CCRN Adult Exam

Nurses specializing in caring for critical or acutely ill adult patients will be able to sit for the CCRN adult exam. A CCRN certification will help distinguish you from other co-workers. The certification shows that you are dedicated to providing high-quality care to your critically ill patients and you have the credentials to prove it.

The CCRN Adult Exam asks 150 multiple choice questions; however, only 125 of these questions will count towards your overall score. The remaining questions are experimental. The exam will test your understanding of a variety of clinical topics along with ethical practices. This is a timed test and must be completed in 3 hours.

The majority of questions on the CCRN Adult Exam will test your knowledge about clinical judgment. The clinical judgment questions, which are 80% of the total exam, will be age specific and will only ask you about adult medical conditions. This part of the exam will be broken into the following categories and topics:

  • Cardiovascular (20%) – Acute coronary symptoms, heart defects, cardiomyopathies, dysrhythmias, cardiac surgeries, and pulmonary edema
  • Pulmonary (18%) – Acute respiratory failure, lung injuries, respiratory infections including bronchitis and pneumonia, pulmonary hypertension, and aspirations
  • Neurology (12%) – Brain death, head trauma, neurosurgery, stroke, aneurysm, seizure disorders, brain tumors, and encephalopathy
  • Gastrointestinal (6%) – Abdominal trauma, GI hemorrhage, GI surgeries, malnutrition, pancreatitis, and malabsorption
  • Multisystem (8%) – Shock, toxins, drug overdose, asphyxia, multi-organ dysfunction system, and multisystem trauma
  • Renal (6%) – Renal failure and electrolyte imbalances
  • Endocrine (5%) – Hypoglycemia, diabetes, and hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome
  • Behavioral and Psychosocial (4%) – Dementia, developmental disorders, suicidal behavior, depression, abuse, and substance dependencies
  • Hematology and Immunology (2%) – Coagulopathies including ITP, DIC, and HIT

*Note: According to the AACN’s website, and the CCRN testing handbook, say that the clinical judgment portion of the exam is 80%. Its figures, however, add up to the 81%. The figures listed above are found at http://www.aacn.org:88/WD/Certifications/Docs/CertExamHandbook.pdf.

The other questions (20%) will measure your knowledge about ethical practices and professional caring. These types of questions will not be age specific. Ethical practices must be followed regardless of a patient’s age. These questions will test your understanding in the following categories:

  • Collaboration (4%)
  • Caring Practices (4%)
  • Facilitation of Learning (3%)
  • Advocacy and Moral Agency (3%)
  • Clinical Inquiry (2%)
  • Systems Thinking (2%)
  • Response to Diversity (2%)

The American Association of Critical Care Nurses has set 89 as the minimum score you must receive to pass the exam. This is a raw score, not a percentage of correct answers. The exam does not penalize you for incorrect answers.

There is a paper version of the CCRN Adult exam, but most nurses will take the exam on a computer. One of the biggest benefits of taking the exam on the computer is you will automatically receive your scores. If you pass the exam, you will be awarded the CCRN Adult certification, which will be valid for three years. If you fail the exam, you do have the opportunity to retake the exam later in the year.


Last Updated: 08/20/2013

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