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Prepare for the Exam

Exam Content and Format

The CNL exam consists of 140 multiple-choice, single answer questions. Some items are presented in a case study format with multiple questions related to the specific case study. Candidates have 3 hours to complete the examination.

Tips for Success
  • Begin preparing for the exam right away. Cramming and waiting until the last minute is discouraged. 
  • Read through the entire CNL Certification Guide.
  • Familiarize yourself with the CNL Content Outline. Notice the percentage weight per subdomain. Those areas with a high percentage of questions are a significant portion of the exam, and therefore, require more time of study.
  • Review AACN’s Competencies and Curricular Expectations for Clinical Nurse LeaderSM Education and Practice.
  • Take the Self-Assessment Exam to determine areas of success and weakness.
  • Use the Personal Action Plan to assist in the development of a preparatory strategy for the CNL examination. Plan in-depth study and preparation for the subdomains that are less familiar.
  • Review the list of CNL Recommended Reading. Use of the resources does not guarantee successful passing of the certification examination.
  • Review the Additional Exam Resources page which contains helpful resources to help you prepare.
  • Form a study group with other exam candidates. Interacting with other exam candidates and discussing the content outline of the exam can be helpful.
  • Know when and where the test will be given, appear on time with any required materials (e.g. valid identification and exam confirmation notice), and be ready to be tested.