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ANCC vs AANP: Which NP Certification Exam Should You Take?

One of the topics we hear students talking about is deciding which certification exam to take: either the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) exam or the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) exam. But what are the actual differences between ANCC vs AANP? And what do you need to know so you can make an informed decision?

We recognize how stressful the process is to select (and pass) an NP certification exam. It’s absolutely normal to feel overwhelmed by the certification journey, but don’t worry! We’re here to simplify and compare frequently-asked questions about the ANCC vs AANP certification exams (for FNP, AGPCNP, and PMHNP students).

In this post, we’ll discuss the basic similarities and differences between ANCC vs AANP exams and then provide a further breakdown by specialty. We hope this article will help empower you to choose the exam that’s right for you! Remember, at the end of the day, there is no wrong decision!

Let’s start by having a look at the basic similarities between the two exams. 

AANP vs ANCC: What Are the Similarities?

The two certification exams are more similar than not. They’re both used to determine the minimum competency needed to practice as a safe, entry-level nurse practitioner. And when you pass either exam, you will have earned the title of board-certified nurse practitioner!

Other similarities include how the tests are taken. The AANP and the ANCC exams are computer-based assessments lasting between 3-3.5 hours that are completed in approved testing centers.

The AANP and the ANCC exams have different scaled scores, but both report your final score as a simple “pass” or “fail.” All NP certification exams are electronically scored, and your performance won’t be compared to that of other examinees. 

You can also find the exam blueprints through the AANP and the ANCC. The blueprints give you detailed lists of knowledge areas for each exam. Be sure to check them out, as they can help guide your studying!

And, although the number and style of questions differs slightly between the AANP and the ANCC exams, both use pretest (or trial) questions. These play an important role on both exams but don’t affect your final score. Instead, they help gather statistical data that’s used to decide whether these questions should be included in future tests. Because pretest questions are included among your other board questions and aren’t labeled separately, remember to give every question your best shot because you won’t know which ones will count toward your score!

Lastly, both the AANP and the ANCC will consider accommodations for individuals with disabilities for testing. There are specific requirements and documentation that’s needed, but it’s worth inquiring about if you used accommodations in your NP program. 

AANP vs ANCC: What Are the Differences?

Both the AANP and the ANCC have certification exams for the primary care specialties of Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Adult-Gerontological Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGPCNP), and Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP). 

A major difference between the two certification exams that students talk about is that the ANCC includes questions related to the professional role on their exams, whereas the AANP is almost completely clinically focused. But the truth is, you need to be prepared for those nonclinical questions for all exams. So, what does that include? These are questions on billing and coding, healthcare system structure including Medicare and Medicaid, levels of evidence in research, ethical principles, and legal considerations. Remember, this content is basic and straightforward, and it’s incredibly important to know for your future practice!

If you’re looking for a direct comparison of the specialty exams so you can decide which one to take, have a look at the comparison chart below. It gives you all the information you need to know about the exams by NP specialty.

AANP vs ANCC Comparison by Specialty Exam

Total number of questions   150 175
Number of pretest questions   15 25
Type of questions   Multiple choice The majority of each exam consists of multiple-choice questions, but drag-and-drop, multiple-response, and hotspot questions may also be included.
Testing domains   1. Assessment

2. Diagnosis

3. Planning

4. Evaluation

1. Assessment

2. Diagnosis

3. Planning

4. Implementation

5. Evaluation

1. Patient assessment process

2. Plan of care

3. Professional practice

1. Scientific foundation

2. Advanced practice

3. Diagnosis and treatment

4. Psychotherapy and related theories

5. Ethics, legal principles, and cultural care

Duration of test 3 hours 3.5 hours
Score range 200-800 0-500
Minimum score to pass 500 350
First-time pass rates (2022) 74% 83% * 86% 81% 91%

* The AANP’s PMHNP exam began accepting applications in January 2024, with the first test-takers anticipated in spring 2024.

Which Exam Should You Take? Things to Keep in Mind

Remember, the effectiveness of an NP program is partly determined by the students’ pass rates on certification exams, so your program leaders are there to provide you with guidance and resources to support your efforts. You have lots of people in your corner!

Once you pass an AANP or ANCC exam, NP certification is granted for a generous five-year period. And, on the off chance you don’t pass on your first attempt, there’s no need to worry. The ANCC and AANP offer steps to retake the exam, and you’ll receive post-test reports that give feedback on how you performed in specific areas. 

If you need an extra boost before exam day, we’ve got you covered. SMNP’s live study groups, question banks, and self-paced courses include questions specific to the ANCC and the AANP, so you’ll know you’re studying exactly the right content and feel confident going into your exam. You’ve got this!

No matter which NP certification exam you choose to take, a passing score opens up a world of endless opportunities as a certified NP. Happy choosing, and best of luck!

Helpful Resources!

First, if you’re looking for more information about AANP vs ANCC, check out this video on the SMNP Reviews YouTube channel!

And, here are some helpful links for more info:

Candidate Handbooks


Exam Blueprints


Pass Rate Information (2022)

*2023 data not yet available at the time of this post’s publication



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