Originally published October 2019.
Updated December 7, 2021.
Please check respective websites for updated information on pricing and features, as this is subject to change.
Let’s be honest. There are a few CCRN prep courses or CCRN prep books out there, and they can get pretty pricey. Most certification reviews do not provide refunds, so making this decision is kind of important!
I’d like to save you the time and energy of multiple online searches for review courses or books, and the stress of knowing what you’re getting for your money. I’ve personally checked out all over these, taken a few, and talked to other certified nurses who have tried different approaches. Let’s dive into the most used CCRN review books and programs.
If you want to learn more about the CCRN exam, check out Critical Care Nursing Certification: How to Pass the CCRN.
Below are the most commonly utilized CCRN prep courses and CCRN prep books.
CCRN Prep Courses vs. CCRN Prep Books
Should I buy a book, a course, or both?
I realize we all want to save money whenever possible. However, this isn’t an area you want to skimp.
Pro-tip: Before buying anything, check with your hospital and see if they have a nursing professional development fund. Many organizations do and will reimburse not only for the CCRN exam but also for CCRN prep courses and CCRN prep books as well. Mine did! At the end of the day, I paid nothing for my exam and review materials and was eligible for a clinical ladder bump. Yahoo!
Most of the CCRN prep books on this list are very textbook-like. They are dense and dry. It’s the equivalent of going to a lecture and the monotone professor simply reads the slides word-for-word.
Speaking as someone who studied and passed the exam, I highly recommend purchasing an online course review to jump-start studying with a study book and practice questions. But, if you think you just need to brush up on some concepts and don’t want the full course experience, a review book may be your best bet!
Whatever you choose, know that practice questions are an absolute must.
So as you read through the below options and consider cost, ask yourself these questions:
- Do practice questions come with this?
- How long do I have online access to any lectures?
- Do I get any contact hours?
- Do I get any printed materials from the online lectures, or will I need to take my own notes?
- How many hours of lectures are there?
Please note, all of the below courses and books do follow the AACN’s test blueprint. I wouldn’t even mention them if they didn’t.
CCRN Prep Books
First, let’s chat standalone books.
|Name||Cost||# of Review Questions||Features||Notes|
|$65-71||1,000||Outline review, online question bank||VERY dense, highly technical|
|Barron’s CCRN Exam Review & Online Test||$19||650||Content review and questions, review questions in 2 practice exams and 1 pre-test||Study guide and questions|
|AACN Essentials of Critical Care Nursing||$68||0||Written by people who write the exam||VERY dense, highly technical|
|Nicole Kupchik’s Study Guide||$59||0||Pairs with her practice review question book||Study Guide only|
|Nicole Kupchik’s Practice Review Question Book||$39||150||Questions in 3 separate exams||Bundle Nicole’s study guide and this book for $90 (saving $10)|
The Pass CCRN book is around $65-71 and is highly technical and very dense. It contains 1,000 practice questions you can access online.
I used this book back in 2015 and never read any of the text and just took the practice questions. Honestly, I would not make the same decision if I had to sit for it again. The material was too dense for me, had way too much information that was too detailed and unnecessary, and I needed more of a review than just questions. However, I have used this as a reference to go back to, or cross-reference from another source.
Barron’s CCRN Exam Review & Online Test
Barron’s CCRN Exam Review & Online Test is around $19, contains two full practice tests (150 questions each) plus a 25 question pre-test to gauge your studying. It contains a content review as well.
A FreshRN® Facebook reader said, “It made all the difference in my studying! The content and questions were VERY similar to what was on the CCRN exam. Made the test VERY easy to pass!”
This is the only personal feedback I am aware of related to this text, as I have not seen it personally. The Amazon reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
The AACN Essentials of Critical Care Nursing is around $68 and comes directly from the AACN (you know, the people who write the test). It is also quite dense and is a textbook. It does not contain practice questions but does have some case study questions and answers.
Nicole Kupchik has some of my favorite CCRN resources. I personally have, well, all of them. Her book, Ace the CCRN ®! You Can Do It – Study Guide is around $60 and while the information is very technical, it’s organized in a simple way that does not feel dense and dry. It’s everything you must know, and nothing more. She also has a book of review questions.
CCRN Prep Courses
Ok, let’s dig into online courses. I’m mentioning only online courses because live courses change so frequently.
If you’re interested in checking out a live CCRN review, your hospital may host one or you can go to the respective website below and click on their live-review options.
|Name||Cost||# of CEs||Length of Access||# of Review Questions||Features||Hours of Content|
|Nursing.com with Laura Gasparis||$175||0||2 months||0||29 printables, 20 interactive 3D bio-digital images, printable PDF notes. Lower price point reflects no review questions.||10|
|AACN||$199 for non-members, $159 for members||15.5||Not specified||Not specified||Save 50% off of your exam registration (saving anywhere from $122-$180)||Not specified|
|CCRN Academy||CCRN Academy||12||6 months||9 practice exams (doesn’t specify number of questions) and a 30 question final exam||Detailed printables for each module, guarantee that you’ll pass, content organized into micro-lessons||6.5 hours of video content|
|Laura Gasparis||$350||12||3 months||500||Includes physical book||12|
|Nicole Kupchik Course||$199||16.75||6 months||0||PDF study guide||16|
|Nicole Kupchik Course & Book Bundle||$269||17.75||12 months||150, in the form of 3 separate exams||PDF study guide, both books||17|
Nursing.com CCRN Review
I am a major fan of Nursing.com, and Laura has done CCRN reviews for many years. This option is $175 for 60 days of access which included 10 hours of video content (57 lessons), 29 PDF cheatsheets, 20 interactive 3D bio-digital images.
Please note, it does not include any review questions and you do not get CE’s for this course. If you want CE’s + review questions, then you can purchase the full course from her directly (listed below, currently costs $350). This is one I have not personally taken or viewed myself, however, Laura has decades of CCRN review experience, and up until the last 5-10 years was the dominant figure in the CCRN review space.
American Association of Critical-Care Nurses
The review course provided by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses is $199 (or $159 for members). You save 50% if you register for the CCRN exam at the same time, which is pretty awesome!
This course comes with 15.5 continuing education credits, a PDF of the slides from the lectures, and some questions and answers. The major advantage of this course is that it’s created by the same people who create the test. However, I have not personally taken this one, and their descriptions of what comes with it on the website are lacking. It does not say how many questions specifically or how long you have access to the online material.
CCRN Review by Laura Gasparis
The CCRN Review by Laura Gasparis is the most expensive at $349. It includes a physical book, 12 continuing education credits, 12 hours of video, 500 practice questions, and you have access to the online lectures for 90-days.
Basically, if you want to do something that costs less and has no practice questions or contact hours, use her Nursing.com content for $175. If you want the full deal with both contact hours and review questions for $350, do her course from her website.
I tried to find out if you can get her book elsewhere and more details on it, but has come up empty. She has a few listed on Amazon, but the most recent versions are from 2015. Reviews of the 2018 edition note that multiple people received much older editions (like 1998!). Be wary of trying to get this book elsewhere.
Pro-tip: Don’t get hung up on the number of contact hours. While they’re a great feature, you’ll likely earn contact hours simply from sitting for a certification exam in your state. Check your state board of nursing’s website to be sure, but often getting a certification itself counts for multiple hours.
Nick’s CCRN Academy
This is a newer program that I’ve come across. I’ve even personally met the author! We entered the profession at the same time (2010) and he’s been in critical care ever since. He took the CCRN years ago and wasted a lot of time studying things that didn’t matter, and felt like the process could have been streamlined much better. So, he made the course he wished he had! He takes the CCRN blueprint published by the AACN and focuses solely on that content. He also retakes the exam himself every 3 years to stay on top of changes. For example, for this last CCRN update, they added a few things and took a few things out – so, he updated his course accordingly.
His program is set up a bit differently than the others, as the modules are all in bite-sized pieces of micro-content. So there are no hour-long lectures. Rather, much shorter lectures. Each module has handouts you can print, you get 9 practice quizzes with rationales, a final exam (with answers and rationales), 12.0 contact hours, and six months of unlimited access.
Finally, he guarantees you’ll pass the CCRN if you take the course and sit for your exam within 90 days. The cost for this course is $199.95. Click here to check it out. You can use coupon code KATI10 for 10% off.
Nicole Kupchik’s CCRN Certification Review
Finally, let’s go over Nicole Kupchik’s CCRN Certification Review Online Course. It will cost you $200 and with it, you’ll get 17.75 continuing education credits, 12-month access to all online content, a downloadable PDF study guide, over 16 hours of video, with a printable CE certificate, and can preview a full detailed preview of the curriculum before purchasing.
I’ve seen Nicole teach before and love her passion and enthusiasm, as well as everything she includes in the course (particularly the longer subscription length!). I’ve seen the lectures and have her books and I love them.
She also offers a full bundle of both her books and the online review course. If you purchase the full package for only $269 you’ll save $20. Click here to check out the bundle.
My personal recommendation
As someone who’s taken a review course, done the practice questions, studied, and passed, I definitely have some thoughts.
If I could do it all over again, I would purchase something written in a way that wasn’t so dense and dry, but concise and straight to the point. Again, I bought that PassCCRN book and looked at it once or twice, and just used the practice questions. It was too dense and things that I hadn’t personally done before (like CRRT or pulmonary catheters) were really tough to understand.
I also did a review course that I could not access again later online, which later on was something I regretted when I wanted to hear something again.
Both are created by experienced ICU nurses. They’re nurse educators who created the content they wished they had, so I love getting education directly from the experts. The main differences between the two are that Nick’s content is in smaller bite-sized lectures, and Nicole’s has a few longer modules. Nick has review questions scattered throughout and a practice test at the end with 30 questions that are all online within the course, while Nicole has a separate book with three 150-question practice exams with rationales.
They both provide contact hours, downloadable PDFs for notes, practice questions and rationales, and an ability to go back to the online lectures for additional review.
I’ve personally seen both Nick and Nicole teach, and they’re phenomenal educators. They’re highly experienced, but still relevant and in the hospital.
Snag a free study plan
If you’ve decided on a CCRN prep course and/or book, but still need some help figuring out how much to study and then look no further. I created a sample study plan to show you how much to study when.
For my template, I have one full week dedicated to completing an online course, followed by 7 additional weeks of studying – including when you should take practice exams and lengthen your studying time towards the end.
To take the guesswork out of CCRN studying and snag the calendar, click below!