CCDS Certification
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The CCDS exam will be updated to incorporate ICD-10 on January 18, 2016. The CCDS Certification Board has ruled that CDI specialists should use ICD-10 for three months to obtain a working familiarity with the new coding system before including it on a certification exam. The current Exam Study Guide (copyright 2012) is the most current edition. The new exam will also include a new eighth content category on quality metrics.

See below to download a PDF of exam content.

To become a Certified Clinical Documentation Specialist (CCDS), a candidate must pass the examination. This examination is offered in two methods:

  1. Via paper-and-pencil at the Association of Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialists (ACDIS) annual conference.
  2. At one of approximately 190 AMP Assessment Centers located around the country (click on your state for locations and directions).

Candidates who apply to take the examination will be contacted by the program when they have been approved to take the examination.

Candidates have four months/120 days from the date their name is submitted to AMP to schedule and take their exam.

Computer testing: The CCDS examination is offered by computer at approximately 190 AMP Assessment Centers located throughout the United States (click on your state for locations and directions). There are no application deadlines and a candidate who meets eligibility requirements may submit an application and fee at any time. The examination is by appointment only Monday through Saturday at 9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Candidates are scheduled on a first-come, first served basis.

Paper-and-pencil testing: This examination is offered once annually via paper-and-pencil at the ACDIS annual conference.

Allowable resources

CCDS examination takers will be allowed to bring the following two books with them into the test:

  • DRG Expert, published by OPTUM (formerly Ingenix; 2012 and 2013 editions carry the Ingenix brand; the 2014 version carries the OPTUM Brand. All ICD-9 versions are accepted as an exam resource).
  • One of the following standard drug reference guides:
    • Mosby's Nursing Drug Reference
    • Nurse's Pocket Drug Guide
    • Physicians' Desk Reference
    • PDR Nurse's Drug Handbook
    • Nursing Drug Handbook/Lippincott's

Books will be checked for additional pages or loose notes inserted or attached inside. These are not allowed to be brought into the exam.

Pass/fail statistics

Pass/fail statistics for the CCDS exam for 2014, are as follows: 

  • Pass: 75.0%
  • Fail: 25.0%

Types of examination questions

The examination is an objective, multiple-choice test consisting of 120 questions. One hundred questions will be used in computing the score. The exam questions have been designed to test the candidate's multidisciplinary knowledge of clinical, coding, and healthcare regulations, as well as the roles and responsibilities of a clinical documentation specialist. The questions are updated on a continuous basis to keep them relevant to current realities in healthcare. Choices of answers to the examination questions will be identified as A, B, C, or D.

  • Recall questions test the candidate's knowledge of specific facts and concepts relevant to the day-to-day work of clinical documentation improvement professionals. Because the examination is an "open book" test, candidates may use reference resources in answering recall questions, as this is the manner in which clinical documentation improvement professionals frequently carry out their responsibilities.
  • Application questions require the candidate to interpret or apply information, guidelines, or rules to a particular situation.
  • Analysis questions test the candidate's ability to evaluate and integrate a range of information in problem solving to address a particular challenge.

The current exam is designed so that approximately 40% of the questions will be of the recall type, 40% of the application type, and 20% of the analysis type.

The exam that will be administered beginning January 18, 2016, is designed so that approximately 40% of the questions will be of the recall type, 40% of the application type, and 30% of the analysis type.

Certification examination content

The exam content is based on analysis of the activities of clinical documentation specialists in a wide range of settings, hospital sizes, and circumstances. Input from a survey taken by members of the Association of Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialists (ACDIS), and the input and research of an advisory board comprised of experienced clinical documentation specialists, was used to identify seven core competencies with which clinical documentation specialists should have a strong working knowledge.

Click this link to download a PDF of the current exam content.

Click this link to download a PDF of exam content for the exam that will be administered beginning January 18, 2016.

Management and examination services

The Association of Clinical Documentation Improvement Specialists (ACDIS) contracts with Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc., (AMP) to provide management and examination services. AMP provides administrative support for the certification process, including examination development, validation, and administration. AMP carefully adheres to industry standards for development of practice-related, criterion-referenced examinations to assess competency.

AMP offers a full range of services, including practice analyses and development of examination specifications, psychometric guidance to committees of content experts during examination question writing, development of content, valid examination instruments, publishing, examination administration, scoring, and reporting examination results.

Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc. (AMP)
18000 West 105th Street
Olathe, KS 66061-7543
Tel: 913/895-4600
Fax: 913/895-4650

ACDIS maintains records, handles finances, and processes examination applications, certification materials, and requests for continuing education approvals.

Has your query rate increased since ICD-10 implementation?
Yes, but minimally, around 5-10% increase
Yes, extensively, but as expected around 11-30%
Not really, we are still asking the same documentation queries we'd been asking
Don't know
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