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Reason For More Nurses Failing The FNP Exams And What You Can Do To Pass Them

There have been an increasing number of family nurse practitioners (FNP) in recent years. It is because becoming an FNP lets you treat a full range of patients, from infants to the elderly, along with offering you a higher salary.

To become a family nurse practitioner, you must be certified by the American Nurses Credentialing Center or the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. Both certification tests are nearly the same in difficulty and passing rate. But recently, the results of these exams have started showing a surprising pattern, i.e., more students have been failing the exams.

As the demand for FNP's has been increasing, more nurses are taking the AANP and ANCC exams to get certified. With the increasing number of students taking the test, it is evident that the number of students failing will also increase. But what is interesting here is that the overall percentage of students failing the exam is also growing. Even some students with high academic scores seem to be failing the exams. But why is that?

The Reason Behind The Increased Rate Of Failure In AANP And ANCC:

If even high-scoring students are failing the exam, the reason behind it cannot be the lack of knowledge. On the contrary, the real reason behind the high failure is the scarcity of time and intentionally misleading questions that the exams ask you. Let's explore these in detail.

  1. Lack of time:

    The ANCC exam is a three-and-a-half-hour exam with 175 questions, and the AANP's three-hour exam consists of about 160 questions. Both give you about 72 seconds to solve each question. Though it doesn't seem too bad at first glance, this speed can wear you down quite quickly when doing 150+ questions. It makes you more prone to misreading the questions and making mistakes while answering. 
  2. Tricky questions:

    The exams ask you some deceptive or intentionally misleading questions, also called "gotcha questions," designed to trick you into giving the wrong answer. If you are not cautious while reading the exam due to time constraints, then there is a high chance that you will answer these questions incorrectly. These questions filter out people who absolutely understand the material and cannot be tricked as opposed to people who don't show proper understanding.

    An example of this type of question may be the "select all that apply (SATA)" question with only a single correct answer. Just because it is a SATA question, one might think there must be more than one correct option. Hence they get the question wrong. But if you have a strong understanding of the concepts, then you will not be misled by the question and will only select the one correct answer that applies.

How You Can Pass The AANP And ANCC Exams On Your First Attempt: 

  1. Dissect each question carefully:
    Most of the questions in these exams test a higher level of knowledge and are pretty complex. These questions test your clinical decision-making ability. While reading through each question, consider how pathophysiology influences presentation, how evidence-based practices affect diagnostics and treatments, and how patient care is evaluated.
  2. Select the one best answer:
    Many single-answer questions in the exam may have more than one appropriate answer. Still, it is essential to remember that there is only one BEST option that you have to select.
  3. Solve as if you are providing primary care and not acute care:
    Most nursing practitioners have experience as registered nurses. They are used to treating patients with acute conditions where they typically see the worse case scenarios or exceptions to the rule. These scenarios can be contrary to outpatient or primary care, where FNPs primarily practice. Hence, the exam will present you with questions that focus on primary care scenarios and are more aligned with the rules than exceptions.
  4. Make sure you are getting a high score on practice test before taking the boards:
    It would be best to score at least 85% or above in your practice test before taking the board exams. A score below this indicates that you need more work and time to build your knowledge and clinical decision-making skills. Practice testing will also help you familiarize yourself with the exam format and reduce exam-related anxiety.
  5. Study scientifically:
    Not all study methods are created equally, and neither are they equally effective in getting you your dream score. The study methods that actually work are Active Recall (recalling information from your brain), Spaced Repetition (Spacing the relearning of material), and microlearning (learning in small doses). To learn more about these study techniques, then you can check out our article on the scientifically effective ways of studying.

The key to passing an exam isn't just hard work; it is also smart preparation. Even though the exam is challenging and designed to provoke you to make mistakes, you can still pass it on your first attempt if you prepare wisely. So, follow these tips while taking the exam, and you will definitely ace it.