Testing tips

How NCC Tests are Constructed
The NCC certification examination consists of 150 scored multiple choice questions and and 10 to 25 pretest questions. The NCC subspecialty examination consists of 100 scored multiple choice questions and 10 to 25 pretest questions. The pretest items are embedded in the exam and will not be specifically identified or scored. (It is NCC's standard practice to use questions with statistical history. Pretesting the questions, allows the gathering of such statistics quickly and efficiently.)

How Individual Questions are Constructed
Each question is comprised of three parts (1) the stem, (2) the correct answer, and (3) two distractors. Sometimes questions may be accompanied by pictures or illustrations. The stem of the question poses the problem that you are being asked to solve. The two distractors (wrong answers) are usually plausible responses, but the correct answer should be the most correct response.

Stay cool but don't freeze
When you begin the test, the best approach is to answer the questions in the order they appear. Read each question all the way through. Don't stop reading after the second choice because you think you've found the right answer — you might overlook a later choice that would be more precise.

If you come to a question that you don't know, DON'T PANIC! Read the question again carefully and be sure you understand what it is asking. If you still feel unsure, put a check mark next to it and move on to the next question. If you skip a question, be careful to leave the answer sheet blank. Don't spend too much time agonizing over one question. You can return to the more difficult questions after you have finished the easier ones. You may be able to solve them later from information triggered by other questions.

Don't become emotional about a question you believe is wrong or flawed in some way. If a question does not meet statistical criteria for performance standards, it will not be counted for your score.

Also, don't be concerned about the pattern of your responses — the choices are always listed in alphabetical or numeric order so there is no set pattern.

You know what happens when you assume
Don't jump to conclusions when you read the stem. Try to evaluate what the question is asking and take the question as it is. Don't read into a question or make assumptions that stretch beyond the information that is given to you. Another mistake is to perceive that the question does not contain enough information. The information supplied in the stem, combined with your own practice experience and education, should be sufficient to answer the question. Determine the best answer based only on the facts in the stem.

You can't lose at the guessing game
Of course there may be some questions on the test that you simply can't answer. In this case, your best bet is to guess. There is no penalty for guessing because your score is based on the number of questions you answer correctly.

Try to predict the answer to the question before you look at the choices. If you see the answer you predicted, you should still review the other choices to make sure that none seem "more correct" than yours. If you don't know the answer, read each choice very carefully and eliminate the choices you know to be wrong. That way you can determine the best answer through a process of elimination. Each time you eliminate an answer, your chances of guessing correctly get better.

There are a number of strategies to improve your guessing ability. The list below offers some of the more common clues to look for:

  1. Choices with qualifiers in them such as usually, commonly, possibly and probably are more likely to be right.
  2. Choices with absolutes in them, such as all, always, none or never are more likely to be wrong.
  3. Look for an important keyword that is contained in the stem and also in the list of choices. The correct choice sometimes includes the same keyword.
  4. If some of the choices include common elements, the choice that has the most common elements is more likely to be correct.
  5. The correct choice is sometimes longer than the other choices. This is because a more accurate answer sometimes requires more words to describe it.
  6. A choice whose content or wording does not seem to fit in the same class with the other choices is more likely to be wrong.


CCPR is an independent not for profit organization and is solely responsible for development of CCPR products. Utilization of any CCPR can serve as one way to prepare for NCC certification. Participation does not imply a guarantee that certification will be achieved.

Every effort is made to insure the information in the CCPR products is accurate, however, CCPR disclaims any responsibility for any errors or omissions they may contain.

NCC has no responsibility for the development of CCPR products, but has provided authorization to reprint competency statements and test outlines where appropriate.


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