CSC Exam

The Cardiac Surgery Certification (CSC) exam is for those who are seeking to be certified in the direct care of acutely/critically ill adult cardiac patients during the first 48 hours after cardiac surgery. This subspecialty certification proves that passing candidates have the skills and abilities required to be successful in this field. To be CSC means you have met all requirements and have exceeded them with professionalism and dedication.

Who is Eligible?

To be eligible for CSC certification, you must have:

  • A current and unrestricted U.S. RN or APRN license
  • At least 1750 hours of direct care of adult acutely/critically ill patients in the last two years (875 of those hours must have taken place in the last year and another 875 hours in the care of adult acutely/critically ill patients who have had cardiac surgery in the last 48 hours), or
  • At least 2000 hours in the last five years in the care of adult acutely/critically ill patients (144 of those hours must have taken place in the last year and 1000 hours in the are of adult acutely/critically ill patients who have had cardiac surgery in the last 48 hours)
  • A current clinical nursing specialty certification with involvement in direct care and accredited by the NCCA or ABSNC
  • Verification from a professional associate of your clinical practice hours

There is an application fee of $130 for AACN members and $215 for non-members for your initial computer-based exams. Retakes and renewals are given at a discount of $110 for members and $155 for non-members.

When and Where is it Taken?

Once your application has been successfully processed, you will be sent a confirmation email. About 5-10 days after this you will receive an email and postcard from PSI/AMP, the AACN’s testing service. This will include information about how to schedule your exam, which must be done and taken within a 90-day testing window.

Tests can be scheduled twice daily, at 9 am and 1:30 pm, Monday through Friday at over 300 locations scattered throughout the U.S. Most locations are also available for Saturday appointments. A full list of available sessions will be provided for you during registration.

Choose a session that is convenient for you. However, due to limited space, it is recommended that you schedule your preferred session as early as possible. Space and seating are filled on a first come, first served basis.

What to Expect on Test Day?

It is recommended that you arrive early for your scheduled exam. There is a check-in process you will need to complete before you are allowed to sit for the exam. If you arrive late, you will not be permitted into the facility and will need to reschedule, forfeiting all exam fees.

You will need to bring at least one current and valid form of identification with you. This must be a government-issued photo ID that contains your signature and full name as it appears on your application. If your ID contains missing or incorrect information, you will not be allowed to test that day.

It is also important to note that personal items are not allowed into the testing area. This includes but is not limited to belongings such as cell phones, study materials, outerwear, bags or purses, and food/drinks. If you are found in violation of this policy, you will be dismissed and your test scores will be voided.

What is Covered?

This test consists of 90 multiple-choice questions. Of those, 15 are pretest questions that are not counted towards your score and will be unidentified. Below is a list of the main categories found in the exam and the amount of weight each is given.

  • Procedures (19%)
  • Complications (31%)
  • Therapeutic Interventions (36%)
  • Monitoring and Diagnostics (15%)

You will be given two hours to complete the entire exam.

How is Scored?

For computer-based tests, you will receive a score breakdown at the testing site once you have completed your exam. Paper and pencil exam results will be mailed about 3 to 4 weeks after the exam.

Wall certificates for successful candidates will be mailed within 3-4 weeks of passing the exam. Your certification is good for three years, after which you will need to renew your credentials.

Scores are calculated by taking your raw score (the number of correctly answered questions) and converting it to a scaled score based on the difficulty of those questions. An exam development committee (EDC) carefully reviews each exam version to determine what score should be accepted as passing. This score is not posted, but your score results will reference this.

How Can I Prepare for the CSC Test?

We believe that different learning styles require different tools for success. We have compiled a list of the best study guides, flashcards, and practice tests that we’ve found on the market. Some of these guides have review videos, for you visual learners out there. Others have practice tests, which have been proven to increase student scores by a whole letter grade (in some cases more than that)!

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Last Updated: August 5, 2019