Answers to common questions about the exam

CPNs at Children's of Alabama

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Find the answers to common questions below. If you don't see your question here, use search at top right or email exam@pncb.org for assistance.

Exam Eligibility Requirements

Is a BSN required?

No. Education requirements for RNs who work in a pediatric nursing specialty are a Diploma, Associate's, Baccalaureate or Master's degree in nursing.

How much pediatric nursing experience is needed?

You must provide documentation of a minimum total of 1800 hours as an RN in a pediatric nursing specialty within the past 24 months or a minimum of 5 years as an RN in pediatric nursing and 3,000 hours in pediatric nursing within the last 5 years with a minimum of 1000 hours within the past 24 months on the online application. Pediatric nursing experience must have taken place in US or Canadian facilities. However, if you possess an active, current unencumbered US RN license, international practice experience is accepted. Practice hour requirements must be met at time of application. Pediatric nursing experience includes direct patient care and/or indirect care such as teaching, administration, clinical research, or consultation in pediatric nursing.

I'm an LPN. Am I eligible to take the Exam?

When we developed the Certified Pediatric Nurse Exam, we undertook an extensive role delineation study that specifically looked at the kinds of tasks RNs perform. LPN and RN roles are different and training for each is different. LPNs and RNs are also not viewed the same under state nurse practice acts. This information guided our development of this exam, and the RN license is a requirement to sit for the exam. We hope that LPNs working in pediatric settings will consider us should they become RNs in the future.

Which eligibility pathway should I select on my exam application?

Most applicants will use PNCB's long-standing option of 1800 hours of pediatric clinical RN experience completed in the past 24 months. 

Only use PNCB's alternate pathway if you cannot meet 1,800 hours of recent experience (i.e., within the past 24 months). Perhaps you experienced a major life event or a period of unemployment. This eligibility pathway is for the nurse with at least 5 years of pediatric RN experience over the course of his/her career; those 5 years do not need to be consecutive. However, this applicant must have 3,000 hours as an RN in pediatric nursing within the past 5 years, 1,000 of which were completed in the past 24 months. This component of the pathway is to show recent experience. 

Can my LPN experience count toward hours needed for exam eligibility?

No. When calculating hours/time toward eligibility requirements, only RN pediatric nursing experience can count. This is because the role delineation study upon which the exam's questions are based reflects RN practice. Per accreditation standards, board exam content must be congruent with these studies.

Preparing & Studying

How can I prepare for the exam? Can you recommend a particular review course or book for study?

The PNCB does not provide, endorse, or encourage specific review courses or materials, but we can suggest questions for you to consider when making your choices. Do take time to see the CPN Study Resources webpage and become familiar with the CPN exam content outline. Also on the exam resources webpage, find a CPN Reference List of texts for possible study. If you'd like to become familiar with the structure and presentation of the exam, our online CPN Practice Tests may help.

Will I need to know generic and brand name medications to answer items on the exam?

Exam-takers should know common, generic drug names applicable to the role of the certification exam being taken. Many brand names, while still discussed commonly in practice, are no longer available in brand name form. PNCB strives to only include brand names of medications that are fully available. When medication names are needed or cited in an examination question, PNCB will typically list both generic and brand names when appropriate.  All brand and generic names referenced are correct and available to the best of our knowledge at the time of the publication of the examination form.  Each question included in PNCB examinations is reviewed multiple times, with different subject matter expert groups, who assess and validate content (including medication names) for accuracy. This process precedes, and is in addition to, rigorous, routine statistical analysis on every scored item.

Will I see pictures or graphics on my exam?

Yes, you may see pictures (images) or graphics on your exam, although they may not be a part of every exam form in use at any given time.  Images and graphics are used when they will be helpful in presenting information for the test-taker, such as tables to provide patient data (e.g., vital signs, laboratory results, growth charts) or a radiographic image, such as for questions in the CPNP-PC or CPNP-AC exams. The use of images and graphics are based on the recommendations of our volunteer item writers and exam committees. Tip! PNCB Practice Tests are written with the same style and structure used for writing actual certification exam questions. This means they are a good representation of what candidates will encounter; you will find images and tables in our practice tests.

Do questions containing lab values have reference ranges?

There may be a rare exception, but largely, no—reference ranges are not typically provided in exam questions. When a question contains laboratory values, PNCB, and the volunteer item writers and exam committee members have confirmed that normal or abnormal results would be apparent to a knowledgeable, prepared exam candidate.

National guidelines change periodically; how will I know what to study?

Study the most recent guidelines relevant to your credentialing exam. PNCB maintains awareness of when new or updated guidelines are published by national organizations (e.g., CDC, AAP) and recognizes that practice guidelines are subject to change more frequently than some other foundational information. Therefore, questions on any exam represent core principles about the topic. PNCB regularly reviews our exam questions to identify and review content potentially affected by updates in guidelines.

Do I need to memorize vaccine schedules?

No, candidates are not expected to memorize vaccine schedules as PNCB and its committees of volunteer item writers recognize how often immunization schedules change. However, candidates are expected to have knowledge about core principles about immunology, safe vaccine use, or well-known vaccines for certain age groups. 

Will there be questions about COVID on the exam?

For any infectious disease, questions are only included on the exam if supported within current textbook references approved for the exam or a national consensus guideline.

Should I know every medication name in brand and generic form?

Exam-takers should know common, generic medication names applicable to pediatric practice. Many brand-name medications, while still commonly discussed in practice, are no longer available under proprietary patent so are only produced under the generic formulation. When medication names are needed or cited in an examination question, PNCB may provide both the generic and brand names when appropriate. All brand and generic names referenced are correct and available to the best of our knowledge at the time of the publication of the examination form. 

Benefits of Certification

What are the benefits of being a Certified Pediatric Nurse (CPN®)?

The Certified Pediatric Nurse exam provides registered nurses a special mechanism for recognition of knowledge and practice excellence in pediatric nursing. Recognition as a CPN® has fostered career growth, provided opportunities for clinical leadership and contributed to the continuing education of registered nurses. For more about the benefits of certification, click here.

Recertification Requirements

Once I am a CPN®, what are the recertification requirements?

CPNs maintain national certification through annual required participation in the PNCB Recertification Program.

  • Annual recertification enrollment is required
  • Annual recertification enrollment begins approximately 1 year or more from initial certification: Learn more>>
  • Annual recertification program activities/requirements will be managed in 7-year tracking cycles
  • Recert enrollment is from November 1 - January 31 annually
  • Complete and current RN license information must be provided

The Application Process

How do I document my clinical practice hours when applying?

Your online application will require you to attest that you've completed this requirement, which is subject to audit.

Do I need to submit my transcript to the PNCB?

No, transcripts are not needed for application.

What is the scheduling process for testing?

After your application is reviewed and once you receive notification of eligibility from PNCB, you can make your appointment to sit for the exam. The "letter of eligibility" will indicate your 90-day testing period which is assigned as each candidate's eligibility record is established with Prometric. Specific instructions will be provided detailing the process of scheduling a testing time within the 90-day eligibility period.

How long does it take to determine my exam eligibility?

Once the PNCB receives your application, notification of eligibility will be emailed to you. Determination of eligibility will be completed within a timely manner following receipt of all required materials.

Taking the Exam

Do I need computer knowledge to take the exam?

No. Computer knowledge is not required to take a computer-based exam. Before the exam begins, a customized introductory lesson is provided that explains the procedure used to select an answer and move from question to question. This introductory lesson does not reduce your assigned testing time. 

If you'd like exposure to a simulation of the computer-based testing experience, our CPN Exam Practice Test learning activity can help you become familiar with the presentation of exam questions.

How long is the exam?

The exam includes 175 multiple-choice questions. Total testing time is 3 hours.

Will I be able to take the exam at the time and place I want or need?

Probably. However, in order to obtain a desired time and place within your testing period, an appointment must be made as soon as possible. Many other groups use Prometric for testing. Waiting to make your appointment may jeopardize your scheduling needs.

How are disability-related needs and special accommodations managed?

In order to facilitate disability-related needs, we work with Prometric to arrange specific accommodations. Please call our office at 1-888-641-2767 for a "Request for Special Exam Accommodations" or click here to print a PDF version, then complete and mail it to the PNCB office.

Can I see which questions I did not answer correctly?

No, because certification exams are secure, and important efforts are made to ensure that security, some of which you noticed at the testing center. This security is a requirement for exam accreditation. While we understand that people want to learn from their mistakes, releasing questions (with or without answers) exposes exam questions that are still in use on exams. Once those questions are shared outside of the secure exam environment, the security and integrity of the exam is compromised. However, if you are unsuccessful on the exam, your report will offer information about strengths and weaknesses in topic areas that may be helpful to considering future study needs.  

Exam Scoring and Re-Examination

When will I receive my exam results?

Official pass/fail notification of your exam results are emailed approximately 2-3 weeks after the testing date, in most cases. No results are given by phone. 

Can I take the exam again if unsuccessful? If so, how soon can I apply to re-examine?

Unsuccessful candidates may repeat the certification exam provided they meet the PNCB's eligibility criteria at the time they apply for re-examination. Application for re-examination may be made once scores are finalized and you have received your official results in the mail. An online application form and your re-application fee are needed to reapply. No other documentation is needed.

Can you tell me more about the scoring process?

Every question on a PNCB exam that counts towards a candidate’s score undergoes rigorous review before it is used on an exam as a scored question. After being written by a volunteer item writer, questions are reviewed, edited, and approved by the Exam Committee and other panels of volunteers, and then placed on an exam as an unscored question. Statistics on all unscored questions are reviewed before advancing as a scored question.  Learn more about the rigorous test development process here.

Exam Policies & Procedures

What if I am unable to take the exam once I have applied?

For procedures and policies on any of the above, please refer to the PNCB Exam Candidate Handbook

May I extend or have my 90-day testing period reassigned?

For policies on any of the above, please refer to the PNCB Exam Candidate Handbook. See how to request an extension here. No Pass, No Pay applicants are not eligible for an extension. 

What if I do not show up to take the exam at my assigned date and time?

For procedures and policies on any of the above, please refer to the PNCB Exam Candidate Handbook

Once my exam is scheduled, may I reschedule within my 90-day testing period?

For procedures and policies on any of the above, please refer to the PNCB Exam Candidate Handbook.

What circumstances would cause me to forfeit the exam fee?

For procedures and policies on any of the above, please refer to the PNCB Exam Candidate Handbook.

Name Changes

What if my name has changed?

Documentation of name change is needed if the name on the exam application and/or exam eligibility notification is different than the first and last names on your two forms of acceptable identification. You must submit documentation of your name change no later than 5 business days of your scheduled testing date to PNCB or you will forfeit all exam fees paid. You must complete this form and submit by email to exam@pncb.org or by fax to 301-330-1504. It is your responsibility to confirm that PNCB receives this documentation and changes your name.

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Faces of Certification

PNCB-certified nursing professionals work in a variety of roles and settings throughout the US and beyond. Share your photo today!

Tyneisha Orr, CPNP-PC Children's Hospital & Medical Center Omaha, NE
Amairani Jimenez, CPN Tripler Army Medical Center Honolulu, Hawaii
Gia Nguyen, CPNP-AC St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital Arlington, VA
View more Faces of Certification