2023 Edition

CCRN Test Guide

The CCRN Test Summary
What: An exam for nurses working at the bedsides of acutely or critically ill patients that reinforces special knowledge and experience in the critical care field.
Who: Those with RN or APRN licensure are eligible to take the CCRN exam.
Where: The CCRN is offered at over 170 testing sites across the U.S.
When: Computer tests are offered year-round; paper and pencil tests area administered in May.
How: The CCRN exam tests individuals on knowledge of the critical care nursing environment.
Type: 150 question multiple choice exam
Why: CCRN certification reinforces the special experience and knowledge that is required for acute and critical care nursing, in addition to providing professional pride and achievement.
Time: Three hours
Language: English
Preparation: Review courses and prep books are useful study tools.
Cost: There is a fee to take the test.

The CCRN is a specialty certification exam created by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Certification Corporation (AACN) and designed for nurses who are providing care to acutely and/or critically ill newborns, children and adults.

The CCRN is used to assess whether an individual has the knowledge base necessary to work as an effective critical care nurse. The CCRN does not stand for "Critical Care Registered Nurse" (as commonly believed), since it does not certify an individual as a registered nurse. While the CCRN is not usually required to work in a critical care unit, it does indicate that an individual possesses an advanced comprehension of critical care procedures, and also allows an individual to credit himself/herself with the CCRN letters after their licensing credentials.

Nurses looking to obtain CCRN certification may work in such fields as: cardiac care units, intensive care units, combined ICU-CCUs, trauma units, medical and surgical ICUs, or critical care transport and flight. A current RN or APRN license in the U.S. is required in order to take the CCRN exam. Once an individual passes the exam, CCRN certification lasts for three years.

The CCRN exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions and the test taker is given 3 hours to complete the exam.  Only 125 questions on the test will be scored. The other 25 are used for statistical data and trials for future tests. The exam focuses on adult, pediatric and neonatal patients.  Eighty percent (80%) of the exam focuses on clinical judgment and is age specific.  Twenty percent (20%) of the exam covers professional care and ethical practice.

The exam can be taken at more than 300 PSI/AMP test center locations in the United States and is available in both computer and pencil and paper formats. Candidates may register online for the computerized test at aacn.org, while candidates seeking the paper exam may download a paper application at the same website.

Test Preparation

To prepare for the CCRN exam, individuals should familiarize themselves with such subjects as lab values, blood gases, signs and symptoms, potential medications and side effects, and anticipated procedures.

A good way to review this knowledge is to take a CCRN exam review course. Such courses are offered across the country multiple times a year, and also at AACN\'s NTI Conference held in May annually. Exam preparation books and practice questions are additional resources useful to exam review.

Want additional help preparing for the CCRN? Check out our CCRN Directory to find helpful study aids.

Sources: aacn.org, testprepreview.com

CCRN Practice Exam

CEN Practice Exam