Certified Professional Coder (CPC) Exam: Frequently Asked Questions

So you’re thinking about a national certification exam? Here are some of the frequently asked questions we get from students and graduates preparing to get certified. For the most up-to-date information and more detail, you should visit the AAPC website.

CPC Exam FAQs (the CPC is offered through AAPC):

How much does it cost?
You must be a member of AAPC to take the CPC exam. The CPC exam costs $300 and membership costs $125. As long as your Career Step medical billing and coding online course access is still current, you qualify for the student membership price of $70.

How do I sign up for the CPC?
You must register for the CPC and schedule it at least 3-4 weeks in advance from your desired testing date. Exam availability and dates are posted on the AAPC website. The exams are offered through local AAPC chapters, and there are usually multiple chapters in every state. As each chapter offers exams 4 times a year, there is usually an exam date every few months.

Where do I take the test?
You take the CPC exam in person at a local testing center. To locate an exam site for the CPC:

Am I allowed to bring any notes or books?
You are only allowed to bring your three code books with you the day of the exam (your ICD-9, CPT, and HCPCS). The code books must be versions from the current or previous year. You cannot have anything attached/glued/stapled into your books, but you can highlight, tab, and have notes handwritten on the pages.

How many questions are on the CPC?
The CPC exam is a 150 question exam—all multiple choice. You have 5 ½ hours to complete it.

What kinds of questions are on the exam?
About 70% of the questions are coding scenarios and the rest cover topics such as medical terminology, anatomy, etc.

What do I have to score to pass?
An overall score of 70% is a passing score on the CPC exam. Exam results are provided to you within 7-10 days following the exam date.

What if I don’t pass?
If you do not pass, AAPC provides you with scores from your weakest areas to help you study for a second attempt. A free retake on the CPC is included with the price you paid for the first attempt. You can retake the exam as soon as another exam date is available.

What is the Apprentice status?
If you do not have 2 years of work experience before taking the CPC exam, you will receive a CPC-A credential after passing. The “A” stands for apprentice. Once you submit proof of 2 years of coding work experience, you can have the apprentice status removed from your credential. The Career Step program satisfies one of the two years required.

What if I move? Will I ever have to recertify?
The CPC is a national exam and is thus recognized in all 50 states. Once you pass, you do not have to retake the exam itself again as long as you submit 36 CEUs to AAPC every 2 years. For more information on CEUs, you can visit AAPC’s website.

What is the best way to prepare for the exam?
Everyone studies a little differently. Here are a few ideas:

  • Review areas you could improve on the Career Step final exam. If you passed your Career Step final exam on your first try, take advantage of the available retakes for additional practice.
  • Review the reports in the practicum and the information in the program.
  • Use the Career Step forums and Career Step support team for tips on the certification exams.
  • AAPC sells 3 practice exams and prep books that some students recommend for added preparation.

We hope all your questions about medical billing and coding have been answered with this post. Still have some questions? Feel free to call us or request more info on our website.

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11 thoughts on “Certified Professional Coder (CPC) Exam: Frequently Asked Questions

    • Career Step says:

      Donna, there is only a slight difference in the CCA instead of the CPC. The CPC is certification through AAPC and CCA is through AHIMA. Hopefully that helps! Contact your instructor if you have additional questions. 🙂

    • Coding Support says:

      Hi Donna!

      The Career Step Professional Medical Coding and Billing course prepares you for either the CPC or the CCA. We encourage you to sit for whichever certification will be most sought after by the organizations with which you will be applying for employment.l

  1. Carin Columbus says:

    Is there a discount code for AACP to join, as I saw their was a cheaper rate for the exam, if you are a student.

    • Steve Hirchak says:

      Hi Karen,

      If you are a student of AAPC’s coding program the cost of the exam is $300 vs $380 is you are a student of another program or a non-student. Either way AAPC requires you to be a member of their organization in order to take their certification exams. An opportunity to save money comes in if you join AAPC as a student because you can purchase a student membership which is cheaper than a regular membership.

    • mbunderson says:

      Hi Solai, you can log in to your AAPC account to get a breakdown on what areas to work on. You can see percentages for each section so you will know where to direct your study efforts. Good luck!

  2. Doug says:

    So, the ICD 10-PCS isn’t part of the CPC exam? Is that correct? Another question is in regards to membership/testing fees. I may have misunderstood, but I thought part of the Career Step price was for a free exam and a 1 year membership. How much additional cost is there involved once we are ready to test?

    • mbunderson says:

      Doug, for the CPC exam, there is no PCS coding. This is a physician based exam, and in the physician setting, PCS codes are not used. Physicians use CPT codes.

      We do not cover the cost of AAPC membership; however, the cost of your CPC certification is included with your course unless you are attending a school in North Carolina. You can choose to take either the CPC or the CCA certification exam. As a reminder, if you are taking the CPC in 2018, you will need to update your books to the 2018 books.

      I hope this helps, and good luck!

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