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Certification exams

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General information about certification

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Be recognized for your expertise

NCC offers a variety of certification options for healthcare professionals. While core certifications or limited to nurses, our subspecialty examinations are open to multidisciplinary populations including physicians, primary care nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, physician assistants and many other health care professionals.

NCC recognizes the challenges that face health professionals in today's health care environment. Create a new opportunity for yourself by earning certification to publicly demonstrate your expertise to employers, patients and colleagues. Take the next step by joining the over 75,000 professionals who have earned their RNC/NP certification or C-EFM/C-NPT certification.


Content validation studies

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Approximately every 3–5 years, content validation studies are conducted for each of NCC exams. These studies involve surveying practicing professionals in the ob/gyn, women's health, neonatal, and maternal newborn specialties regarding the components of their practice. Based on the results of these studies, changes to test outline and what questions are written for the NCC examinations are considered. This is to insure that the exam reflect the ongoing changes that occur in practice.

The content teams are instrumental in the development of the surveys used to formulate the content validation studies. This is based on an in depth review of standards of practice, protocols and professional literature and research studies. The Content Teams review the results of the content validation studies and makes appropriate changes in the content outline and competency statements based on the input from those certified in various specialty areas regarding the frequency and criticality of tasks and areas of responsibilities in their day to day practice.


Test development

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NCC test development philosophy

NCC believes tests should be fair, reflect essential special knowledge (entry level for nurse practitioners) and provide the test-taker the best opportunity to demonstrate what they know. NCC believes tests should have passing scores that clearly differentiate candidates with special knowledge from those who cannot demonstrate such knowledge.

The entire test development and evaluation process is designed to meet the goal of assessing knowledge of health care professionals NCC certifies. By insuring the test development processes and test evaluation procedures are psychometrically sound and legally defensible, this correspondingly insures that the NCC examinations are a true and accurate measure of knowledge, skills and abilities.

NCC provides examinations to evaluate the special knowledge (entry level of nurse practitioners) seeking public recognition of their obstetric, gynecologic, neonatal, women's health nursing expertise. NCC believes the examination process is an opportunity for qualified health care professionals to demonstrate what they know. It provides these professionals with a fair and unbiased means to indicate they have achieved the level of special knowledge deemed essential by the NCC Board. NCC also provides examinations in subspecialty areas for multidisciplinary groups such as the Electronic Fetal Monitoring and Neonatal Pediatric Transport examinations. The same rigorous exam development process apply to these examinations as well.

Role of the content team

Content teams are appointed by the NCC President and are selected from among the certified populations for the specified area. Content teams oversee the test development by writing and reviewing test items, putting together and approving examinations for administration in accordance with the exam content outline, validate questions through review of current literature and make sure the item bank of test items reflect the current practice. Content teams meet yearly either face to face or virtually to make sure all exam forms reflect current practice based on both psychometric review of items and professional literature review. They are responsible for development of new exam forms. Exam forms are developed each year for both computer and paper and pencil testing.

Available documents

 


Exam scoring and statistics

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How are exams scored?

NCC examinations are criterion referenced. This means the passing score is based on predetermined criteria. The passing score is established by the NCC Board of Directors.NCC utilizes the item response theory of psychometrics for the analysis of its examinations. Item Response Theory (Rasch analysis) is the study of tests and item scores based on assumptions concerning the mathematical relationship between abilities and item responses.

There is no set percentage passing level.  An ability level for each candidate is calculated based on the number of questions they answer correctly (there is no penalty for wrong answers).  Pass/fail is determined based on this ability level as compared to pass/fail standard which is a predetermined ability criterion.  When different forms of the examination are used, a process called equating is initiated.  This procedure converts all results to a common scale.  So someone who takes a slightly more difficult form of the exam will need to answer fewer questions correctly than someone who takes a slightly easier form of the exam.  

Test result reports will identify pass/fail status and give feedback on the various content areas of the exam in the form of word descriptors: very weak, weak, average, strong, very strong.

Core examinations have 175 questions and subspecialty exam 125 questions.

View the last 5 years of exam statistics


For program directors & state boards of nursing

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Eligibility changes/questions for NP exams

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NEW RULES EFFECTIVE 2013

Beginning in 2013, additional rules to the eligibility criteria changes announced in 2010 have been implemented as follows:

 The certification must be taken within 8 years of graduation. All applicants must take the NCC NP certification examination within 8 years of their graduation date as an entry into practice certification. The NCC Board of Directors recently adopted this new rule so that NPs take their certification soon after graduation.  If you graduated from your NP program more than eight (8) years ago, your only option is to obtain a current graduate degree that meets current requirements.  There are no exceptions to th is rule.   

CAN FNPs OR NURSE MIDWIVES TAKE THE WHNP EXAM?

No.   To qualify to take the WHNP exam, one must be a graduate of a WHNP program that meets NCC didactic and clinical hours.   Education must be role congruent. For another type NP or advanced practice nurse to qualify, a post master or doctorate degree as WHNP would have to earned in order to qualify to take the WHNP exam.

About NCC nurse practitioner certification eligibility criteria changes

For those seeking certification for the Women's Health Care Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) or the Neonatal Nurse Practitioner (NNP) examinations or for any nurse practitioner who allows their NCC certification to lapse it is critical that you understand the eligibility requirements that must be met to sit for certification.  If you let your certification lapse, you will be subject to these changes. All new applicants whether previously NCC certified or not will be subject to these new eligibility criteria that were in place since 2007.

Eligibility Criteria:

 Must be within 8 years of graduation from a program that holds CCNE and/or NLNAC accreditation at the time of graduation.
Graduation from a masters or post-master’s program is required.

History of eligibility:  An overview of the dates, times and changes are as follows.

Effective January 1, 2014 Graduates of WHNPs or NNP masters or post-master’s program must sit for certification within 8 years of their graduation.

Effective January 1, 2007, NCC only considers applicants from programs that hold CCNE and/or NLNAC accreditation during the time the accreditation process incorporated the Criteria for Evaluation of Nurse Practitioner Programs, National Task Force On Quality Nurse Education (National Task Force Guidelines) into their accreditation review. (Changes were announced in 2004 and became effective on January 1, 2007.
--- All individuals must be a graduate of WHNP or NNP program at the graduate level that meets NCC current requirements and are accredited by either CCNE or NLNAC
 --- The accreditation organizations began such standard incorporation into their accreditation review January 1, 2005. Therefore, graduates from programs prior to January 1, 2005 will no longer be eligible to take or retake an NCC WHNP or NNP exam. 
 --- The only way such individuals would qualify to take an NCC NP exam is to go back to a current NP program that meets NCC current requirements and earn a master's or post master's degree. Program reviews from defunct programs will no longer be undertaken.

Implication for current NCC RNCs

WHNPs or NNPs who let their certification lapse will be subject to these new eligibility criteria for re-examination. Therefore, any NCC certified nurse practitioner who graduated from a certificate program or who graduated from a WHNP or NNP graduate program prior to January 1, 2005 or beyond eight years of graduation would not be eligible to retake the examination to regain certification status.

If you have any questions about this information, feel free to contact NCC's Executive Director, Robin Bissinger, PhD, APRN, NNP-BC, FAAN at rbissinger@nccnet.org 

 

Content outlines and competency statements

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Below is a listing of Competency Statements and Content Outlines extracted from the Candidate Guides for your convenience. Download the complete Candidate Guide for these listings and other inportant information.

 Download Complete Candidate Guides