How Difficult is the CEN Exam?

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Are you an actual or prospective nurse aspiring to handle emergency cases in the United States? The CEN certification qualifies you for the role of an emergency nurse. However, to earn this certification, you’ll need to write an exam for it. The question is, “how difficult is the CEN exam?” This article reviews everything you’ll need to know about the CEN exam, including tips to help you prepare better. Let’s go!

What is the CEN Exam Like?What is the CEN Exam Like?

The CEN is administered solely by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN). The BCEN offers the CEN certification as a means for registered nurses to show their expertise, skills, and knowledge in emergency rooms. It is a Computer Adaptive Test (CAT) that contains 175 questions. Only 150 questions are scored, and 25 pre-test questions are unscored.

The exam is for 180 minutes (3 hours). Within this time frame, you are expected to review and agree to the BCEN rules and regulations for taking the test and answer 175 questions. However, before the timer begins counting, you will be given five practice questions to help familiarize yourself with the exams. The CEN exam is a multi-choice computerized exam, and you can take it at a PSI Testing Center or through Live Remote Proctoring (LRP). Live remote proctoring allows you to take the exam at any location of choice via your computer and monitor in real-time. Whether you sit for the exams at PSI testing centers or through LRP, strong security measures are implemented to ensure no cheating.

The essential CEN certification requirement is to be a licensed Registered Nurse (RN). The second requirement is not so much a requirement but a recommendation. You will need to have direct or indirect experience as an emergency nurse (the BCEN recommends two years of experience in emergency nursing). After applying for the exam, you will get a 90-day window where you can schedule the test, and the results are available immediately after the exams.

How Many Questions Are on the CEN?

How Many Questions Are on the CEN?

There are a total of 175 questions in the CEN exam. The test is divided into 8 categories, each with a set number of questions. Below is the breakdown of the categories, with some expected topics to study (remember to check the BCEN website for the complete content outline).

Cardiovascular Emergencies- 20 Questions

Topics include;

  • Acute coronary syndrome, Aneurysm/ Dissection, Heart failure, Hypertension, Dysrhythmias, Thromboembolic disease, Trauma, Shock, etc.

Respiratory Emergencies- 16 Questions

Topics include;

  • Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Infections, Obstruction, Pulmonary Edema, Pulmonary Embolus, Aspiration, Inhalation Injuries, etc.

Neurological Emergencies- 16 Questions

Topics include;

  • Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Meningitis, Seizure Disorders, Shunt Dysfunction, Migraine, Temporal Arteritis, Spinal Cord Injuries, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis, Trauma, etc.

Gastrointestinal, Genitourinary, Gynecology, and Obstetrical Emergencies- 21 Questions

Topics include;

  • Acute Abdomen, Cirrhosis, Diverticulitis, Bleeding, Gastritis, Hepatitis, Hernia, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Trauma, Ulcers, Pancreatitis, etc.
  • Foreign Bodies, Urinary Tract Infection, Epididymitis, STDs, Priapism, Urinary Retention, Testicular Torsion, Renal Calculi, etc.
  • Vaginal Bleeding/Dysfunction, Foreign Bodies, Hemorrhage, Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases, Discharge, Sexual Assault/Battery, Ovarian Cyst, etc.
  • Ectopic Pregnancy, Emergency Delivery, Abruption Placenta, Post-partum Bleeding, Hemorrhage, Placenta Previa, Neonatal Resuscitation, Preterm Labor, Preeclampsia, Eclampsia, etc.

Psychosocial and Medical Emergencies- 25 Questions

Topics include;

  • Abuse/ Neglect, Anxiety/Panic, Depression, Aggressive/Violent Behavior, Psychosis, Homicidal/Suicidal Ideation, etc.
  • Allergic Reactions, Anaphylaxis, Hemophilia, Anticoagulant Medications, Thrombocytopenia, Leukemia, Sickle Cell Crisis, Electrolyte/Fluid Imbalance, Sepsis, Septic Shock, etc.

Maxillofacial, Ocular, Orthopedic, and Wound Emergencies- 21 Questions

Topics include;

  • Abscess, Epistaxis, Facial Nerve Disorders, Foreign Bodies, Infections, Ruptured Tympanic Membrane, etc.
  • Abrasions, Glaucoma, Retinal Artery Occlusion, Burns, etc.
  • Amputation, Inflammatory Conditions, Osteomyelitis, Fractures, Dislocations, Contusions, etc.
  • Wounds, Abrasions, Lacerations, Injection/MissileInjuries, Pressure Ulcers, etc.

Environmental and Toxicology Emergencies and Communicable Diseases- 15 Questions

Topics include;

  • Burns, Chemical Exposure, Food Poisoning, Radiation Exposure, Submersion Injury, Electrical Injuries, Vector-Borne Illnesses, Envenomation Emergencies, etc.
  • Acids and Alkalis, Drug Interactions, Overdoses, Substance Abuse, Carbon Monoxide, etc.
  • Childhood Diseases, Herpes Zoster, Mononucleosis, Tuberculosis, etc.

Professional Issues (Nurses, Patient, and System)- 16 Questions

Topics include;

  • Ethical Dilemmas, Evidence-based Practice, Critical Incident Stress Management, Research, etc.
  • Discharge Planning, Organ and Tissue Donation, Family Presence, Forensic Evidence Collection, Patient Safety, Pain Management, procedural Sedation, Transfer and Stabilization, etc.
  • Disaster Management, Federal Regulations, Patient Consent for Treatment, Symptom Surveillance, Triage, etc.

What is the Passing Score for the CEN Test?

What is the Passing Score for the CEN Test?

The number of questions you answer correctly determines your score. The passing score for the CEN is 106, meaning that you’ll need to answer 106 questions correctly out of 150 total questions. Any questions you leave unanswered will be marked as incorrect. It would be best to answer all questions, even if you had to guess. Chances are, you may even guess some of them correctly.

Often, when people talk about the CEN test, they’ll ask questions like “How hard is the BCEN exam?” or “how difficult is the CEN exam?” The CEN is a challenging exam because of its rigorous and comprehensive nature. But that shouldn’t cause you to become worried. The 70% passing score leaves room for several incorrect answers. Just make sure you give it your best shot from the start.

Besides, you can take the exam, again and again, every time you fail. Just make sure to wait for a 90 days interval after your last attempt.

CEN Examination Preparation: 5 Tips to Ace the Exam

CEN Examination Preparation: 5 Tips to Ace the Exam

The CEN certification may be challenging but preparing yourself will significantly improve your chances of passing. Here, look at some preparatory tips to help you prepare better for the CEN exams.

Take practice tests.

CEN practice tests are a great way to familiarize yourself with the exam. It shows you the exam format and shows you your test results immediately after each test session. Several free and paid practice tests are available online, but we typically recommend browsing the BCEN website. The BCEN also offers practice tests in two formats- timed and untimed. The first format follows the exact structure of the actual exams, and you will not see answers and inferences till the end of the exam. The non-timed design allows you to see correct answers and explanations to every question as you go.

Focus on your areas of weakness

The CEN has a content outline you can use to familiarize yourself with the topics covered in the exams. When you study the topics, you will be able to identify your areas of strength and weaknesses. Therefore, you will not need to spend so much time studying areas you are adept at. Focusing on those weak areas will increase your chances of passing. Also, taking practice tests is another excellent way to discover your areas of weakness. Some quizzes are broken down into categories to help you determine your weak areas and focus on them.

Take advantage of your experience.

You can gain from your personal experience from working in the ED, which is probably why the BCEN recommends two years of experience in the Emergency Department. Giving yourself at least nine months of experience in the emergency room will boost your success rates. Many people have discovered that some so-called “difficult” questions are not so difficult once you have seen and taken care of patients in that condition.

You can also benefit from the experience of resourceful people in your department- those who have mastered particular areas can help you understand those areas. Everyone from the RNs, doctors, respiratory therapists, and so on has experiences that will benefit you immensely.

Make use of flashcards.

Flashcards are a gift when studying for the CEN exam. There are critical concepts you will need to learn and memorize to become a Certified Emergency Nurse. And when it comes to repetitive learning, flashcards are the best.

Flashcards break down each subject to its most critical concepts, so you don’t have to spend so much time memorizing everything. Flashcards are engaging and portable, so you can carry them along with you and study on the go.

Practice time management skill

It is not enough to know the correct answers to the questions; you must also answer them in good time. Having good time management skills will improve your chances of success. Also, time management skills are not only helpful in taking the exam. It will serve you well in the emergency department dealing with critical case scenarios where quick thinking is of the essence.

Wrapping Things Up: How Difficult is the CEN Exam?

There you have it, a detailed look at the CEN exam. The certification for emergency nursing exam features 175 questions of varying difficulty levels. While 25 of these questions are unscored, you’ll typically not know which is unscored, so we recommend approaching all questions with the same degree of preparation. While so e questions may be easy for you, others would be very difficult. Therefore, you’ll need to put more effort into preparation to ace the exam. An excellent way to stay motivated throughout your preparatory phase is to remember how the CEN certification can boost your career.

It typically boils down to how hungry you are to pass the exam. The CEN exam tips in this article will help you prepare better.

Professor Conquer
Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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