I Took the PMHNP Exam: Let Me Tell You about It

I Took the PMHNP Exam: Let Me Tell You about It

For years, ANCC has been the only certifying organization to offer nurse practitioners the Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) certification. However, in 2023, AANP–who already offered the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP), Adult-Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (AGNP), and Emergency Nurse Practitioner (ENP) certifications–announced that they too would be offering a PMHNP certification beginning in January 2024. Now that AANP is accepting applications for their PMHNP exam, let’s take a look at what exactly the AANP PMHNP certification is.


Table of Contents

What is the PMHNP Exam?

Content Areas

Am I Eligible to Take the Exam?

ANCC Eligibility Requirements
AANP Eligibility Requirements

What Do I Need to Know About the PMHNP Exam?

  1. You Have to Study
  2. Know Your Meds
  3. Understand Your Role

How Hard Is the PMHNP Exam?

What Is The PMHNP Exam?

National certification by certifying bodies such as AANP is necessary to maintain your licensure as a nurse practitioner and recognition by state Boards of Nursing (BONs). By taking and passing a PMHNP board exam, and earning your Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) certification, you can demonstrate your mastery of the skills and standards of a PMHNP.


The ANCC board exam is made up of 175 questions of various formats. These include drag-and-drop questions, extended multiple-choice, and “hot spot” or image-based questions. But don’t forget, only 150 of these are scored. The remaining 25 questions are considered “pretest” questions, and are questions ANCC is assessing for use on future exams. To pass the ANCC exam, you must get at least a scaled score of 350.

Similarly, the new AANP PMHNP exam contains a total of 135 scored multiple-choice questions (and 15 pretest questions) on the new AANP PMHNP certification exam. To pass, you must get at least a scaled score of 500.

Content Areas

The two content domains on the AANP PMHNP exam are practice (I) and patient age (II). Domain I is further divided into content categories that you may recognize from the older AANP exams: assessment, diagnosis, planning, and evaluation. Let’s look at each of these a little more closely below.

Assessment questions test your ability to establish and evaluate your relationship with your patients, including your ability to identify barriers to learning and care. This evaluates your ability to perform developmentally appropriate psychiatric evaluations, mental status exams, and comprehensive risk assessments. You’ll need to demonstrate your ability to order and/or administer screening tools and diagnostic or laboratory tests.

Now you’ll need to demonstrate your skill at interpreting the results of assessments you may have ordered, establish diagnoses, develop differential diagnoses, and recognize urgent and emergent conditions in your patients. 

Evaluation-type questions test your ability to assess your own plan of care based on outcomes. This includes monitoring for side effects and adherence to the plan of care, modifying your plan when needed, and engaging in quality improvement initiatives. You should be able to demonstrate practice in accordance with applicable ethical and legal requirements, as well as conformance to applicable scope and standards.


To pass the AANP PMHNP exam, you must earn a scaled score of at least 500. Much like the ANCC exam, the AANP exam score is scaled. This means your initial score, or raw score, is converted to a standardized score that can be as low as 200 and as high as 800. This accounts for varying levels of difficulty among all versions of the exam.

Am I eligible to take the PMHNP exam?

Before you set out to take the PMHNP board exam, make sure you meet ANCC or AANP eligibility criteria. Not only are these requirements for the certifying organizations, but they’re also great steps to gaining experience that will support your success on the PMHNP certification exam. Below is a brief overview of eligibility requirements, but you can also visit the ANCC and AANP websites for more detailed information.

ANCC Eligibility Requirements
Applicants for the ANCC PMHNP exam must hold a current, active RN license. They must have a PMHNP master’s, post-graduate certificate, or DNP from an accredited institution. This must include a minimum of 500 faculty-supervised clinical hours, and three separate, graduate-level, APRN Core courses in designated topics. Finally, you must have completed clinical training in at least two psychotherapeutic treatment modalities. 

AANP Eligibility Requirements
Applicants for the AANP PMHNP exam must have completed a nationally accredited graduate, postgraduate, or doctoral PMHP educational program, including a minimum of 500 clinical practice hours. They must complete the APRN Core, including advanced physical assessment, advanced pharmacology, and advanced pathophysiology. A current professional nursing license is required to process your application.

What do I need to know about the PMHNP exam?

Now for the inside scoop. I took the PMHNP exam and I want to talk about it!

  1. You HAVE to Study

First things first, you absolutely have to study for this exam. For the FNP exam, you can probably get away with studying for two weeks although I recommend 4weeks. Why? It’s because most nurses have a general nursing understanding which is expounded upon in our FNP schooling.  For PMHNP you need a solid month at least–maybe even closer to six weeks. I recommend that students spend their entire last semester studying for PMHNP. Why? The material is much heavier. This is not FNP material, and that’s not to discount the knowledge that FNPs have. But we are registered nurses, and most of us have worked in a general setting where we’ve seen a lot of different disease processes. But very few of us have specialized in psychiatry and have experience with psych medicines, pathophysiologies, etc. Those experiences–for most registered nurses–are few and far between. So remember, on the PMHNP exam, all of the material you’re tested on is psych material, and it is heavy. You MUST be familiar with it. Having spent a solid, dedicated amount of time studying is key in passing the PMHNP exam. Make sure you utilize reputable study materials, such as review books, practice exams, and online resources like LWES’s streamlined Last Minute PMHNP Review course! ANCC and AANP also provide valuable study materials.

  1. Know Your Meds

Related to the heaviness and specialized nature of the material, you MUST know your psych meds, which are medications that most registered nurses with general experience are not as familiar with giving. You need to know your mood stabilizer, antidepressants, antipsychotics, etc. as well as the side effects and more. Become really, really familiar with these! Luckily for you, we build this into our courses at Latrina Walden Exam Solutions.

  1. Understand Your Role

The biggest difference I noticed between the FNP exam and the PMHNP exam is that to succeed on the PMHNP exam, you must understand your role and scope of practice as a PMHNP. The PMHNP exam is (as stated by the ANCC exam blueprint) heavily focused on evidence-based practice. 

How hard is the PMHNP exam?

So how many people pass the PMHNP exam? Since AANP just began accepting applications for the new PMHNP exam in January 2024, we don’t yet have access to the score statistics and pass rates. However, here’s a look at two different years of ANCC PMHNP exam stats, provided by ANCC. 


Total Tested

Total Passed

Pass Rate 









As you can see, the majority of well-prepared candidates achieve a passing score–and you can too! 

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