SMNP Reviews is now powered by Blueprint Test Prep! Learn More

Sarah Michelle NP Reviews Logo
Return to Blog Homepage << Articles

How to Prepare for the FNP Certification Exam: Study Plans, Resources, & More!

No matter where you are in your NP education journey, it can be overwhelming to think about taking the board certification exam. Which one should you take? How long should you study for before taking the exam? What resources do you need?

In this post, we’re going to break down all of those questions so you can feel prepared to come up with a game plan for your board certification exam success!

1. Choose your exam

For Family Nurse Practitioners (FNPs), there are two board certification exams you can take: the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).

These exams are very similar. They both:

– Determine the minimum competency to practice safely
– Are computer-based exams
– Time: 3–3.5 hours
– Questions: 150 (AANP) / 175 (ANCC)
– This includes a certain number of pretest questions which are not scored
– Have a pass / fail determination
– Have detailed exam blueprints (ANCCAANP)

So how do you choose which one to take?

The biggest difference between the ANCC and AANP FNP exams is that ANCC includes more questions on the professional NP role, where the AANP exam is almost completely clinically-focused. So what do we mean by professional role questions? Think about questions on healthcare system structure, legal and ethical questions, and basics of evidence-based practice research.

Whichever exam you choose, once you pass, you’ll be a board-certified nurse practitioner!

⚖️ For a more in-depth comparison, check out this blog post: ANCC vs AANP: Which NP Certification Exam Should You Take?

2. Determine your study plan and schedule

The next thing you’ll want to do is plan out your study schedule. We recommend giving yourself 2–3 months of preparation time before your exam day, but you know your needs the best!

Make sure that you give yourself enough time to take breaks and some “rest days” to avoid burnout. Another great tip is that for every hour of studying, give yourself at least a 10-minute break. Not only will that help to prevent fatigue and burnout, but it will also help with retention of material!

🗓️ Need scheduling help? Our Study Planner tool takes the anxiety, stress, and late-night cramming out of the board prep equation by scheduling your prep for you and adapting to your busy schedule. Included in your SMNP Reviews Live Study Group package!

3. Which resources do you need?

Ok, so you’ve picked an exam and chosen a test date! What should you use to study? Where do you start?

First, check out the candidate handbooks from ANCC and AANP which will detail everything you need to know about the testing process, and even look ahead to re-certification requirements.

Once you have a better understanding of the testing expectations and process, then you can pick out a few resources. There are so many options out there, but you should really just choose 2–3 resources that will give you a well-rounded test preparation. Let’s go over some options!

In a rush? Here’s a quick look at all of your FNP exam prep options from SMNP Reviews!

👩‍🏫 Live Study Group – Live sessions with NP instructors to review key topics for your exam and boost your confidence, plus study guides, a Pass Guarantee, and more!
🏃‍♀️ 1-Day Prep 
– An 8-hour live session for an accelerated review experience
💻 3-Course Bundle – Self-paced courses for review on your own time (included in Live Study Group)
📈 Primary Care Qbank 
– 1,500 questions and FNP practice exams, plus advanced analytics to track your progress (included in Live Study Group)

Review Course

A popular great resource in your test preparation journey is to complete a comprehensive review course. There are lots of options here, too! Review courses can be synchronous or asynchronous as well as in-person or virtual.

Online options definitely come with greater flexibility and can be more cost-effective when you don’t have to worry about travel costs. There are also online options that are self-paced, like the SMNP Comprehensive 3-Course Bundle, or there are live options that allow for direct interaction with NP instructors, like the SMNP Live Study Groups.

The biggest benefit with in-person board prep options is the face-to-face human interaction, but they can also offer opportunities for networking. And maybe you just really need to travel to be able to provide yourself the time and space to truly focus. 


Another option to consider during FNP exam prep is a question bank (or Qbank). A Qbank is a large collection of multiple-choice questions across many topics and domains (questions on every body system and from assessment and diagnosis to evaluation and management).

Qbanks typically have hundreds of questions! They are written in the same style as board certification exam questions and include rationale. Make sure you are reviewing the rationale for each question, even the ones you got right! As you work through the Qbank, write down the topics on the questions you got wrong. This will help guide you to focus your studying, so that you spend time on the material you need to review, and waste less time on topics you understand.

If you’re interested in a Qbank, check out the SMNP Primary Care Question Bank, which includes a free mobile app to take your studies on-the-go!

Practice Tests

And when you’re really ready to see how you might do on your board certification exam, you can complete a practice test. We recommend taking these when you can simulate the testing experience, meaning sitting at a desktop computer without any distractions for at least 2–3 hours.

Did you know that the SMNP Primary Care Question Bank actually includes 3 full FNP Practice exams between 150–175 questions? Those practice exams are in addition to the 1500 practice questions in the Qbank!

Both AANP and ANCC also offer practice tests that can be purchased separately. AANP offers 3 different FNP practice exams that are 75 questions each. ANCC has a free 25-question FNP sample test as well as a 240-question practice exam that is available for purchase.

4. Build a support system

Lastly, we need to make sure to mention the importance of having a support system for your board preparation journey. Not only will you need the support of family and friends to help manage life outside of studying, but don’t forget to reach out to peers and instructors for support, too!

🤝 Looking to join a wonderful free community of students prepping just like you? Make sure you join the SMNP Reviews Facebook group for support while prepping for your FNP certification exam!

Final Thoughts 

There are so many FNP board prep resources out there, and it can be easy to get confused about where to begin. Hopefully you found this post useful and it gave you some structure to plan your board prep journey. We are all rooting for you here at SMNP Reviews!

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