The National Advisory Board (NAB) has recommended, and the AAPC leadership team has discussed and agreed, that the Certified Professional Coder-Apprentice (CPC-A®) credential has outlived its usefulness. The objective of the apprentice (A) designation was to show others—primarily prospective employers—an individual had passed the CPC® exam, but did not yet have one or two years of on-the-job experience. Instead, it was too often preventing most CPC-As® from getting interviews for potential jobs and hurting their prospects.
We believe the résumé indicating the experience level of an individual should speak for itself. Whether the individual has great aptitude, a terrific work ethic, good people skills, or any other desirable attribute is often never discovered because an interview was unable to be obtained. While we still believe experience is needed to become a good coder, we think it should be the employer’s decision who to hire.
Accordingly, AAPC is accepting comments through Jan. 31, 2012 on the following proposal:
Effective July 1, 2012, the CPC-A® credential will no longer be granted. All current CPC-As® would have their “A” removed by doing one of the following:
Getting at least one year of on-the-job experience no later than Dec. 31, 2013 (helpful to those with a job and currently working towards that end), or
Successfully passing a clinical exam consisting of coding 20 operative/office notes
Thus, no current CPC-A® would be “grandfathered” into the CPC® credential.
Those taking the CPC® exam after July 1, 2012 will have two ways to get their CPC® credential.
They can have one year of coding experience prior to taking the CPC® exam (proof given at time of exam application), and then pass the CPC® exam, or
They can pass both the current CPC® exam and clinical exam by successfully coding 20 operative/office notes. On-the-job experience after taking the CPC® exam will not be required.
It does not matter in which order the two exams are taken; if lacking prior experience, both are required to become a CPC®.
The pass rate for the CPC® exam will stay the same and a 90 percent pass rate on the clinical exam will be required. The 90 percent will be determined by correctly coding 18 of the 20 notes (and most will require multiple codes). The clinical exam will not be multiple choice; it will be free form and hand graded.
The clinical exam will include a sampling of office visits, surgical notes, evaluation and management (E/M) coding, ancillary services, modifier usage, and diagnosis coding.
The clinical exam would be taken at any AAPC proctored exam site. The same five hours and 40 minutes time restriction and code books will be allowed into this exam. If additional resources beyond code books are needed to properly code the notes, that information will be provided as part of the exam.
Both exams will be paid for at the same time and the cost for both exams will increase by $35. Applicants may still take each exam twice to pass it. If the examinee has one year experience, then he or she would pay only the CPC® exam price. If one exam is passed after two attempts, but not the other, then the fee for the exam not passed would be paid to re-take it.
Of course, current CPCs® are not affected by this change. As stated above, we would appreciate comments to this important change to our credentialing program through Jan. 31, 2012. You may go to www.aapc.com/cpc-acomment to submit your comment. From those comments we will either proceed ahead, make modifications that strengthen the change, or slow down the change due to legitimate concerns that AAPC has not properly considered.
A strategy that has been adopted by many, it might work out better for you to start answering the questions from back to front. Start the CPC exam paper from the end to the front may work for you because the questions are generally more advanced at the end, while the front questions are somewhat simpler. Therefore you may not need to spend as much time on the front questions.
Also, do not worry if you’re unsure of the answers to some questions. Just skip those questions and mark them. You can come back to them later. Work on those that you are sure of, as there is a higher chance of you getting more questions correct this way, and you can be sure that you’ve got time to cover every question. After you have gone through the whole paper, return to those marked questions to work on them. If you are really running out of time, just pick an answer randomly, this way you will at least have a chance of choosing the correct answer as opposed to leaving the question blank.
Confirm and check out the CPC examination venue beforehand if possible. This will help you feel prepared and less stressed out on the actual CPC exam date. Confirm the examination venue on the website, and always arrive early just in case. This is very important as you may be forbidden from taking the CPC exam if you are late.
On the day of the CPC exam, take a breakfast rich in protein and low in greasy fat. Take some carbohydrates too. Two half-boiled or poached eggs taken with some toast would be perfect. Taking a glass of milk would be good too as it is full of protein and natural sugars and vitamins that will nourish you, your brain and your body. Refrain from eating fried or oily food for breakfast as you may feel sluggish later. Never ever sit for your CPC exam with an empty stomach. That is the biggest mistake anyone can make as you are not operating with your full potential with low blood sugar and an empty stomach. Remember, this CPC exam is 5 and a half hours long. It’s a long time to fast.
Things to bring along to the CPC exam:
Bring along a bottle of water with you into the CPC exam venue. You will need water for optimal function of your body and brain. Also, bring a watch with you to keep track of the time. Plan your time accordingly. For example, 2 and a half hours into the test, you should be halfway through the questions. Lastly, bring along a jacket or sweater to keep you warm and comfortable if needed during the test.