How to prepare for the AANP exam

A combination of books and web resources can help Nurse Practitioners prepare for the AANP exam.
A combination of books and web resources can help Nurse Practitioners prepare for the AANP exam.

Ring a bell! Bang a gong! Ding-dong, the witch is dead! With much joy and great relief, I can announce that I graduated from FNP school and passed the AANP exam. What a ride. It was great, but I really don't want to have to ride it again. I'm done.

When talking to people about taking the certification exam, they always ask what I used to prepare. I'd like to take this opportunity to discuss what I used and my thoughts on these products. It should go without saying (but I'll say it anyway): this is strictly my opinion on how to prepare for the most challenging exam of my career. I am sure everyone else has their own way to prepare and different thoughts than mine. I mean, if any of you had my exact thoughts, then I'd feel really bad for you. Like right now, I'm wondering why Sherriff Roscoe P. Coltrane didn't just go to the Duke house and wait for the boys to come home when he realized his patrol car could never catch General Lee. Random.

I would love to be able to say that the preparation that I received from my FNP course was enough to prepare me for the AANP exam. I can't say it though. The program did do an amazing job of presenting the information through a platform that allowed me me to learn and master it. However, the extra-curricular review material tried to condense two and a half years of material into a manageable format without complete success.

First things first, I highly recommend attending a review course. There are several available, but I chose the review by Margaret Fitzgerald. If you don't know about the Fitzgerald review, let's just say she is probably the queen of the NP review. She provides information in such an easy and engaging way that it actually makes studying enjoyable. Because of my work schedule, finances, and school, I couldn't afford a trip to attend a live session. I purchased the prerecorded MP3 review and was able to listen while driving or during my (I almost can't say it) free time. This product includes a review book and online access to additional study material.

When the time came for me to prepare for the certification exam, I was pretty much done with being lectured to and having new things taught to me. My brain was full. That's why I loved Family Nurse Practitioner Certification Intensive Review by Maria Leik. This book breaks down information by system and is laser-focused in its presentation of the information. It also includes over 600 questions and answers with rationales that make for great test prep. This was my everyday review book. I took it everywhere.

My next tool was Nurse Practitioner Certification Exam and Practice Preparation by Margaret Fitzgerald.  I'm telling you, Fitzgerald is a dynamo in NP preparation. Each section starts with questions about a topic and then provides not just the answers, but detailed explanations of the whole topic. My only concern about this book (and it really is a minor concern) was that the rationale for a question could be time consuming to find within the detailed explanation. Also, like I said earlier, I really wasn't looking to be lectured anymore; I just wanted the facts.

That being said, I used Leik's and Fitzgerald's books in combination: Leik for the fast facts and Fitzgerald for the in-depth discussion.

What about things that didn't work so well? Well, there was one book I could have done without: Family Nurse Practitioner Exam Secrets Study Guide: NP Test Review for the Nurse Practitioner Exam. Don't buy this. This book was not helpful. I think the publisher meant this to be a sit down and read from cover-to-cover kind of reference book. Yeah, no. I don't have the attention or time for that. If I'm using your book, I want to go right to the topic I'm concerned about. You can't do that with this book. No index is included, and  the table of contents basically says, “page 1 to page 300: lots of information – the end.” This was a dud in my opinion.

Finally, I purchased access to online FNP exams from 3 different websites. I found that all 3 websites offered different exams and had their own unique offerings. First, I purchased a pack of exams from http://www.aanp-fnp.com. These are exams in groups of 100 questions that offer scoring and rationales when complete. Some of the questions seemed geared a little more to the adult/gerontology folks, but overall I thought the exams were good practice.

Next, I would recommend purchasing the practice exam from http://aanpcert.org. This is an exam made up of actual certification exam questions that have been retired. It will also give you a score when you are done. The site cautions you that this score is not a predictive score, but I felt much more confident after taking that practice exam in the days leading up to my actual exam.

The final purchase I made was for the exam at http://apea.com. This is exam is advertised as a predictor exam, so the score you get on this test should be pretty close to what you should get on the actual exam. Both this exam and the one from aanpcert.org will also give you a breakdown of your weak areas, so you know where to focus your attention.

Again, this is what I did to prepare for the exam, and I can't guarantee anyone else's success with what I did. But if you are getting ready to prepare for the certification exam and are wondering where to start, you can use this as a plan and modify it to what works for you. Now, it's time for me to click my ruby-red slippers together 3 times, get home to Kansas (Arizona, actually), and relax for a little while before the next adventure starts. Good luck.

Sean P. L'Huillier, BSN, RN, CEN,  is recent graduate of Georgetown University's Family Nurse Practitioner program. He works and lives in northwest Arizona.

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