Tips for Taking the Medical Coding exam

Even if you have been working in medical coding for years its important to come up with a plan to study for any coding exam you plan on taking.  Below are a few of the strategies I’ve used to pass my CPC exam, and I’m currently using to study ICD-10.  I also have an expanded study guide and tips available if you sign up for my newsletter to the right.

  1. Review the website.  If you are taking the CPC exam you should spend some serious time on  The main reason I recommend this is that updates come frequently and if you’re talking to a friend who took the exam a couple months ago something may have changed.  There are also frequent updates of what materials you can take into the exam.  It would not be good to show up to a test only to be told your coding book is not on the approved list so you will not be able to use it.
  2. Make a study plan map.  Go over all of the applicable topic areas covered on the exam and rank them in the order you are most familiar with the information.  Review the material you are least familiar with first so you will have time to learn it.  Do a brief review of everything including your strongest topics right before taking the exam.
  3. Take full advantage of tabbing your materials for the exam.  This is my biggest trick and I think its one of the best ways to not only learn the codes, but also retain them.  I cover this in more depth in my email, but basically I tab all materials that may be included in the exam and use abbreviations to keep everything clear in my mind.

As always when you are studying, or doing anything that requires concentration make sure you eat healthy, high protein meals and take breaks so you don’t lose focus.  Personally I like to study in 3 hour blocks and then take an equal amount of time off to relax or get some exercise.  I’ve seen a lot of products that claim to help you pass the CPC exam, such as weekend courses, study guides and books.  I split a video course with a friend and we both passed the exam the first time.  The video definitely helped but we both had to put in the hours of studying too.  You can check out the video course as I do think it will help you grasp all of the information and according to the site it is kept up to date (which is a problem with many coding courses).  They also have a 60 day money back guarantee.

Please sign up for my newsletter and I’ll send you my top tips for preparing for any medical coding exam, and other tips tricks and ideas on coding.


Comment from Dianna
Time December 8, 2010 at 5:53 pm

I am studying for the CPC exam. I can use all the tips you can give. I tried signing up for your free updates but when I clicked the submit button it said that the page could not be found. I appreciate your help.

Comment from Francis
Time December 9, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Hi Dianna, I’ll add you to the Coding exam tips newsletter, sorry it didn’t work online. I’ll check and make sure the links are right. Please let me know any feedback or questions you have while studying I’m always trying to improve the site! Thanks

Comment from Francis
Time December 9, 2010 at 4:27 pm

Actually, it looks like you are already subscribed, it can take up to 24 hours to get an email, let me know if it doesn’t show up and I’ll see what I can do.

Comment from DeLaine Ristau
Time December 26, 2010 at 2:05 am

I have taken the exam 3 times now and have failed all of them. I have been coding for almost 2 years now. One of the requirements is to pass my exam by the two years are up. I’m getting pressured now to do this and I’m getting scared I will have to find a new job. Alot is on the line with the next exam I take. Financially we can not afford for me to start over with a new job. I need some help. Can you please help me pass this exam. I’m not a good test taker either.

Comment from Francis
Time December 29, 2010 at 4:44 am

Hi DeLaine, what has been your biggest problem when taking the exam? I found that taking a practice exam under the actual time constraints really helped me see where I needed more work. Let me know if you have any specific questions and I’ll try my best to help.

Comment from Elizabeth Housel
Time January 15, 2011 at 11:11 pm

I have taken a course for the past 1.5 yr now time for CMAA, CPC and CBCS, graduated with a 3.90 GPA but have major test anxiey, not worried about the CMAA, but any help you could give on other exams would be helpful. the school has given us practive test and a study guide. If there was a exam prep book or like you posted a video a name would be great!
Thanks ever so much

Comment from Edna Stinson
Time June 22, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Can you please send me tips on how to understand E and M Codes.

Comment from Cyndi
Time October 18, 2011 at 8:30 pm

can you explain the area in the cpt book about Pscyh coding when and when not to code the E & M service, if the code like 90805 says with E & m is that all you would code is the 90805 or do you have to put anothe r code such as 99214 with it.

Comment from Caroline
Time October 31, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Hi Francis! I just took my first CPC exam and I dont think I did well. I was wondering if you can give me some tips about tabbing my books and and other tips to pass this exam! My biggest struggle is that I mismanage my time. Thanks and hope to hear from you soon!

Comment from Francis
Time November 3, 2011 at 4:47 pm

Hi Guys, sorry for not answering these comments in a while, I just got married and got back from the honeymoon :) The AAPC forums is a great resource for checking on some of these questions (like E & M codes), here’s a thread that covers the questions above

Comment from Norridge Stevens
Time November 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Hi Francis, I’m having trouble studying for the CPC exam and this site has been a big help in terms of finding information and learning study methods. I’m looking forward to getting your emailed study guide!

Comment from Ray Harrald
Time December 28, 2011 at 9:13 pm

I still need to go through each of the reviews, but I got a lot of info on the types of medical coding certifications on here. All of the commenters on this site have had good information to share as well! Thanks so much for sharing.

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