Frequently Asked Questions

Test Preparation

How much time should I devote to studying? A month, 2 months?

Most candidates take 2-3 months to prepare. Click here for a list of resources including the CNOR Candidate Handbook, CNOR Study Plan, and other exam preparation items.

Are practice questions found on the CCI products on the actual exam? 

No. All of our test preparation products are intended to be a preview to the type of questions that will be asked, and to provide you references and rationale for future study. None of these questions will appear on the exam.

Exam Content

What is the best way to pick the right answer?

The answers are based on current best practice. While individual facilities interpret and implement standards based on a variety of factors, the exam needs a benchmark against which to compare competent practice.  AORN’s Guidelines for Perioperative Practice as well as key reference books are used to support the rationale for the correct answer. These references are listed in the study plan and the CNOR Exam Prep book. Aligning your practice with these references will allow you to not only provide better patient care, but increase your chances of passing the exam.

There are also few tips to consider in taking a multiple choice exam. First, go back to the stem (the question) and look at the intent of the question. What are you being asked to know/do? Are there any quantifiers (first, most important, except, etc.) that suggest that you need to prioritize or organize your actions? Another suggestion is to try and answer the question without looking at the answers first. If what you thought is an option in the answers, there’s a good chance that is the correct answer.

I have been told that the language used in the test is not common, for example a pacemaker is a pulse generator. What can you tell us about this?

Test questions are written and reviewed by perioperative peers who have intimate knowledge of current practice. Generic names may be used instead of brand names (for instance, electrosurgical unit instead of Bovie) to prevent bias and perceived endorsement of a particular product by CCI. These names may be less familiar to some perioperative nurses, but are universally recognized in the industry regardless of whether that particular product is used in your facility.

Are there any medication questions such as anesthesia?

As perioperative nurses, we are accountable for understanding the purpose,  normal doses, side effects and contraindications for every medication used in the OR, as well as possible interactions with the patient’s home meds. Even though we may not personally be giving that drug, we are often involved with managing the patient’s response to it.  

How do you develop the questions on the CNOR exam?

Actually, CCI doesn’t develop the questions – your perioperative colleagues do! CCI convenes question writing and review workshops throughout the year. The committee members who participate in these workshops are practicing CNOR-certified nurses. They work with our partners at Prometric to create valid, statistically reliable exams that reflect current practice. To apply to be one of these committees, send your contact information to Carissa Homme.

Scoring and Feedback

How many people pass the exam?

There are a variety of factors that determine a pass rate. For instance there are several forms of the test so you may not see the same test a colleague sees.  Additionally, new forms are added each year. But rigorous statistical procedures are used to make sure all forms of the test are fair. On average, about 70% of the people who take the exam pass.

Is there any way to see what questions I got wrong?

Unfortunately, no. While we understand people want to learn from their mistakes, the exam content is confidential and to release questions and answers compromises the security of the exam. However, your failed score report does give you information on your scores in each subject area (or category) of the exam so you can focus future study in the areas where you might have scored below the required level.

Exam Delivery

Do overseas people need to take the exam in the United States?

No. CCI, in partnership with our testing agency Prometric, will make reasonable efforts to find a test center within-five hundred miles of your requested location.


Is there a partial reimbursement if you fail and how many times can I take the test if I fail?

CCI is not able to provide refunds nor do we offer a discount to retake the exam, if you are unsuccessful. These policies are consistent with other nursing certification boards. CCI encourages nurses to put their time, attention and effort into adequate test preparation. 

There is currently no limit to the number of times you can retake the exam.

If I was unsuccessful in my first exam and am planning to retake it, will I see the same test again?

No. There are several forms of the test and there are procedures in place to ensure that retake candidates do not take the same test a second time.

If I fail the test, when can I retest?

The date you may reapply to take the CNOR exam depends on your testing window.  You may reapply the month after your original testing window expires.  For example, if your original testing window was January, February and March, you may reapply in April.  Your retake testing window will be May, June and July.  

If I earn contact hours for exam preparation may I use them to meet my recertification requirements?

Yes, as long as they are earned within your contact hours accrual period for recertification. For instance, if you pass the exam in 2016, you can use any approved contact hours earned from January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2020.  View the contact hour accrual periods here. All contact hours offered by AORN are acceptable since they are an approved provider of the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). Click here for a full list of approved providers.  Any hours accredited by one of the providers on this list are acceptable for CNOR recertification. 

How do I submit the contact hours that are required for recertification?

You can track and submit them online in your CCI account portal. To start, login to your account. Next, go to the "My CNOR" link at the top of your profile, go to the "Continuing Education" tab and select the orange "Report Contact Hours" button.

You will need the following information to log in your contact hours:
-  Activity name and date
-  Contact hour hours earned
-  Accredited provider (must be from the Accredited Provider List)

CCI recommends you record your hours when you earn them. Then when it is time to recertify you will just complete a short application to accompany the contact hour information that you have already provided. For more information on recertification, visit our dedicated page.

I'm working on my MSN. Will that count for continuing education for CNOR recertification when the time comes?

Yes, if you complete the course in the period during which you are certified. In other words, you can’t count courses prior to the year you took and passed the exam.

Up to 62.5 of the 125 required contact hours can be earned by converting approved academic hours. One (1) semester hour can be converted to fifteen (15) contact hours. So for example, a three-credit course can be converted to 45 contact hours. For a full description of acceptable academic credits, click here