Coding Exam Study Guide

When you’re getting ready to study for a medical coding exam I find its best to make your own study guide to follow.  The reason for this is that you probably have some strong areas in the material that you won’t need to spend as much time on.  Rank the topics by difficulty FOR YOU and then attack the hardest topics first.  My study plan might look something like this:

  • Day One – Preparation.  I go through the website ( for the CPC exam) and take note of all of the important info.  This includes things like materials that can be used during the test, subjects covered, exam dates and cost, any recommended study guides/tips.  I like to use a calendar and schedule my to do activities per day.  I keep the exam cost posted to motivate myself not to slack off (I can’t afford to waste $300!)
  • Day Two – Materials.  I will spend day two getting the needed study materials including code books if I don’t already have them.  I then go through my list of materials to be covered and tab the appropriate sections of each book.  This step might take more than one day, and you might need to make some changes once you get started.
  • Day Three and on – Study time.  Now that you have your plan and materials its time to hit the books.  I’ll tackle one topic per day and then spend an hour reviewing the previous 3 or 4 day’s topics.  I like to do a weekly recap of everything too so it all stays fresh in my mind.
  • Three days before exam – Review.  I like to do a big all day review three days before the exam date.  This allows me to cover everything and brush up on anything I’m still not confident in.  Be honest with your strengths and weaknesses at this point.  If you have problems in a couple areas that where you need to focus now.
  • Two days before the exam - Practice Exam.  Personally I’m a big fan of taking a practice exam, although it does cost extra money (typically about $50).  My reasoning is that if you fail you are out the $300 testing cost so I want to be sure I’m going to pass the first time.  The exam that was recommended to me can be found here, I found it really similar to the actual exam so I decided to recommend this site.  When I take the practice exam I try to recreate the testing situation as close as possible, meaning only approved materials and I keep track of time.
  • Day before the exam – Final review.  Grade your practice exam and see how you did.  This will give you the sections you need to focus on in your final review.  I also like to do a total review of all the material and make sure I have my material properly tabbed for the exam.

That’s my basic study guide.  I would have written it out by topic but I think the first step of evaluating your own strong and weak points helps people in the long run.  I have more in depth study tips if you sign up for my newsletter.  Best of luck on your exam!


Comment from Vanessa Nicholas
Time March 7, 2011 at 6:30 am

I had my CPC certification about 6 years ago but couldn’t find a job even though I work in a hospital; everyone wanted experience, I was so frustrated I allowed my cert. to lapse and its one of my biggest regrets. I am now in the process of deciding which route to take to take the exam again. I don’t have the $1200.00 AAPC is asking for to take the course again. What do you think I should do to prepare myself: Do you recommend a study guide?
THanks in advance

Comment from Chaquetta Warren
Time November 9, 2011 at 4:11 am

Please send me your news letters and any tips that you may have. thanks

Comment from raj
Time November 18, 2011 at 5:25 am

please send me the medical coding guidance or material online . Thanking you.

Comment from Francis
Time November 18, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Hi Raj, please sign up for the newsletter (if you haven’t already) and you will get emails with my tips to study for, and pass the CPC exam. Thanks!

Comment from Lesley
Time December 6, 2011 at 10:22 pm

FYI links to Practice Exam are useless, malware. Please provide better link?

Comment from Francis
Time December 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Hi Lesley, I’ve updated the links, they should work now, sorry about that

Comment from Phana
Time May 30, 2012 at 4:19 pm

Hi Francis! I tried to subscribe but it didn’t work. Is there any other way that I can get practice exam and tips from you?

Comment from Francis
Time May 30, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Hi Phana, I’ve just been working with my friend coming up with a CPC practice exam with full rationale behind every question. Here’s a link to check it out:
CPC Practice Exam

Trackback from Sam Donahue
Time September 30, 2013 at 9:13 am

Thanks for this great site. I’m studying to take my CPC exam this year and this is one of the most helpful sites I’ve found. How hard is it to find a job after passing your CPC exam? Do you have any suggestions or next-steps after getting certified?

Comment from Sonia
Time April 27, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Hi, I was wondering if there is any update on ICD-10 being put into place? I’m currently in school for coding and I know its been delayed. Is this going to be put in place anytime in the near future? If so it seems like a lot more education will be needed

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