How To Prepare for a Medical Coding Exam

Medical coders translate patient notes into codes for billing.
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Medical coding exams like the Certified Coding Specialist exam given by the American Health Information Management Association and the Certified Professional Coder exams given by the American Academy of Professional Coders require knowledge of highly specialized information including codes, anatomy and medical terminology. To properly prepare for the exam, the AAPC recommends a series of steps candidates should take.

Acquire a copy of the latest version of a codebook like the American Medical Association's "Current Procedural Terminology" or "ICD-9-CM." An approved codebook is essential for learning the latest coding guidelines. Also, if you don't have an approved codebook for the CCS exam, for example, you will not be allowed to take the test and will forfeit your exam fee.

Take a medical terminology course and an anatomy course either online or at a local college or university. Taken online, each course is about two months long or one semester taken at a university. It may also be helpful to take a medical coding course.

Complete an online prep course designed specifically for the coding exam you plan to take. There are several online coding schools, or take one of the courses offered by the AAPC or AHiMA. This step is recommended, but if you are confident of your coding knowledge, it is not essential.

Utilize a study guide written for the CPC or CCS exam. The study guide will give you a direction to focus your studies as well as examples of questions that will be on the test. It will also give you tips to help you complete the exam in the most efficient manner.

Use a combination of the coding exam study guide and your anatomy and terminology courses to create terminology and code flash cards. Drill yourself or study with a friend until you have the information on the flash cards memorized.

Take an online practice test. The practice test will give you your best idea about your readiness to take the coding exam. Online practice tests simulate the questions and format you will encounter on the real test, so you will know exactly what to expect.

Jill Kokemuller has been writing since 2010, with work published in the "Daily Gate City." She spent six years working in a private boarding school, where her focus was English, algebra and geometry. Kokemuller is an authorized substitute teacher and holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Iowa.