CCRN Certification: How to Pass the CCRN Exam

CCRN certificationWhat is CCRN Certification?

CCRN stands for Critical Care Registered Nurse.  The CCRN is a certification for RNs who provide direct care to acute or critically ill patients.   A CCRN may sub-specialize in adult, pediatric, or neonatal patient care.

For nurses who do not provide direct patient care, a CCRN-K is a knowledge-based certification that may be appropriate for managers, supervisors, or administrators.

The CCRN certification is provided through the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, and accredited organization by the NCCA.

How to Become a CCRN

1. Current U.S. RN or APRN License is Required

2. Complete Required Clinical Practice Hours

Two Year Option

For those who have practiced as an RN or APRN for 1,750 hours in direct care of acutely/critically ill patients in the past 2 years. At least 875 hours of this direct care must be within the most recent year preceding the application

Five Year Option

For those who have practiced as an RN or APRN for at least 5 years with a minimum of 2,000 hours of direct care in acutely / critically ill patients. At least 144 hours of this direct care must be within the most recent year preceding the application.

3. Apply for Certification Online

You must be a member of the AACN to apply for and to become certified as a CCRN. Annual membership is $78 and student discounts are available. Once a member, you can apply for the CCRN on the AACN website.

4. CCRN Exam Prep

ccrn examThe CCRN Exam Handbook provides an outline of the material covered in the exam, but it is up to you to study the material.

There are very helpful CCRN study guides and CCRN exam prep courses available. If you learn best through video lessons (hearing and visually seeing material), I would highly recommend an online CCRN prep program.

With many programs, you can access the entire prep course and also complete all of your CEUs for the year under the same membership.

5. Schedule and Take the Exam

The CCRN exam is a 3 hour exam that consists of 150 items. Only 125 question items are scored and 25 items are not scored (used for future test development).

Computer based test results are available immediately following the exam.

If you do not pass the CCRN exam, you may re-register (at a discounted rate) and sit up to 4 times in a 12 month period.

CCRN Review Course

The CCRN Exam Handbook is a very helpful resource that outlines the application process, certificate renewal steps, and also contains an outline of content and practice exam questions for each sub-specialty.

CCRN Practice Questions

CCRN Review questions are available in the handbook as well as online.  

Tim Fraticelli, DPT | Physical Therapist

Tim Fraticelli is a Physical Therapist, Certified Financial Planner™ and founder of He loves to teach PTs and OTs ways to save time and money in and out of the clinic, especially when it comes to documentation or continuing education. Follow him on YouTube for weekly videos on ways to improve your financial health.