CSC Practice Test

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The AACN Certification Corporation administers the Cardiac Surgery Certification (CSC) exam for those pursuing certification as a nurse who cares for cardiac surgery patients.

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CSC Exam Eligibility

To be eligible for the CSC exam, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You must have a current and unencumbered RN or APRN license in the United States.
  • You must have a current clinical nursing specialty certification that is nationally accredited.
  • You must have obtained one of the following practice hour requirements:
    • Complete at least 1,750 hours of practice as an RN or APRN in direct care of critically ill adult patients within the past two years.
    • Complete at least 2,000 hours of practice as an RN or APRN in direct care of critically ill adult patients within the past five years.

CSC Exam Outline

The CSC exam contains 90 multiple-choice questions, 15 of which are unscored, and you will be given a time limit of 2 hours. The 15 unscored questions are interspersed throughout the exam to help gather statistical data about future exam questions. They are unmarked, so you will not know which questions are scored and which are not.

The exam is split into four content areas.

I. Procedures (11%)

The questions in this section pertain to procedures in two main areas:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Thoracic

II. Complications (33%)

The questions in this section pertain to complications that may arise in the following nine areas:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Respiratory
  • Endocrine
  • Hematology/Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Renal
  • Multisystem
  • Behavioral/Psychosocial

III. Therapeutic Interventions (43%)

The questions in this section pertain to therapeutic interventions and standards of care in the following eight areas:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Pharmacology
  • Respiratory
  • Endocrine
  • Hematology/Immunology
  • Neurology
  • Renal

IV. Monitoring and Diagnostics (13%)

The questions in this section pertain to the following types of monitoring and diagnostics:

  • Cardiovascular
  • Respiratory
  • Neurology

exam outline for the CSC exam, which contains 90 multiple-choice questions and has a time limit of 2 hours

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CSC Exam Registration

There are two application options for the Cardiac Surgery Certification exam:

Online Application
You can complete your application online via the AACN website. The application will ask you for your RN or APRN license number and expiration date, as well as contact information for a co-worker or clinical supervisor who can verify your eligibility. At this time, you must also pay the $230 examination fee ($140 for AACN members).

Paper Application
For applicants applying with a group, taking a paper-and-pencil exam, and/or testing outside the US, a paper application is required. The application will ask for your RN or APRN license information and an honor statement. At this time, you must also pay the $230 examination fee ($140 for AACN members). Your application will then be processed within 2 to 3 weeks.

After applying, you will receive a confirmation email stating that you successfully applied. Approximately 5-10 days after the confirmation email is sent, qualifying candidates will receive an approval-to-test email and postcard from AACN’s testing service, PSI/AMP. The email and postcard will include an exam identification number, instructions for scheduling the exam, and a 90-day window for scheduling and taking the exam.

Test Day

In-person Testing

You should arrive at the testing center about 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled exam time. Arriving later than 15 minutes after the scheduled appointment time will result in your exam being canceled.

After you arrive, you will need to provide one form of valid, government-issued photo ID. If your ID is invalid or you forget to bring it, you will not be able to take the exam.

Before the exam begins, you will be asked to leave all personal items in your car. This includes items such as your cell phone, books, notes, jacket, hat, food and drink, etc. You will then be asked for your AACN customer number, and a digital photograph of you will be taken.

You will then be given a practice exam to help you familiarize yourself with the computer system. Once the practice exam is complete, the real exam will begin.

You are permitted to take breaks during the exam, but the timer will not be stopped while you are away.

Live Remote Proctoring

You should log into your AACN account about 30 minutes before your exam is scheduled to begin. Once you are logged in, you will be guided through the check-in process. You will not be allowed to wear headphones, and you must ensure that your testing area is free from food, your cell phone and other electronic devices, notes, and reference materials.

How the CSC Exam is Scored

The CSC exam is scored using the modified-Angoff method. This means that AACN panelists are given information such as test results and other panelists’ rating results to determine the cut score. The cut score is a raw number that is based on how the AACN panelists established the difficulty ratings for each question.

To pass the exam, you will need to answer at least 80% of the questions correctly.

If you take the computer-based exam, you will receive your score report as soon as you finish the exam. If you take the paper-and-pencil version of the exam, you will receive your score report by mail 6 to 8 weeks after exam day.

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How many questions are on the CSC exam?


There are 90 multiple-choice questions on the exam, 15 of which are not scored.


How long is the CSC exam?


The time limit for the exam is 2 hours.


What is the passing score for the CSC exam?


To pass the exam, you must answer a minimum of 80% of the questions correctly.


How much does the CSC exam cost?


The examination fee is $230. AACN members receive a discount, cutting their fee down to $140.

By Kate Nockunas

Kate has been Mometrix’s Nursing and Medical Editor for over four years. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Vanderbilt University, a bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Marymount University, and a master’s degree in Education from Johns Hopkins. Kate is a critical care registered nurse who still works occasionally in the ICU and PACU.


by Mometrix Test Preparation | This Page Last Updated: November 2, 2023