How to Prepare for the CNML Exam

As you prepare to take the CNML exam we would like to share the following suggestions and tools to assist you:

Exam Content Outline / Test Plan

One of the most important study tools is the Exam Content Outline, also known as the Test Plan, included in the CNML Exam Handbook. The Exam Content Outline is broken down by content area with each listing the number of questions in each topic area on the exam.

Each content area is described by the list of tasks that follows the content heading in the Exam Content Outline. In addition, the number of exam questions devoted to each major content area is indicated.

Each question on the exam is also categorized by a cognitive level that a candidate would likely use to respond. These categories are:

  • Recall: The ability to recall or recognize specific information;
  • Application: The ability to comprehend, relate or apply knowledge to new or changing situations; and
  • Analysis: The ability to analyze and synthesize information, determine solutions and/or evaluate the usefulness of a solution.

Review the content categories and related tasks, identifying those tasks that are not performed regularly and are not familiar. Then, focus study on those unfamiliar tasks.

Remember that all questions in the CNML exam are job-related and test application and analysis of information, not just recall of isolated facts.

Exam Review Course

Consider purchasing the interactive Web-based E-Learning course "Essentials of Nurse Manager Orientation" or the CNML SAE, or attend an on-site review course.

The AACN Online Bookstore features a variety of educational products that you may find helpful. 

Exam Resources

Another source of information is the Exam Resources, also known as the Exam References. This is a list of references used by the item writers to validate correct answers to the exam questions.

To view the exam references, refer to the CNML Exam Handbook.

Sample Exam Questions

A number of sample exam questions are included in the CNML Exam Handbook.

Study Group

Consider forming a small exam study group to share ideas. Candidates who pool their resources and study together may be more confident in their knowledge and more likely to succeed at passing the exam.

Consider scheduling to test at the same time and traveling to the testing site together and support one another every step of the way.

Certified Nurses & Other Colleagues

Talk with certified nurse managers to find out what tools they used to prepare for the exam and what study tips they might offer.

Score Report

If you are retesting, review the printed score report that you received after taking the exam and identify in which areas you have the most opportunity to improve.

Concentrate your studies on the most heavily weighted topic areas as listed on the Exam Content Outline, but remember that the other areas are important too — especially if you scored a low percentage in an area.

We suggest that you plan your study emphasis and time in proportion to the weight of the topic.