What Coding Certification Exams Am I Eligible to Sit For?

As a graduate of Career Step’s Professional Medical Coding and Billing program, you will receive a voucher that allows you to sit for one AHIMA or AAPC certification exam of your choice. You are eligible to sit for the following exams:

AHIMA

  • Certified Coding Associate (CCA)
  • Certified Coding Specialist (CCS)
  • Certified Coding Specialist-Physician Based (CCS-P)

AAPC

  • Certified Professional Coder (CPC)
  • Certified Outpatient Coder (COC)

Eligibility for an exam means you have met the minimum requirements that allow you to test. However, it’s important to understand that eligibility does not necessarily indicate sufficient preparation to successfully pass a specific exam.

Know Your Strengths

Coding proficiency varies among graduates. You may find that you have a natural affinity for all things related to coding; however, most graduates have specific areas of strength or interest. For instance, you may excel at CPT coding while struggling with assignment of ICD-10-PCS codes. You may find principal diagnosis selection for inpatient coding to be a stimulating challenge, or you may find it intimidating and be more comfortable assigning codes for a straightforward reason for encounter. As such, not every graduate is best suited for every exam they are eligible to take.

To make the best use of your exam voucher, keep in mind that it’s better to take a lower-level certification exam that you are well prepared for and walk away with a marketable certification than to use your voucher in an unsuccessful attempt to pass a higher-level exam you are not ready for.

Choose Your Exam

So, how do you decide which certification exam is right for you?

The first factor you should consider is your Career Step final exam. Your results on the final exam are a good indicator of your overall competency and can help you see specific areas of strength or weakness. Career Step offers final exam consultations scheduled with a coding support instructor. During the consultation, the instructor will cover specific areas of knowledge where you excelled and areas where you could spend more time studying.

You should also take several other factors into consideration when deciding which certification exam to use your voucher for, including:

  • Cost of the exam
  • Number of attempts allowed (free retake)
  • Membership requirements
  • Length of the exam
  • Focus and complexity of the exam
  • Accessibility of testing locations
  • CEUs required for recertification
  • Cost of recertification
  • Level of comfort in taking standardized tests
  • Level of coding proficiency in both outpatient and inpatient setting
  • Intended setting for future employment

The table below provides key points of information that can be used to compare the exams and make it easier to determine which one is the best fit for you.

AHIMA AAPC
CCA CCS CCS-P CPC-A COC-A
Cost of the exam Member – $199
Non-Member – $299
Member – $299
Non-Member – $399
Member – $299
Non-Member – $399
$380 $380
Membership required No No No Yes Yes
Free retake No No No Yes Yes
Length of exam 100 MC questions 97 MC questions
8 coding scenarios
97 MC questions
8 coding scenarios
150 MC questions 150 MC questions
Time allotted 2 hours 4 hours 4 hours 5 hours 40 mins 5 hours 40 mins
Exam focus Facility and physician practice based coding competency Facility based coding mastery (inpatient and outpatient) Physician practice based coding mastery Professional-services-based outpatient diagnosis and procedure coding Facility-based outpatient diagnosis and procedure coding
Exam complexity Entry level Mastery level Mastery level Entry level Entry level
Passing score *300/400 *300/400 *300/400 70% 70%
Frequency of exams Regularly scheduled but must check Pearson Vue’s testing schedule to verify Regularly scheduled but must check Pearson Vue’s testing schedule to verify Regularly scheduled but must check Pearson Vue’s testing schedule to verify Variable – Proctored by local chapters of AAPC. Must check the AAPC website to see when exams are being proctored Variable – Proctored by local chapters of AAPC. Must check the AAPC website to see when exams are being proctored
Testing locations Pearson Vue testing centers. See AHIMA website for details. Pearson Vue testing centers. See AHIMA website for details. Pearson Vue testing centers. See AHIMA website for details. Variable – Proctored by local chapters of AAPC. Must check the AAPC website to see where exams are being proctored Variable – Proctored by local chapters of AAPC. Must check the AAPC website to see where exams are being proctored
CEUs for recertification 20 CEUs per every 2 yrs 20 CEUs per every 2 yrs 20 CEUs per every 2 yrs 36 CEUs per every 2 yrs 36 CEUs per every 2 yrs
Cost of recertification $218 $218 $218 Annual membership renewal Annual membership renewal

* AHIMA uses “scaled scoring”. See the AHIMA Exam Candidate Guide, Appendix E, for additional information

Additionally, the AHIMA and AAPC websites provide an extensive amount of information related to their respective exams, including information to help exam candidates decide which certification is right for them.

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2 thoughts on “What Coding Certification Exams Am I Eligible to Sit For?

  1. DIANA says:

    I AM INTERESTED IN TAKING THE CCS EXAM. I ALREADY HAVE A BA DEGREE CAN I SIT FOR THE EXAM WITHOUT TAKING ANY ADDITONAL CLASS COURSES FOR CODING? IF SO WHEN ARE THE EXAMS BEING GIVEN.

    • mbunderson says:

      Hi Diana,
      The CCS exam is administered through AHIMA. If you have questions about the exam, I would encourage you to visit their website or contact them.

      At Career Step we provide certificate training for medical coding and billing as well as many other fields in healthcare, technology, and administration. Our Professional Medical Coding and Billing program prepares learners to sit for a variety of national certification exams, as mentioned in the article above. If you are interested in our training, please contact an academic advisor at 1-800-411-7073 today. Thank you, and best of luck.

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