Steps to CNOR Certification 

Confirm Your Eligibility

At the time you apply for the exam, you must:

  • Have a current unrestricted RN license.
  • Be currently working full-time or part-time in perioperative nursing in the area of nursing education, administration, research or clinical practice.
  • Have completed a minimum of 2 years and 2,400 hours of experience in perioperative nursing, with a minimum of 50% (1,200 hours) in the intraoperative setting.

Check Your Readiness

We have many resources to help you determine your readiness. Watch the certification webinar for a walkthrough on applying, then learn about the exam with the content outline and sample questions.

Certification Webinar
This 30 minute, complimentary Certification Webinar explains the process of certification from start to finish and the CNOR exam in detail.  

Sample Questions
Test your basic perioperative knowledge by answering five Exam Sample Questions. The questions are representative of actual CNOR test content and question format.

CNOR Readiness Survey
The CNOR Readiness Survey helps you identify areas of strength and where you need to improve. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will help you put together a study plan.

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Meet the Deadlines

The exam is offered year round. After you apply, you have a three month testing window to take the CNOR exam. 

Your three month testing window will open immediately following approval of your application (i.e. if you apply in January, then you may test in February, March or April.)

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Prepare for the CNOR Exam

Put together a study plan, and use the available books and study tools to get ready. Know what goes into the exam: 200 multiple-choice questions across 9 subject areas. You will have three hours and 45 minutes to complete the exam.

Exam Topic Areas
The CNOR exam is designed to assess the ability of a RN with two years of experience to apply knowledge and skills to current perioperative practice. The exam content is based on the findings of a Job Analysis which describes the overall functions and responsibilities as well as the underlying knowledge, tasks and skills that are essential to ensure proficiency as a perioperative nurse.

CNOR Exam Subject Areas

The CNOR exam covers the following subject areas:

CNOR Exam Topic Areas % of Questions
Preoperative Patient Assessment and Diagnosis 12%
Perioperative Plan Of Care 10%
Intraoperative Care 27%
Communication 10%
Transfer of Care 6%
Instrument Processing and Supply Management 9%
Emergency Situations 11%
Management of Personnel, Services, and Materials 6%
Professional Accountability 9%
Total 100%

Develop a Study Plan
Most nurses take two or three months to prepare for the CNOR exam. Developing a customized study plan will help you stay organized and on schedule. Download our free CNOR Study Plan, and customize it to fit your goals. (This is a only a guide. It is not comprehensive review of all available literature.)

Prepare for the Exam
We have a variety of tools to help you prepare, including test-taking tips, online practice tests and a comprehensive study guide. The current CNOR exam is based on the AORN Standards and Recommended Practices so you will want to make sure to have access to the most recent edition.

Look into CCI exam preparation resources

Check out other perioperative reference books

Visit our CNOR Exam Prep section for more information.

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Get your information together and fill out your application.

You are now ready to apply for the CNOR exam. You will need the following information to complete the application. If you have all of this information, the process will take you 10 to 15 minutes.

  • Personal contact information - address, email and phone number (home and work)
  • Birth year
  • Highest degree earned
  • Employer contact information – facility name, phone number
  • RN information – RN license issue date, state licensed to practice
  • Perioperative work history – last two years, date began working in the OR, current position, and current practice area
  • Supervisor contact information (name, address, email, phone number)
  • Payment information (check or credit card)

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Schedule and Take the CNOR Exam

Once your application has been approved, you may locate a testing center near you and schedule an exam time. Be sure to bring your ID documentation to the testing center and to follow all testing center rules. You will have 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the 200 question exam.  

Once CCI has processed your application and determined that you have met all eligibility requirements, you will be notified to schedule your testing date and location. CCI works with Prometric, a professional testing service, to administer the CNOR exam. Testing is available Monday through Saturday, except holidays, at hundreds of locations nationwide.

To locate the testing center closest to you, visit Competency and Credentialing Institute Testing and select "Locate a Test Center." If you are testing outside of the US, Prometric will make reasonable efforts to find a test center within-five hundred miles of your requested location.

You will have 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete the 200 multiple choice questions on the exam.  Plan on answering one question per minute.  The questions test your ability to apply knowledge and skills to perioperative practice. The CNOR exam is a computer-based test that requires you to answer all 200 questions. The format of the exam does not require previous computer experience.

Get Your Results 
You will receive your CNOR results at the conclusion of the exam.  The CNOR exam is graded on a pass/fail basis. If you pass the exam, CCI will email your official CNOR certificate within 7-10 days.

If you are not successful in passing the CNOR exam, you will receive a Failed Score Report at the testing center.  This report details the subject areas in which you are considered competent and those which need improvement. Use this information to identify the subject areas where you need additional preparation and consider when you would like to re-take the exam.

To retake the exam, you may apply any time after the end of your testing window.  The retake fee is the same as the regular application fee.

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Next Steps

Get involved with the CNOR community and start planning on recertification now.

Get Involved as a CNOR
Think about volunteering for one of CCI's exam development committees, such as item writing or even the Board of Directors

Continue Your Professional Development
We encourage you to seek additional professional development opportunities including:

  • Executive education programs
  • Contact Hour Courses
  • Certificate Programs
  • Non-credit education courses
  • In-house training
  • Graduate degrees

These programs provide you opportunities to update existing or to develop new knowledge and skills in perioperative practice.

Your CNOR credential is good for 5 years. Any contact hours you earn in the year you pass the exam apply to your recertification requirements. Learn more about recertification so you will be prepared when it is time to renew your credential.

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