December 17, 2023

From Beginner to Certified: The Ultimate AAPC CPC Exam Prep Guide

Becoming a Certified Professional Coder (CPC) is a rewarding career path for those who enjoy meticulous work and have a passion for healthcare. The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC) offers the CPC credential, which validates your skills in medical coding and opens doors to exciting opportunities in the healthcare industry.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through every step of your journey from beginner to certified CPC, equipping you with the knowledge and resources you need to confidently pass the exam.

Unveiling the AAPC CPC Exam

The CPC exam assesses your ability to:

  • Assign the correct diagnosis and procedure codes using ICD-10-CM and CPT® coding systems
  • Apply coding guidelines and conventions accurately
  • Maintain patient confidentiality
  • Understand medical terminology
  • Demonstrate ethical and professional behavior

The exam comprises 150 multiple-choice questions to be completed within 5 hours. Scoring is based on a scaled score; the minimum passing score is 70%.

Setting Your Course: The Essential Steps

Here’s a roadmap to guide you through your CPC exam preparation:

1. Assess Your Knowledge and Skills:

  • Evaluate your existing knowledge of medical terminology and coding systems.
  • Take a practice test to gauge your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Identify the areas requiring the most focus.

2. Choose Your Learning Resources:

  • Official AAPC CPC Study Guide: This comprehensive guide covers all exam topics and includes practice questions.
  • AAPC Online Learning Resources: Access a wealth of educational materials, including webinars, podcasts, and online courses.
  • Coding Software: Familiarize yourself with coding software used in real-world practice.
  • CPC Practice Exams: Utilize practice exams to hone your skills and identify improvement areas.

3. Develop a Study Plan and stick to It:

  • Create a realistic and achievable study schedule.
  • Dedicate consistent time for studying daily or weekly.
  • Mix up your study methods to avoid boredom.
  • Utilize flashcards, study groups, and online resources.

4. Practice Makes Perfect:

  • Complete as many practice questions as possible.
  • Analyze your incorrect answers and identify the reasoning behind them.
  • Focus on your weak areas and dedicate additional time to mastering them.
  • Simulate the exam environment with timed practice tests.

5. Take Advantage of AAPC Support:

  • Join the AAPC forum and online communities to connect with other CPC candidates.
  • Attend AAPC workshops and webinars to gain additional insight.
  • Seek guidance from certified coders for personalized advice.

6. Stay Motivated and Positive:

  • Set realistic goals and celebrate your achievements.
  • Visualize your success and believe in your abilities.
  • Feel free to seek help and support when needed.

Demystifying the Exam Format

Understanding the exam format is crucial for effective preparation.

The CPC exam consists of five sections:

  1. E/M Services: 40%
  2. Musculoskeletal System: 16%
  3. Digestive System: 11%
  4. Respiratory System: 9%
  5. All Other Systems: 24%

Knowing the weightage of each section helps you prioritize your study efforts.

Additional Resources to Turbocharge Your Preparation

Here are some additional resources to enhance your CPC exam preparation:

  • AAPC CPC Exam Blueprint: A detailed breakdown of exam content and objectives.
  • AAPC Official CPC® Practice Exams: High-quality practice exams simulate the actual test format.
  • Medical Terminology Resources: Online and offline resources to strengthen your medical terminology knowledge.
  • Coding Software Tutorials: Learn the ins and outs of coding software used in practice.
  • Medical Journals and Websites: Stay updated on the latest coding guidelines and industry developments.

Conquering the Exam Day

Here are some tips to ensure success on exam day:

  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Eat a healthy breakfast.
  • Arrive early at the testing center.
  • Read each question carefully and thoroughly.
  • Manage your time effectively.
  • Review your answers before submitting the exam.

Staying calm and focused throughout the exam is key to performing at your best.

FAQs: Your Questions Answered

1. How much does the CPC exam cost?

The CPC exam costs $399 for one attempt and $499 for two. Student pricing is available for those enrolled in an accredited medical coding program.

2. How long is the CPC exam valid for?

The CPC certification is valid for five years. Complete 30 Continuing Education Units (CEUs) every two years to maintain your certification.

3. What is the average salary for a CPC?

The average salary for a CPC varies depending on experience, location, and employer. According to the AAPC, the median annual salary for a CPC in 2023 is $61,262.

4. Can I find free CPC practice exams?

Yes, several websites offer free CPC practice exams. However, it is important to note that these exams may not be as accurate or representative of the actual test as the official AAPC practice exams.

5. What are the career options for a CPC?

CPCs can work in various settings, including hospitals, physician offices, insurance companies, and coding companies. They can also work remotely as freelance coders.

6. Are there any scholarships available for the CPC exam?

Yes, the AAPC offers several scholarships to help cover the cost of the CPC exam. These scholarships are awarded based on financial need, academic merit, and other factors.

7. What is the difference between the CPC and CPC-A exams?

The CPC exam is for professional coders, while the CPC-A exam is designed for apprentice coders who are still under supervision. The CPC-A exam covers fewer topics and has a lower passing score than the CPC exam.

8. How can I become a member of the AAPC?

You can join the AAPC online or by phone. AAPC membership offers various benefits, including exam discounts, educational resources, and networking opportunities.

9. Where can I learn more about the AAPC CPC exam?

The AAPC website is the best resource for information about the CPC exam. You can find the exam blueprint, study guides, practice exams, and other resources on the website.

By following these tips and utilizing the available resources, you can confidently navigate your journey toward becoming a Certified Professional Coder. Commitment, dedication, and consistent effort are key to achieving your goals.

Additional Tips:

  • Connect with other CPC candidates on online forums and social media groups to share tips and support each other.
  • Take advantage of free webinars and podcasts from coding experts and industry leaders.
  • Consider attending a CPC boot camp to receive intensive training and personalized guidance.
  • Feel free to ask for help if you struggle with concepts or topics.

Remember, the path to becoming a CPC is both challenging and rewarding. Following these tips and staying focused on your goals, you can achieve your dream of becoming a certified medical coder.

About the author 

Kyrie Mattos

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}