea of how many questions you can expect from each topic.

CCRN study guide

Here is the Adult CCRN test plan per the AACN CCRN Exam handbook (bear in mind, there is also a test plan for pediatric and neonatal CCRN’s): 

Clinical Judgement (80%)

  • Cardiovascular – 17%
  • Respiratory – 15%
  • Endocrine/Hematology/Gastrointestinal/Renal/Integumentary – 20%
  • Musculoskeletal/Neurological/Pyschosocial – 14%
  • Multisystem – 14%

Professional Caring & Ethical Practice (20%)

  • Includes advocacy/moral agency, caring practices, response to diversity, facilitation of learning, collaboration, systems thinking, and clinical inquiry.

Along with providing the basics for what body systems and subject areas will be covered, the CCRN exam handbook also tells you what conditions you need to know. For example, you will need to know about everything from STEMIs and NSTEMIs to cardiac trauma and cardiogenic shock for the cardiovascular system.

Type or write out your study guide. You cannot create a study guide without knowing what is even on the exam. Fortunately, the AACN does tell you what body systems and nursing considerations will be covered on the exam. It also gives you an idea of how many questions you can expect from each topic.

CCRN study guide
CCRN study guide


Figure out what you will use to study.
You will need to follow either a CCRN study book or a review course to guide your studies. Some people prefer to be completely independent in their preparation and opt for a study book. However, other people study better through other learning formats aside from reading. Think about how you best learn and search for the best system for you.

Get access to practice questions. Practice questions are a surefire way to gauge how well you have mastered exam content. For example, you may have spent well over one hour studying acute GI hemorrhage. However, it is hard to tell how well you can apply your newly acquired knowledge without answering questions about it. Therefore, figure out what study method will give you access to the most CCRN practice questions.

CCRN study guide
CCRN study guide

Keep a record of your weak spots. Study guides can give you a certain satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment when you can confidently check off a topic on it. Knowing that you feel like you can probably handle anything that comes your way and successfully conquering a topic can be a huge confidence booster. Therefore, consider using this tool as a checklist, as well as a guide.

Create concept maps. Visual learners may especially benefit from creating their own concept maps. For example, if you are studying septic shock, it can help to create a concept map that identifies the different phases of septicemia and what nursing considerations and interventions you will need to take. 

Concept maps can organize your thoughts and improve memory retention. People often make graphs, tables, charts, flow charts, Venn diagrams, and timelines to visually represent the information they are learning.

CCRN study guide

Is Creating a CCRN Study Guide the Best Way to Prepare?

CCRN study guide



Everyone learns differently, so what works for you will likely not be the same for someone else. If you have always used study guides to prepare for exams and it works for you, then by all means, this may be a good option for you. 

But, to be quite frank, everything you could see in critical care nursing is fair game on the exam. So, if you are studying on your own, it can feel completely overwhelming to figure out how to concentrate your study efforts. That is why a CCRN review course is so valuable

The Benefits of a CCRN Review Course

CCRN review courses are led by instructors who (should) know exactly what you need to focus on in your studying. They should also be experts in explaining material so you can learn from them. Furthermore, they have already done the legwork ahead of time to create a study guide, so you no longer have to figure out what to study and map out your plan. Instead, you can just go straight to studying. 

A CCRN course will save you so much time and money in the end by helping you pass the first time you take the exam. Depending on the course format and delivery method, you can also learn on a more flexible timetable rather than setting rigid study times that may require you to take time off, access child care, etc.

CCRN study guide

Critical Care Academy was created to meet busy critical care nurses where they are at and deliver them the best possible learning platform to learn what they need to know to get back to what they need to do: save lives. For a complete CCRN study guide, video modules, access to instructors and discussion groups, and tons of practice questions.

Enroll in Critical Care Academy to take

this necessary step in your nursing career.