Pediatric Nurse Certification

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The Certified Pediatric Nurse Certification Exam (CPN) was developed in 1989 by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). The examination and certification program were developed in response to a nationwide survey of pediatric nurses which indicated a general desire to participate in a certification program for professional development.[1]

Three committees of the PNCB focus on keeping the examination up to date: the CPN Exam Committee, the CPN Standard Setting Committee, and the CPN Form Review Committee.[2] The PNCB also regularly invites certified pediatric nurse practitioners and certified pediatric nurses to participate in mentoring and training workshops for test item writing.[2]

Following a 2012 role delineation study conducted by the PNCB, a revised version of the content outline for the examination went into effect in April 2013.[3] Similar role delineation studies are conducted every seven to ten years.[4]

Function of the Test

Pediatric Nurse Study Guide

Candidates who pass the CPN examination receive the CPN certification from the PNCB. CPN certification is designed to recognize registered nurses who have specialty knowledge in pediatric nursing exceeding the knowledge of RN licensure.

Candidates for CPN certification must be registered nurses licensed to practice in the United States, Canada, or a U.S. territory. Candidates must also have documentation of 1,800 hours of pediatric clinical practice and/or participation in a Versant pediatric residency program within the 24 months preceding application to take the examination.[5]

More than 19,000 nurses have received the CPN credential from the PNCB since 1989.[6] In 2013, 3,097 candidates took the CPN examination, and 73% of candidates passed.[7]

Test Administration

Pediatric Nurse Nurse Flashcards

The CPN examination is computer-based and is offered at Prometric Testing Centers.[8] After a candidate successfully applies to take the exam, the PNCB assigns the candidate a 90-day window in which to schedule and complete the examination. The examination is offered by appointment Monday through Friday between 9:00 AM and 1:30 PM.[8]

The PNCB offers a program called "No Pass, No Pay" which enables employers to subsidize their nurses in taking the CPN examination. Nurses whose employer does not participate in the "No Pass, No Pay" program must pay $295 to take the examination. A retest costs $245.[9] However, if an employer enrolls in the "No Pass, No Pay" program, neither the employer nor its nurses pay examination fees for a nurse's first two failed examinations. Employers who enroll in the program pay the examination fee for nurses who pass the examination, allowing the nurse to take the examination without any out-of-pocket expenses.[10]

All questions on CPN examination are multiple choice.[6] The examination has a time limit of three hours.[3]

Candidates receive a score report immediately after completing the examination. Successful candidates receive a wall certificate and a CPN lapel pin by mail approximately 2-3 weeks after the testing date.[11]

Candidates who do not pass the examination receive targeted feedback specifying which content areas the candidate needs to improve on. There is no waiting period necessary before applying to re-take the examination.[8]

Candidates with disabilities which require accommodation may complete the "Request for Special Examination Accommodations" form available on the PNCB's website. The form must be completed in cooperation with a health care professional who has treated the candidate's disability.[12]

Test Format

Sections of the CPN Test
CPN Test Subject Areas # of Questions Percentage
Assessment 45 30%
Management 72 48%
Health Promotion 25 17%
Professional Role 8 5%
Total 150 100%

Test Environment

Candidates are expected to arrive in a timely manner for their exam. Any candidate who is more than fifteen minutes late to their scheduled appointment will be refused. For admission, each test taker must bring a primary ID (driver's license, state ID, current passport, or military ID card) and one secondary ID (student ID, debit card, credit card, etc...) The test is computer-based, and there will be a 15 minute tutorial before the exam begins. The tutorial will not count towards the three hours given to take the exam. Upon completion of the exam, there will be a short evaluation on the computer with questions about the computer testing. Candidates will find out their testing score (pass or fail) from the proctor immediately after the testing session is completed.[13]

Test Structure

The Certified Pediatric Nurse Exam is structured as a three hour long exam. The content is made up of four major subject areas: Assessment, Management, Health Promotion, and Professional Role. There will be 150 questions along with an additional 25 pre-test questions. The pre-test questions are for research for future tests, and will not count towards the final score. There are 175 questions in all.[14]

Sample Questions

More free Pediatric Nurse practice test questions.


The CPN consists of 175 questions, 150 of which are scored and 25 of which are pretest questions being assessed for inclusion on future versions of the examination.[3] As of the most recent revision in 2013, the questions are divided into four content areas:

Distribution of content on the CPN exam[3]
Domain # of
 % of
Assessment 45 30%
Health Promotion 25 17%
Management 72 48%
Professional Role 8 5%
Total 150 100%

There is no single "passing score" on the CPN. The CPN is a criterion-referenced examination. Every individual question on every form of the examination is evaluated by a panel of experts to determine its level of difficulty. Some forms of the examination are slightly more easy or difficult than other forms of the examination depending on the exact items included. Candidates' raw scores are statistically scaled to account for these varying difficulty levels. As such, candidates who take an easier version of the examination must answer more questions correctly in order to pass than candidates who take a more difficult version of the examination. The scaled scores range from 200 (0 items correct) to 800 (all items correct), and a score of 400 is the passing score.[11]

In 2013, 73% of candidates passed the CPN examination.[11]

Recent Developments

To ensure that the CPN examination reflects up-to-date clinical practice, the PNCB periodically conducts comprehensive role delineation studies to determine which responsibilities, knowledge domains, and areas of clinical activity are most critical to pediatric nursing. The most recent role delineation study was conducted in 2012.[15] Following the study, a new version of the content outline for the examination went into effect in April 2013.[3]


  1. ^ PNCB: About Us April 24 2014
  2. ^ a b PNCB: Committees April 24 2014
  3. ^ a b c d e Certified Pediatric Nurse Certification Exam Detailed Content Outline April 24 2014
  4. ^ What do pediatric nurses do? Results of the Role Delineation Study in Canada and the United States April 24 2014
  5. ^ Eligibility Requirements for CPN® Certification April 24 2014
  6. ^ a b CPN Brochure April 24 2014
  7. ^ PNCB: Our Exams April 24 2014
  8. ^ a b c CPN® Exam Administration April 24 2014
  9. ^ Fees and Procedures April 24 2014
  10. ^ PNCB's No Pass, No Pay Program April 24 2014
  11. ^ a b c Scoring the CPN® Exam April 24 2014
  12. ^ Request for Special Examination Accommodations April 24 2014
  13. ^ Test Handbook 26 June 2014
  14. ^ PNCB Content 26 June 2014
  15. ^ CPN Exam Content Outline / Test Blueprint April 24 2014