What is the CEN Exam?

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As the only source available for emergency nursing professionals, BCEN offers the CEN exam as a chance for nurses to improve and demonstrate their expertise. Whether it’s for personal development or a requirement by the institute, this exam is not to be taken lightly. While it’s not often a requirement at any institute, it’s often encouraged to sit for it.

A candidate must be familiar with various aspects of the CEN exam. First of all, not anyone can take it, as specific requirements need to be met. Moreover, the exam is quite lengthy, and the questions are elaborate. Hence, proper preparation for the exam is essential. This article is a compilation of everything you need to know about the CEN exam.

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

CEN stands for Certified Emergency Nurse. But what is the CEN exam? Why would someone need it? Well, it’s an exam provided by the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing (BCEN). The reason it’s provided is to provide nurses working in the emergency room with a chance to reinforce and prove their skills.

Hence, while not necessary, institutes and hospitals might require their nurses to obtain the CEN certification. The reason for that is it proves how efficient and knowledgeable someone is in the field. That aims to reinforce pre-existing knowledge and instill any details regarding procedures.

When working in the emergency room, one faces several different challenges. Not only do emergency room nurses run around helping people out, but all types of cases walk through the door. Nurses must be prepared for it all, whether it’s trauma, heart conditions, allergies, or reproduction issues.

Is the CEN a certification or a certificate? The CEN, just like other professional programs, is a certification. That entails the following:

  • The primary purpose of having a certification is to validate existing knowledge and expertise in your field, not learning skills from scratch.
  • Certification is equivalent to being board-certified and having official credentials, not earning CE (Continuing Education) hours.
  • All certifications are nationally recognized as opposed to certificates, which vary according to the program.
  • The time required to prepare for the certification exam is often a few months, nota few days or hours of a crash course to learn a new skill.

Hence, the CEN is a certification. Throughout your life, you’ll most likely take certificates through other courses to extend and update your current certification.

Eligibility and Requirements to Take the CEN Test

One must already be an emergency nurse to be eligible to become a CEN nurse. Hence, the CEN requirements to qualify for the exam and register for it includes:

  • Have an unrestricted and updated nursing license or certificate that’s equivalent to an RN (Registered Nurse)
  • Completion of application received from the BCEN and approval to sit for the examination
  • 2 years of prior experience is encouraged but not mandatory

Format and Topics Covered in the CEN Test

Remember that the CEN exam aims to further prepare you for what is to come in the emergency room. Hence, the list of topics covered is extensive, and the entire outline is found on the official BCEN webpage. However, the exam is broken down into 10 main subjects, each having its own distribution of questions as follows:

  1. Cardiovascular Emergencies (19 questions) include:
    • Heart failure
    • Hypertension
    • Cardiovascular trauma
    • Shock
  1. Respiratory Emergencies (18 questions) include:
    • Asthma
    • Infections
    • Inhalation injuries
    • Obstruction
  1. Neurological Emergencies (18 questions) include:
    • Headaches
    • Meningitis
    • Seizure disorders
    • Stroke
  1. Gastrointestinal, Obstetrical, Genitourinary, and Gynecology (18 questions) includes:
    • Appendicitis
    • Urinary retention
    • Sexual assault and battery
    • Postpartum infection
  1. Mental Health Emergencies (11 questions) include:
    • Aggressive disorders
    • PTSD
    • Depression
    • Intentional overdose
  1. Medical Emergencies (14 questions) include:
    • Allergic reactions & anaphylaxis
    • Renal failure
    • Sepsis
    • Withdrawal syndrome
  1. Musculoskeletal & Wound Emergencies (13 questions) include:
    • Amputation
    • Dislocations
    • Lacerations
    • Penetrating injuries
  1. Maxillofacial & Ocular Emergencies (11 questions) include:
    • Facial nerve disorders
    • Maxillofacial trauma
    • Burns
    • Foreign bodies
  1. Environment & Toxicology Emergencies (14 questions) include:
    • Chemical exposure
    • Animal bites
    • Cyanide
    • Tuberculosis
  1. Professional Problems (14 questions) include:
    • Workplace violence related to the nurse
    • Discharge plan of patients
    • Gender equity
    • Risk management

As for the format, it’s composed of 175 questions, of which only 150 are scored. Hence, there are 25 questions meant to be pretest questions used for evaluation later.

These pretest questions are often used as part of the analysis later on by the BCEN. That entails an extensive survey and study in which the questions could be changed. This usually happens every few years. The survey aims to establish the current skills and knowledge obtained by the average emergency nurse.

Not only does that help change any problematic questions beyond a CEN nurse’s scope, but it also allows a fair comparison between various professionals across the nation. Hence, once the survey is conducted, the passing score is also re-evaluated.

The format of the CEN exam consists of a computer-based certification exam in which all the questions are multiple-choice. Moreover, the exam length is 180 minutes, equivalent to 3 hours. While that might seem excessive for 175 questions, remember that the questions are often lengthy. Hence, ample amounts of preparation are an absolute necessity.

Cost to Take the CEN Test

The perk of sitting for such an exam to obtain your professional certification is that there are various methods to pay the fees, more often than not. Hence, if you’re working under an organization, you can best reach out to the management and ask how you should proceed with the payment.

Hence, there are various different payment plans according to the path you’re taking. That includes 5 diverse pathways: self-payment, fees through BCEN vouchers, discounts offered for ENA members, retired deals, and the military discount. So, the CEN exam cost can vary according to additional benefits you already have, as seen below:

Self-pay Plan

If you’re not taking the benefits one can reap from the BCEN vouchers or the ENA institute, you’ll have to pay for everything on your own without any discount. That means that the first time you sit for the exam, you pay the total fee of $370. If you fail the exam and retake it, the cost goes down to $340. Once you’re going for the recertification, the fees are $350.

Military Personnel

As military personnel, there is quite the discount. Hence, you’ll only have to pay $195 instead of the typical fee.

Retired Fee

As a retired professional, the costs enforced upon you are $75.

ENA Member

ENA stands for Emergency Nurses Association. Becoming an ENA member is relatively straightforward. However, the membership often has to be renewed every year. Moreover, the fees for becoming an active member are not minimal. Hence, if you’re aiming to become one, consider it an investment.

While it might not sound so tempting right now, you’ll get unlimited access to communication platforms. Hence, you’ll be able to communicate with a network of like-minded professionals. Moreover, you’ll have access to JEN and ENA publications and over 30 hours of free CE credits. Hence, you’ll be able to accumulate hours to renew your certification once it’s due.

As for the fees, the initial amount that needs to be paid is $230. However, retesting costs $200. As for when you’re required to recertify your certification, there would be an additional fee of $210.

BCEN Voucher Program

BCEN offers a cost-effective method for institutes to save up on their examination fees. These vouchers apply to various examinations, such as the CEN, TCRN, and more.

The BCEN Voucher Program allows you to obtain discounts on all three of the initial exam, the retesting, and the recertification. Keep in mind that any voucher is only valid for 12 months and is non-refundable. Hence, more often than not, more prominent institutes purchase those vouchers to provide discounts for their working personnel.

As for the fees, the cost of one voucher varies depending on the amount you’re buying. For 11-20 coupons, the cost per one is $190. However, if more than 20 are being purchased, the price decreases to $185.

What is CEN Exam Passing Rate?

What is CEN Exam Passing Rate?

Whether you find this surprising, the CEN exam pass rate is low. For instance, the number of people who passed during 2021 is a mere 50.5%. Hence, the CEN is considered one of the most difficult, if not the hardest, examinations offered by the BCEN.

However, don’t allow this to deter you from your path. The passing score is often around 70% of the questions. While this might shift due to the systemic procedure the BCEN applies every few years by its board, you should currently answer 106 out of 150 to pass the examination.

How Long is the CEN Exam?

How Long is the CEN Exam?

The time you have to complete the CEN exam is 180 minutes, which is 3 hours. You’ll have 175 questions to answer, of which 25 are not calculated as part of your final score. As established earlier, the minimum amount of questions answered correctly should be 106 to pass the exam.

However, keep in mind that the time for the examination starts ticking as soon as the exam begins. First, you’ll be presented with 5 practice exam questions simply to familiarize you with what to expect and the format.

Since the exam is computerized, there is now an option to sit for it online. This is offered by the BCEN in partnership with the PSI Exams. This allows you to take the exam at a safe, physically-distant location without having to visit any testing center. However, the exam security is identical to the one at the face-to-face testing centers.

As for CEN exam locations, they’re administered at Pearson Vue sites throughout the United States. However, remember that you can apply for the examination in two ways. The first is the online method, in which you can schedule your exam on the same day. However, if you choose to send in your application by mail, you’ll wait up to 4 weeks to receive your acceptance email.

Once you do receive your approval, you’ll have a 90-day period in which you have to schedule your exam. The testing locations vary, but you always have the option of online proctoring.

How Long is the CEN Certification Good For?

How Long is the CEN Certification Good For?

To be eligible for recertification, you can either do so through continuing hours of education or retesting. Below are the criteria that must be met according to your chosen path:

Continuing Education Hours

  • Already possess a BCEN certification.
  • You must be an unrestricted registered nurse or have a nursing certificate equivalent to that of a Registered Nurse throughout the US or Canada.
  • Must have completed 100 hours of nursing continuing education
  • You must wait for 4 years after obtaining your certification to apply for a recertification.
  • Educational content must all be at the nursing practice level.
  • 75-100 hours must be clinical in the emergency room.
  • 50-100 hours have to be from accredited sources.

Resit for CEN Exam

Must currently hold a CEN certification

  • You’re an unrestricted and practicing nurse with a license equivalent to that of a Registered Nurse.
  • You have to apply for an eligibility acceptance through BCEN and receive the acceptance.
  • The exam must be scheduled and taken within the 90-day window after one gets the acceptance.

Is the CEN Exam Difficult?

Is the CEN Exam Difficult?

The short answer is yes. However, for an average person with zero experience in the emergency room, the exam is quite likely to be impossible. As for nurses who already possess the necessary skills, the exam tests them on everything they need to know in the emergency room. It ensures that the personnel working there are competent enough to handle any type of emergency that might take place.

However, once you successfully pass the exam, it’s something to be incredibly proud of. No one would take the CEN certification lightly, and you’ll be admired for your dedication.

5 CEN Exam Preparation Tips

5 CEN Exam Preparation Tips

Application Process

While you might be overwhelmed with the amount of studying you must do, first things first. The initial step you must take as a first-time candidate is to create your very own BCEN account. Afterward, you must submit the application for the exam.

We recommend applying online as that allows you to schedule your exam on the same day. The alternative is sending your application through mail, which could take anywhere from one week to four weeks for your approval to be sent by email.

Create a Study Plan

While you might want to pass this exam as soon as possible, the recommended amount of time dedicated to studying should be around 3 months. Hence, check the complete CEN exam outline to determine how to divide your study plan over 3 months.

To avoid overwhelming yourself, consider spreading the 10 topics that will come in the exam into sections. Aim to finish at least one complete subject every week, which will likely take anywhere from 1-2 hours daily. That’ll allow you to distribute the course load and prepare you mentally for the examination.

Online Practice Exams

While numerous CEN practice exams are present on the internet, we recommend checking out the one offered by BCEN. This practice exam, once purchased, will allow you access for 90 days. You’ll be able to use the same examination over and over as means to test your progress. You also have the option of sitting for the exam with it being timed or untimed for practice.

Study Course and Guide

When looking for a CEN study guide, ensure that it covers all the subjects and has a few sample exam questions to keep you in check. The top three best study guide books out there are the Pamela Bartley CEN Study Guide, one offered by the Newstone Emergency Nursing Team, and the review book from Ascencia.

Know What to Expect

As you probably won’t be able to access many online practice exams that put you in the same environment as the exam, immerse yourself in the experience. You can do so by familiarizing yourself with the test center. On the other hand, if you’re sitting for the exam online away from the center, you should go through the live remote experience to mentally prepare for the challenge ahead.

Wrapping Things Up: What is the CEN Exam?

All in all, a few key factors play into whether you’ll perform well on the exam. That is mainly compromised on the amount of time you dedicate, your study method, and the resources you use.

While the pass rate is not as high as one would like it, don’t let that deter you from your path. Once you put down a study schedule, find your resources, and go through sample questions, you’ll be more at ease.

Moreover, one of the most important things people often neglect is preparing themselves for the testing environment. Not only will that help you familiarize yourself with the situation, but it’ll also put your mind at ease on the day of the exam.

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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