So you've failed your CPC exam, now what? Discovering that you've failed the CPC medical coding certification exam can be devastating. It is not an easy exam to take, and the average passing rate is not high. But that is also why certified medical coding jobs are highly sought after and well compensated. It is natural to feel bad, angry, or sad about it but the important thing now is to recover from it fast because your focus now should be on retaking the CPC exam.
So how do you recover fast after failing your CPC exam? The key is to be able to get over it and move on. For a lot of people, the coding certification exam is not just an exam, it is a culmination of their significant investment in time, money, and effort towards a better future. Some may lose their jobs if they're not certified by a certain time or be unable to keep up with rising costs of living. This exam can be loaded with a lot of emotional baggage, and being unable to pass the CPC exam can cause a lot of grief.
Which brings us the five stages of grief theory, also known as the K羹bler-Ross model. This theory states that people typically go through five stages after an event; the five stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Depending on your resilience, you will go through these stages either quickly or slowly. The goal is to move on to each stage quickly, but also to use it to come out stronger on the other side.
You might be thinking the results couldn't be right, there has to be a mistake somewhere. So you go and check and confirm the results, compare notes with fellow test-takers, and ask around. Some play the blaming game, giving a host of reasons why they didn't do as well as they could. When it comes to the CPC exam, the most often cited but perfectly valid reason is that there is not enough time to finish it. While most can come up with reasons why they didn't pass the CPC exam, unfortunately not enough action is taken to ensure it doesn't happen again. Write down all the reasons you think that made you fail and analyze each of them carefully. If you don't have enough time, is it because you took too much time answering certain questions? Is it because you skipped questions that looked hard but had to waste time coming back to re-read the question? Did you answer questions that you were strong at first or last? List it all out and write down a corrective action plan for each of those reasons.
Now that you have a list of reasons, you might feel angry at certain parts of it. Welcome to the anger stage. You might feel angry because you've concentrated on the wrong subjects, or there were distracting noises during the exam. Or you found out that other people had been using an excellent CPT book highlighting technique that you weren't aware of. You might also feel angry that you didn't have the best coaching, you've wasted a lot of money on prep courses that didn't work, or that you had none. More commonly, a lot of people feel that these reasons were out of their control, that if they had control it wouldn't happen. But is it really out of your control? It's impossible to know exactly what topics might come up without cheating, but looking at past or practice exams can give you a pretty solid idea of what you need to focus on. Exam-time excuses such as distractions, being caught unprepared, etc are also under your control. You can't stop the noisy distraction but you can tune it out or raise your hand and ask the exam proctor to be relocated or act on the distraction.
Next comes the bargaining stage, where we think we can somehow postpone the inevitable. We try to argue, appeal, and rationalize the results. The problem is that unless there has been real injustice or errors, there is no real way to affect the results. The low average passing rate of the exams means that you're not alone, it is a reality you'll have to accept. It is simply smarter and more efficient to move on and start taking actions for retaking the CPC exam. The faster you get through this stage, the better.
Now that you've identified the main reasons why you didn't pass the CPC exam, you might be tempted to dwell on it and feel depressed. There might even be feelings of regret for actions you didn't do. Just like the bargaining stage, you'll want to move on as fast as possible so you don't get stuck in a rut. The time you use to think about the past is time wasted. Get social and share your experience and mistakes with others who also took the CPC exam. Learn and recognize that you're not alone and connect with people who have passed. Get a coach or experienced CPC instructor to point out your mistakes and start preparing for the next try.
Last comes the acceptance stage, and this is when you can move on and prepare to retake the CPC exams. Maintain a positive outlook and recognize that you did the best you could under the situation you were in. If you feel that you could have done better, accept that it's in the past and that you'll not make the same mistake. Build your self-confidence by making sure you put in the study and review time. The more prepared you are, the more confident you feel which therefore leads to you being able to perform your best on your next try.