CPNP-AC Exam Resources

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Special timelines for the CPNP-AC exam continue to be in effect. Candidates will be provided updated eligibility notification as it becomes available. Thank you for your understanding and patience.  Please contact PNCB at exam@pncb.org with any questions. Blackout Notice for Prospective Employers. Press Release: PNCB Announces CPNP-AC Exam Action. See updates and FAQs herePNCB Statement of Information

CPNP-AC Exam Resources

The Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner - Acute Care (CPNP-AC) exam is 3 hours and asks 175 multiple-choice questions based on categories in the content outline, an essential study reference. Create a personal study plan and prepare using the resources below.

Special Note: Beginning in January 2020, the exam administered will align with the revised content outline (published June 2019), which was the result of a formal Job Task Analysis (JTA) process. Please expand the “Essential: Content Outline” section below for more information.

The content outline/test blueprint is your #1 tool to start your study. It describes all subject areas covered by the exam and questions per category.

PNCB certification exams are comprehensive tests, so be sure to study all areas of the content outline.

Tip! This exam tests your ability to apply knowledge and use critical thinking skills to determine one best answer among answer choices.

Download your content outline:

  • Planning to test between August 1 and November 22, 2019? Use this content outline which reflects our 2013-14 research describing role responsibilities and clinical activities of pediatric acute care nurse practitioners in the U.S.
  • Planning to test between January 20 through February 14, 2020? Use the updated CPNP-AC content outline based on our 2018-19 Job Task Analysis research. This routine, required research ensures that exam content accurately represents current pediatric acute care nurse practitioner practice in the U.S. 

Content for the updated exam has not changed considerably. You do not need to study differently, and there is no advantage to taking one content outline's exam over the other. After Job Task Analysis (JTA) research, a passing point determination follows construction of new exam forms and establishes minimum passing scores using standard psychometric methods, such as Item Response Theory and Modified-Angoff scoring. 

See full details about the latest 2018-19 study in our executive summary and 2018-19 CPNP-AC Exam PowerPoint.

We recommend you use ONE pediatric textbook that you are familiar with to review for the exam. This text should also focus on the subject areas covered by the exam content outline.

Our acute care exam item writers and committee members have found the most current edition of the following references useful for their review. Additions or deletions to this list are a result of exam committee member input and anonymous faculty surveys.

You do not need to study all the references listed below. PNCB does not endorse nor have any proprietary relationship with any of the following textbooks or their publishing companies.

Textbooks and Related Resources

  • American Academy of Pediatrics - 2018-2021 Red Book
  • Fleisher & Ludwig - Textbook of Pediatric Emergency Medicine
  • Gilbert & Barnes - Clinical Use of Pediatric Diagnostic Tests
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital: Harriet Lane Handbook
  • Kliegman, Stanton, St. Geme, Schor & Behrman - Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics
  • Marcdante & Kliegman - Nelson Essentials of Pediatrics
  • Park - Park's Pediatric Cardiology for Practitioners
  • Reuter-Rice & Bolick - Pediatric Acute Care: A Guide for Interprofessional Practice
  • Shaffner & Nichols - Rogers' Textbook of Pediatric Intensive Care
  • Taketomo, Hodding & Kraus - Pediatric & Neonatal Dosage Handbook

Evidence-based Practice / Professional Role

  • LoBiondo-Wood & Haber - Nursing Research: Methods and Critical Appraisal for Evidence-Based Practice
  • Melnyk & Overholt - Evidence-Based Practice in Nursing and Healthcare: A guide to best practice
  • NONPF (2013) - Population-Focused Nurse Practitioner Competencies

Respected Clinical Practice Guidelines/Statements/Reports

CPNP-AC Practice Tests offer in-depth rationale for right answers to enhance critical thinking. Score reports can help you focus studies.

The cost is $50 per module. You receive unlimited attempts of 75 questions for 150 days.

PNCB's Test-taking Strategies resource is a free PowerPoint developed to help you learn exam preparation tips, strategies for answering multiple-choice exam questions, and techniques to manage test anxiety. Not a study or a review course.

What review course should I take? Which books are the best? Do you offer a review course?

The PNCB can't conduct a review course because this would be a conflict of interest. We also can't endorse a specific review course or book, but we do recommend you consider the following when selecting a course or title:

  1. How are the instructors or authors prepared? Do they have rigorous academic credentials? Do they hold the credential you seek? What about their practice experience?
  2. Are the topics covered consistent with the exam's content outline?
  3. Do the books offer practice questions after each chapter?
  4. Does the course offer testimonials? If so, evaluate the comments offered by your peers.
  5. Does the review course ask for feedback? Do they post survey results on their website?
  6. Talk to others who have taken a specific review course. Were they satisfied?

You may also want to check your membership organization website for books that are recommended. We hope this gives you an idea of things to look for as you make your decisions.

Sample Questions for the CPNP-AC Exam

Please note that these are only sample question types you may encounter and do not reflect the scope or degree of difficulty of the exam. The answer key is located at the bottom of the page. For more questions with correct answer rationale, consider PNCB's practice tests for your exam.

Select the one answer that is best in each case.

Sample Questions

1. A 2 year old presents with acute bruising over multiple body surfaces including arms, legs, and trunk. Faint petechiae are also noted. A CBC reveals:

AC Sample Question Chart

The MOST appropriate next step in management is:

A. measure prothrombin and partial thromboplastin times

B. refer to hematologist for bone marrow aspiration

C. treat with cyclophosphamide

D. treat with high dose steroids

2. A previously healthy 10 month old has vomiting, intermittent periods of intense crying and is passing red stool. Which should be considered FIRST?

A. arrange for a barium or air enema

B. obtain an abdominal radiograph

C. obtain a complete blood count

D. schedule surgical appointment for tomorrow

3. Which of the following are developmental characteristics of a 6-month-old?

A. rolls from side to side, babbles, sits in tripod fashion

B. uses pincer grasp to grab small objects, sits unsupported, babbles

C. rolls from side to side, uses pincer grasp to grab small objects, says two words

D. sits in tripod fashion, babbles, sits unsupported

4. A 13 month old currently being treated for neuroblastoma presents with lethargy and a history of poor oral intake. Findings include a temperature of 103° F (39.4° C) and BP 70/40 mmHg. The MOST important intervention is to

A. obtain blood cultures and a CBC.

B. administer broad spectrum antibiotics and IV fluids.

C. consult the hematology/oncology department for admission.

D. obtain a head and abdominal CT.

5. An acute care pediatric nurse practitioner who has accepted a position in an oncology department will be performing lumbar punctures for diagnostic purposes. Which BEST determines the legal authority to do this task?

A. state NP scope of practice for ordering, performing and interpreting laboratory tests

B. preparation obtained from the acute care educational program

C. supervising physician's determination of practitioner’s skills

D. insurance coverage for the hospital procedure


1. B
2. A
3. A
4. B
5. A

Faces of Certification

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

Joaquin Adame, CPNP-PC Children's Health Specialty Center Dallas, TX
Heraldine Flores, CPN Baker College Chicago, IL
Joanne Wintersgill, PMHS Cumming Pediatric Group Cumming, GA
View more Faces of Certification