CCRN certification is a vital step all nurses should take if they are in the direct care of critically or acutely ill patients. However, it is no walk in the park. Indeed, becoming certified requires years of experience and plenty of studying before taking the exam. Yet, while it is challenging, it is entirely worth every effort – for your patients, employer, and yourself. So, before you talk yourself out of it, let’s look at one of the most common questions from aspiring CCRNs: How hard is the CCRN exam?
Gauging the level of difficulty of the CCRN
The level of toughness on the CCRN exam is difficult to determine. Anecdotal reports vary from person to person, where some nurses say it is much harder than the NCELX, while others say it is comparable or even easier. The way you will feel about the difficulty of the exam primarily depends on your experience in critical care nursing and your comfort level with taking exams.
Annually, there are around 16,000 test-takers for all CCRN specialties (adult, pediatric, and neonatal). But, of course, in 2020, the number of candidates tested decreased by around 3,00.
The national pass rate of the Adult CCRN exam is about 79%, with the neonatal and pediatric pass rates coming in at 67% and 76%, respectively. So, purely looking at the national pass rate, it is safe to say that the exam is on the more difficult side. But, compared to the nearly 87% first-time pass rate of soon-to-be nurses taking the NCLEX in 2020, it is safe to say the CCRN exam is much harder than other nursing exams.
To see trends in CCRN pass rates, you can visit the AACN website.
How to increase your chances of passing
So, you know from the data above that the CCRN exam is likely harder than the NCLEX. Now, you need to know how to be among the 79% that pass each year.
Get your experience. The best way to increase your odds of passing your exam is to have sufficient experience working in critical care. Ideally, you have seen many different sides of critical medicine, including cardiac care, respiratory care, trauma, and surgical care (just to name a few). Most nurses who go for their CCRN work in ICUs, but it can be equally valuable to work in other acute areas such as emergency nursing or flight nursing.
No matter how you choose to get your experience, make sure it meets the eligibility criteria to sit for the exam, and also don’t limit yourself to caring for a specific type of patient. The CCRN exam covers all body areas and will question you on everything from trauma and acute coronary syndrome to thyrotoxicosis and septicemia. The more you see, the better prepared you will be.
And while you are trying to get exposure to as many patients and critical conditions as possible, take on leadership roles within your unit whenever you can. For example, join the ethics committee or other hospital committees or train a new nurse or be a charge nurse. Learning how to educate, lead, and advocate for your patients will help you with 20% of the questions that are not disease-related
Take a review course. We’re not biased or anything, but a review course is tremendously valuable in helping the CCRN exam feel less difficult. Review courses can provide you with what you need to know for the exam, which is extremely valuable given that the things you may encounter in this field are endless.
Review courses point you in the right direction of what you need to hone in on and offer further education on topics you may be struggling to understand in the clinical setting. Furthermore, one of your best assets for passing the exam will be practice questions. You can access free practice questions scattered across the internet, but there is no guarantee that they are correct or have an explanation for why an answer is correct or not.
Needless to say, a review course is vital if you want to increase your odds of passing on your first try.
Do it at the right time. Be very mindful of when you select your test date. You can have all of the experience in the world and complete your review course with flying colors, but if you take your exam at a bad time in your life, it can affect your results. For example, as we have seen from the data above, many nurses opted not to take the CCRN exam in 2020 compared to last year. Obviously, many factors are at play, but taking the exam during a global pandemic where you are on the frontlines may make it harder for you to focus on setting yourself up for success. With that said, as things are settling down, we see that certification is essential for improving patient outcomes amidst global health crises.
Think about what you have coming up in your life. For example, taking your test right now may not be ideal if you have a major event drawing near, such as a wedding, moving, a job change, having a child, traveling abroad, etc.
Similarly, while many things in life are unpredictable, if you have a terminal loved one, are getting a divorce, have a struggling child, or are struggling yourself, now is not the time to get your CCRN certification. Indeed, the test will only seem more challenging if your attention is on other important areas of your life.
Making the test easier with an online review course
As we have already discussed, review courses are a great way to make the CCRN exam easier to pass. But you have to be discerning about which course you sign up for, as not all review courses are created equally.
Critical Care Academy is the go-to choice for many nurses because of its flexibility and learning format. Our course is entirely remote and available 24/7 on your smartphone or computer. In addition, real CCRN certified nurses deliver the course material in a video format that is easy to listen to and engaging.
And, you can test your knowledge any time with numerous practice questions that simulate what you will see on the exam. Finally, for those difficult-to-understand concepts, you can speak directly with one of our instructors to get the additional help you need to master content.
Ready to make preparing for the CCRN a breeze?
Enroll in Critical Care Academy today.