What's the Pass Rate for the Acute Care NP Certification Exam?

Whether you’re an aspiring nurse practitioner with a passion for acute care who’s just begun applying to programs or a current NP student preparing for graduation, you likely understand that the certification exam is the culmination to putting your education into practice. If you haven’t already, odds are at some point during your NP education, you’ll have a stressful thought or two about which exam to take and whether you’ll actually pass.

Up until recent years, Acute Care NPs had the option to take a generalized acute care certification exam through either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) or the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN); but since the APRN consensus model (which governs NP certification and licensure) determined that acute care was not a distinct patient population, both the ANCC and the AACN began phasing out their generalized ACNP certifications in 2015. While ACNPs who are already certified by either entity can still renew their certifications, NP students interested in acute care must now work towards an appropriate population-specific acute care certification in either pediatrics or adult gerontology.

Currently, the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board is the only entity to offer certification for Pediatric Acute Care NPs; but Adult Gerontology Acute Care NPs have the option to choose between testing for the ACNPC-AG certification through the AACN or testing for the AGACNP-BC certification through the ANCC. So how do these two exams compare and which are AGAC NPs more likely to pass?

Test Content & Length

The ACNPC-AG exam through the AACN consists of 175 multiple choice questions; of which only 150 are scored. 73% of the questions are based on clinical judgment related to nursing care of the adult-gerontology patient population. The remaining questions test candidates on non-clinical judgment knowledge with three major content dimensions including patient care problems, skills and procedures and validated competencies. Candidates have three and a half hours to complete the ACNPC-AG exam.

The AGACNP-BC certification exam is a bit more lengthy; comprised of 175 scored questions and 25 pretest questions. Candidates have four hours to answer all 200 questions. Only 46% of the ANCC exam is based on clinical practice. In addition, candidates are also tested on three other domains of practice like APRN core competencies, role-professional responsibility and health care systems.


For the ACNPC- AG exam, candidates who are also members of the AACN can take the test for $255; however non-members must pay $360 to take the test.

The cost to take the  AGACNP-BC exam through the ANCC also depends on the candidate’s membership status, through the ANCC offers discounts for memberships with multiple entities as well. For non- members, the cost is $395; but for members of other recognized organizations, the cost ranges from $270 - $340.

Renewal Requirements

Both certifications are valid for five years, however their renewal requirements differ slightly. ACNPC-AGs have the option to renew in one of three ways; through practice hours and CE points, through practice hours, an exam, plus Pharmacology CE, or through CE points and an exam.

AGACNP-BCs are required to complete 75 continuing education hours (of which 25 hours must be for pharmacotherapeutics) as well as at least one of eight renewal categories as specified in the ANCC’s renewal requirement handbook in order to be eligible to renew their certification. 

Which acute care nurse practitioner certification exam will you choose? 


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I took the ANCC exam- 2/2018 and was baffled by some of the questions. I could've been those "25 sample questions" but it was made to throw you off. Thankfully, Barkley was my saving grace. I hate to be biased and like for people to choose their own paths to make their own mistake but there was NO WAY I was going to pass my boards without help from his CD's, online audio or $600 review course- with booklet. I did all 3 because I did not know better. Hopefully, my opinion can help others. All in all I passed and I am AGACNP-BC! c/o 2017

Shawna V

I recently passed the ANCC exam- honestly the easiest exam I have ever taken. I highly recommend the Barkley review. My exam was mostly the first 3 sections of his review book with quite a few neuro questions and pharmacology. Good luck!!

Julia V