How to Prepare Yourself for a Medical Coding Exam

How to get spruced up and ready for a medical coding exam depends somewhat on what exam you’re taking, since there are many different certification exams offered in this field of study. But in general there are plenty of good preparation resources for these exams.

It’s important to say at the outset that the real preparation for these exams mainly comes from the coursework (or home stud if you’re educating yourself in medical billing) that you do before hand. If you’re taking courses at a college or online school of some sort, the whole point is for you to get intimately familiar with what you need to know to pass certification exams and start working in the industry. So what we’re talking about here is not so much learning the actual material, but reviewing it and generally getting a good sense of what to expect when you actually take the test.

Just knowing basic facts like how long the test is, what types of questions are on it, how it’s graded, the amount of time you have to complete it is an essential “preparation” for these exams. Many times study materials will include this kind of information or you can find it out from whatever organization is giving the test. Remember, the more you know in general about the exam, the better. You can’t be over informed about what to expect on a test.

The following are some of the widely used and recognized medical coding exams. In addition to the specific study materials mentioned after particular exams below, there are always generalized and specific review courses both online and at community colleges you can take to prepare for these tests, and in fact that is one of your best review options. An in-class review will really get you prepared and put the whole thing in context for you. Beyond that, these more specific resources will prepare you still better for a given exam.

CCA Exam

One widely recognized exam, and one of the first ones you’ll encounter is the Certified Coding Assistant (CCA) exam. This is offered by the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA). This organization offers review materials on its website (web address listed at the end). The exam consist of 100 multiple choice questions. That doesn’t sound too bad does it? The review on the website gives a great overview of the test – a content outline, coding systems tested, how it’s scored, and other topics.
There is also a comprehensive guide book called Professional Review Guide for the CCA Examination, 2010 Edition, by Patricia Schnering. It can be found on Amazon.com and probably other online book sellers. This is a big beefy guide, I think you’ll be pretty well prepared if you go through this book.

CPC Exams

This is the Certified Professional Coder exam (which has a number of variations such as CPC-H, CPC-P, etc.) and is given by the American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC). The website itself has some helpful tips, FAQ, etc. about the exam. But for a real review there are a number of websites such as JustCoding.com (Just Coding Link) that offer practice questions.

Here again there is a comprehensive guide book called CPC Coding Exam Review 2010: The Certification Step by Carol J Buck. Again, it’s available on Amazon.com and elsewhere.

RHIT and RHIA exams

Registered Health Information Technician (RHIT) and Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA). These two exams are more advanced and usually follow Associates and Bachelors programs respectively. They cover more than just medical billing but they include it. These are also offered by AHIMA, and there are good study resources on AHIMA’s web site.

There are also other websites that offer preparation (just Google “RHIT and RHIA test prep” or similar and they will come up) as well as another big study guide you can get at Amazon.com – Professional Review Guide for the RHIA and RHIT Examinations, 2010 Edition by Patricia Schnering.

It is very likely that extensive exam review and preparation will be offered by whatever 2 or 4 year college (on or offline) you attend for the Associates or Bachelors degree programs that generally precede these tests. These are more involved certification/degrees and so your mastery of the material will not be left to chance by your instructors. But it can’t hurt to do review yourself anyway, so these test prep options and guides are a good idea regardless.

One last thing should be noted: most of these exams allow (and indeed require) you to use your code books for the exams to look up medical coding information that will be used in your answers to questions. So a good knowledge of these (and of course owning them) are a necessary preparation of a sort. Get used to finding codes in them quickly and, naturally, bring them to the exam.

It’s in your best interests to really get well prepared for these medical coding exams, because they are the cap stone to your medical coding education. Getting prepared for an exam means more than just studying. You need to know what the overall structure, topical content, and expectations concerning the exam are and tailor your review to that. Getting prepared for a specific test can be as important as knowing the material in general in terms of your success prospects. So know what you’re getting into.

Links to some organizations that give medical coding exams and exam prep:

The American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA)
http://www.ahima.org/careers/college_search/search.asp

The American Academy of Professional Coders (AAPC)
http://www.aapc.com/

Commission of Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management (CAHIIM)
http://www.cahiim.org/index.html

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