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13 Do’s & Don’ts for Your NP Board Prep

Hello, future real-deal nurse practitioners!

Tiffany here, an SMNP instructor! If you’re reading this, chances are you’re preparing to take your nurse practitioner boards. And I’ve got some great tips for you on how to get ready! In this post, we’ll tackle my top “do’s” and “don’ts” that I learned while studying and taking my NP board exam.

First though, I’m going to tell you a bit about my nursing journey, and what I feel helped me pass the NP boards on my very first attempt!

My Experience Taking the AANP FNP Exam

I graduated with my BSN and automatically knew I wanted to go back to school to become an NP. Working full-time and going to school was not easy, but it sure was rewarding.

I eventually graduated with my Master of Science in nursing as a family nurse practitioner, but I knew the work wasn’t over—after all, I had to pass the board exam!

So after celebrating, I got right into studying and registered for the AANP. I heard from other students that the key to success was taking a preparation course. I did my own research and decided on SMNP Reviews due to all the resources that were available. And the rest, as they say, is history!

With that said, here are some of my “do’s” and “don’ts” when it comes to your own NP boards, so you can be successful on your first attempt as well.

Here’s 13 (lucky things) you need to know!

13 Do’s & Don’ts to Prepare for Your NP Boards 

1. Do schedule out your study time in a planner.

Block off at least a month of study time in your planner, and spend one or two hours studying each day. This decreased my stress level, since I knew I had time set aside for exam prep each day.

If you want to see what real-life NP board prep looks like, check out this video from Alisha which breaks down an entire study plan from start to finish:

2. Don’t cram for the NP boards!

Generally, cramming isn’t a good way to retain information for exams. Scheduling your study time over a longer period of time is key for your memory and your NP board success!

3. Do have study buddies to hold you accountable.

Studying for the NP boards is more fun when you do it with someone else. Find a friend to hold you accountable and someone to lift you up when you begin to feel discouraged.

4. Don’t try to “DIY” your board prep. 

Instead of starting your NP board prep from scratch, I highly recommend joining an NP boards prep course. Not only will this help you know exactly what to prepare, it’ll also hold you accountable to actually do it!

I fully believe that joining a prep course was the reason for my success on the AANP exam. I’m a student who likes to be organized and given direction, so SMNP Reviews checked all my boxes in a review course!

5. Do complete practice questions.

I always say that a football player doesn’t go out and throw a football without playing catch many, many, many times. This is true regarding NP board practice questions as well! You need to practice all types of questions and build that mental stamina before exam day.

6. Don’t read NP board “horror stories” online. 

I found myself reading posts online that told some scary stories about the exam. Especially if you’re easily prone to anxiety, I recommend focusing on your own prep instead of worrying about what might have happened to someone else during the exam. After all, you don’t know the time and preparation they put into their exam—all you can control is your own experience!

7. Do develop an NP board anxiety plan. 

Test-taking can cause some anxiety, but having a plan sets you up for success. Whenever I began feeling anxious, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. There was also a time during the exam that I got up to use the restroom as a chance to step away from it.

8. Don’t broadcast your test date.

You already have enough internal pressure on yourself! Try to limit any external pressure you have control of. While telling a few trusted friends and family for support can be helpful, I recommend waiting to share the news widely until after you’ve passed!

9. Do try to mimic the testing environment when studying.

I always took my full-length practice exams in a quiet place without any distractions such as my phone or other forms of technology. Simulating your test environment is great for helping you easily recall information during the actual exam!

10. Don’t go back and change your answer!

Unless you’re 10000000% sure you need to change your answer, don’t change it. Most of the time, your first guess is correct. I did flag some answers on the exam, but I ended up not going back and changing them.

11. Do meet one-on-one with an NP instructor.

I met with an NP instructor one-on-one four times before the exam. I loved having someone quiz me and give me tips/mnemonics before taking the boards!

12. Don’t doubt yourself.

Believe in yourself. At the end of the day, you have to truly believe you will succeed in order to do well on the NP boards. I wrote “You will pass” on the top of my dump sheet and stared at that saying whenever I started to have doubts.

13. Do take breaks and do something that brings you joy.

When I needed a break from studying, I would go to a yoga class or grab lunch with a friend. I found having fun things to do in-between study sessions allowed me to focus better during my allotted times.

You Will Pass!

Looking back, after taking the exam I remember laughing because I didn’t know why I was so anxious. Prepping for my NP boards helped me learn that being anxious means you care, and while it’s okay to have a small amount of anxiety as a motivator, you’ll need to have a plan to make sure anxiety doesn’t take over.

I always say, “Put in the work and the results will show.” So, I followed my anxiety plan and trusted in my practice. And sure enough, I felt like the questions I was completing during study time set me up for success. While there were some questions I didn’t know the answer to, I ultimately felt well prepared and didn’t panic during the exam.

The bottom line is: keep studying and don’t stop believing in yourself! You’ve got this!

Looking for more (free!) content to help you prepare for NP boards? Check out these other posts on the SMNP Reviews blog: