Other helpful information

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 are limited to nurses, our subspecialty examinations are open to multidisciplinary populations including physicians, primary care nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, physician assistants and many other healthcare professionals.

NCC recognizes the challenges that face health professionals in today's healthcare 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 215,000 professionals who have earned their RNC/NP certification or Subspecialty certifications.

Content validation studies

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Approximately every 3–5 years, content validation studies are conducted for each of the 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 the test outline and what questions are written for the NCC examinations are considered. This is to ensure that the exam reflects 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 make 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 the knowledge of healthcare professionals that NCC certifies. By ensuring the test development processes and test evaluation procedures are psychometrically sound and legally defensible, this correspondingly ensures 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 healthcare 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 processes 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 editing and reviewing test items submitted by the item writers, putting together and approving examinations for administration in accordance with the exam content outline, validating questions through the review of current literature and making sure the item bank of test items reflects 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 the development of new exam forms.

NCC's psychometrician for review of all statistics and content validation studies is George Engelhard, JR, Ph.D., Professor of Educational Measurement and Policy, Quantitative Methodology Program, Educational Psychology, University of Georgia. 

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. No percentages or standard scores are given. These descriptors are based on items within a given subtest and are intended to provide suggested feedback on strengths and weaknesses in various content areas. Since this feedback is based on relatively few items, general verbal descriptions are given instead of subtest scores. Word descriptors for scoring are set using these ability levels and utilize equal intervals of scale above and below the pass point to provide additional feedback. These word descriptors are for information only, and they should be interpreted cautiously due to the small number of items included in each content area.

Core examinations have 175 questions and subspecialty exams have 125 questions.

View the last 5 years of exam statistics

Eligibility changes/questions for NP exams

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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 this 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 be 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 master's 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 WHNP or NNP master's 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 are beyond 8 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 Chief Executive Officer, 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 that can be found in the Candidate Guides. Download the complete Candidate Guide for these listings and other important information.

Displaying Your Credentials

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While the only credentials that must be displayed are the ones that are required by state or employment, specialty certifications are helpful to patients and peers.  Credentials validate expertise and give tangible recognition of professional achievements. Patients feel more confident in the care they receive from a certified provider. 

It is common practice to list credentials in order of importance starting with the highest degree earned. Followed by licensure/state requirements, national certifications, awards and honors. If there are multiple certifications involved, the most recently earned is placed last.  

Because a long list of credentials can overpower a name, individuals may choose not to list all earned credentials or honors. For those individuals, they should make sure that they display the credentials that  pertain to the job they perform. Of course, if being published, include all credentials - you earned them.

Designations for NCC certifications

In January 2008, NCC adopted more comprehensive credential designations. These changes were made to make advance practice credentials more consistent, to better recognize the specialty focus of certification, to make credentials more transparent to the public and to align with other national nursing certification organizations.

These designations reflect successful completion of the NCC credentialing process. Use of any credential must be in accordance with any state board or employer directives. The credential may be used following your name (i.e. Jane Doe, RNC-OB).  NCC often sees individuals list their NCC credential incorrectly. For example only using the term RNC.  Make sure yours is correct by checking the designations below.

Advanced Practice Certifications:
NNP-BC® (Neonatal Nurse Practitioner - Board Certified)
WHNP-BC® (Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner - Board Certified)

Core Certifications:
RNC-OB® (Registered Nurse Certified - Inpatient Obstetric Nursing)
RNC-LRN(R) (Registered Nurse Certified - Low Risk Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing)
RNC-MNN® (Registered Nurse Certified - Maternal Newborn Nursing)
RNC-NIC® (Registered Nurse Certified - Neonatal Intensive Care Nursing)
RNC-TNP (Registered Nurse Certified - Telephone Nursing Practice)*
RNC - REIN (Registered Nurse Certified - Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Nursing)*
RNC - AWHC (Registered Nurse Certified - Ambulatory Women's Health Care Nursing)*
RNC - HROB (Registered Nurse Certified - High Risk Obstetric Nursing)*
RNC-IAP (Registered Nurse Certified-Inpatient Antepartum Nursing)

Subspecialty Certifications:
C-EFM(R) (Certified - Electronic Fetal Monitoring)
C-NPT® (Certified - Neonatal Pediatric Transport)
C-ELBW (Certified- Extremely Low Birth Weight)
C-NNIC (Certified- Neonatal Neuro-Intensive Care)
C-ONQS (Obstetric and Neonatal Quality and Safety)

Certificates of Added Qualification:
C-MC (Certificate of Added Qualification - Menopause Clinician)*
C-ME (Certificate of Added Qualification - Menopause Educator)*
C-BF (Certificate of Added Qualification - Breastfeeding)*
C-GRH (Certificate of Added Qualification - Gynecologic Reproductive Health)*
C-OB (Certificate of Added Qualification - Obstetrics for Primary Care Providers)*

*These exams are no longer offered

Certification is a non-transferable, revocable, limited, non-exclusive license to use the certification designation subject to compliance with the policies and procedures, as may be revised from time to time.  

Any use or display of NCC certification marks and/or logos without the prior written permission of the NCC is prohibited. Any candidate or certificant who manufactures modifies, reproduces, distributes, or uses a fraudulent or otherwise unauthorized NCC certificate, NCC designation, or another credential may be subject to disciplinary action, including denial or revocation of eligibility or certification. Any individual who engages in such behavior also may be subject to legal action