CCRN: How to Pass The First Time

I passed the CCRN last week! Yay!!! The CCRN is a certification exam for critical care nurses. It basically verifies your knowledge about critical care concepts after working 1750 hours in the last two years. The benefit of getting the CCRN means getting a pay raise or a bonus. Or intellectually, it solidifies your basics. But if you’re reading this, you probably already know that. You have the more important question — how do I pass the CCRN?

Before I studied, I also searched the internet for the best way to study for this difficult exam. There were two things that stood out to me.

  1. Listen to Laura Gasparis’ videos.
  2. Do all of the questions from PASS CCRN®.

I got all of the material from a friend, from another friend.

I listened to all of the videos and wrote down notes the first time around so I wouldn’t have to listen to it again. It meant I had to pause the video sometimes to write notes. There were 6 videos about 2 hours long. So roughly 12 hours. I did 2 videos each week while working full time. It took 3 weeks to complete.

Then I did all of the questions from Pass CCRN. Don’t read the book. Doing the questions will inadvertently make you go through the important concepts and details. I gave myself the goal to complete either a complete section (for shorter, easier sections) or a certain number of questions each day. Cardiac (20%), pulmonary (18%), and ethical (20%) are the most heavily weighted sections. For the cardiac and pulmonary sections, it initially took me about 2-3 hours to complete 30 questions because I would read the rationale and write a flashcard for the material. There are over 300 questions on cardiac alone, and there’s a good reason for it.

I felt the most important things about cardiac are:

  • The different medications (pressors, vasodilators, diuretics, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, ARBs), how it works, side effects, and how it affects afterload, preload, and contractility (which comprises of stroke volume (SV)).
  • How does SV and heart rate (HR) affect cardiac output (CO)?
  • In different disease states, what is lacking, and what do you need to fix the problem?
  • How does the intra-aortic balloon pump (IABP) help? Complications?
  • What does the pulmonary artery measure, what do those values mean, and what do you do when you see a value out of wack? What are physical assessments would you find?
  • What are the different types of murmurs, where do you listen, what typically causes stenosis vs regurgitation?
  • Different types of chest pain, MI.
  • 12 lead EKG — this took some time for me since at work it’s only required to know how to read a lead II EKG. But since I started studying, I’d look at 12 lead EKGs at work and it’s kinda fun.

For pulmonary:

  • ABG interpretation (compensated vs uncompensated; what would breathing too fast or too slow cause? How would you treat different values?)
  • Ventilator settings – which ones affect respiratory rate? What does PEEP do? How does that relate to the V/Q ratio?

As I did the questions, I used a flashcard program called Anki. It’s a fantastic memorization tool using the concept of spaced repetition. And the best part is that it’s free to download on the computer or laptop and to use over the internet. It’s $25 to download on your iPhone or Android but it’s worth it.

Basically, I did the questions on one side of the screen, and had Anki opened on the other side. Anything I didn’t know or wanted to review, I either copy and pasted questions or answers, or paraphrased the concepts. It’s easy to put too many things to memorize on one card and that’s the last thing you want to do. When you’re reviewing the card, you don’t want to think, “oh I got half of the card correct… so do I choose that I got it right or wrong?” You want to be decisive and pick whether or not you got it correct.

I have the flashcards that I created for the CCRN that is easy for you to download, although you should probably create your own or edit mine to make it easier for you. Updated December 16, 2016: these flashcards can only be used with Anki on a computer or phone. If you are thinking about downloading the flashcards, please download Anki first and make an account. Also, please do not download these flashcards unless you will use them right away.

Updated August 3, 2015: I’ve given the CCRN Flashcards to many people who have used them and passed the CCRN. Since it is time consuming for me to email everyone who asks and I’ll have no income for the next two years while I’m in school, I’ve decided to sell them to help me pay for food during school. People have said that it’s worth $50 but I won’t charge that much for it, especially since I really want you, as my reader, to pass!

And good luck in your endeavor.

Just 89 out of 150 questions to pass. So you can do it! 25 are for research. Only 125 actually count. You have up to 3 hours to take the exam.

The exam is $225 if you’re a member of AACN. You’ll go to to see the test sites and register for the exam. You’ll get 3 months to take the exam. Once you pick, you can change the test date once for free. Majority of the test sites are in the HR Block. How nice of them!

I took mine in Astoria, NY. I was the only one and it was quiet. Good experience.

Anyways, go for it.

Posted in ICU Nursing, Nursing and tagged , , , .
  • Cindy

    Hi, thanks for the informative article. I am using anki as well. Would totally appreciate it if I can download your deck!

    Thanks and congrats on passing!

    • Cindy and Diane, please email me your emails so I can send them to you.

  • diane

    can i get the flashcards?

    • yes! I’m working tomorrow so I’ll send it to you on Friday.

  • Sunni Moreno

    Hi Jess, I am taking the exam in 3 weeks and I would love to have your flash cards. I am working full time and 7 months pregnant. Just trying to fit it all in before my new little one takes over my life with all her cuteness 🙂 Thank you so much.

    • Hi Sunni, I’ve emailed them to you. Let me know when you pass your exam and let me know if there’s any other questions you may have. Remember to download the Anki program for free on your desktop prior to downloading the flashcards.

  • Aja Rivera

    Hi Jess, I am also taking the exam in 4 weeks and would greatly appreciate it if I could also use your flash cards. I have the app downloaded on my laptop already. Thanks a bunch!

    • Hi Aja, I’ve emailed them to you. I hope you pass!

  • Dean K Young

    You have flashcards????? Holey moley! I don’t suppose you’d care to share the love? : )

  • Dean K Young

    I’m also trying to find the Laura Gasparis DVD’s/videos. I see that you can buy them new on the website, but none even on ebay (except for a VHS version). Is nobody selling their used DVDs anymore? lol.

    • I had the videos at one point, but I’m not sure where they are anymore. However, I did take notes on them. I believe I sent them to you. I hope your studies are going well and that you passed! Good luck.

  • racs_09

    Can you send me the flashcards please

    • Yes, I’ve sent them to you. Good luck!

  • Andrew Maasdam

    Hi! My wife and I are taking the test in two months, would love to use your flash cards to help in studying.


    • Yes, I’ve sent them to you.

  • Georgianna

    Im interested in the flash cards for ccrn.

  • Lisa

    Would I possibly be able to get the flash cards and notes? This is amazing what you are doing!!!

  • Kate Rossman

    It would be fabulous if you could send the flashcards to me… taking my exam on the 22nd and I am a horrible test taker. (And I’m freaking out!)

  • Hi Kate, Lisa, and Georgianna,
    I’m really glad that all of you are going to take the CCRN. At this time, as I’ve written in my post, I’m back in school and need a little help with costs. I’d be grateful if you could support me by purchasing the cards through my website.

    Also, I realized that several people were having a difficult time unzipping the file so I’ve changed it: You will see a PDF with a link leading you the download and a set of instructions.

    I commend anyone who’s reading this right now– it means that you take your education seriously. Thanks for visiting my site and let me know how it went.


    • Georgianna

      Hi, Jessica I just paid for my flash cards 🙂 Eager to get started how many questions would you recommend and did you combine all sections from ccrn or did each section?

      • Thank you!! It’s combined as one deck of flashcards but I’ve tagged the cards for the different system. You can customize your study session by selecting those tags. Be sure to check your email to download! Good luck!

  • Michelle D.

    Hello. Im taking the exam in 3days. I would really appreciate it if u send it to me at… Thank you… #ccrncram

  • Darrell Mendoza

    Hey! Taking the exam in a week and ide love it if you could send me those flashcards!!! Its awesome your here helping others! Great blessing!

  • Lisa Bonnlander

    Just passed this morning with the help of your awesome flash cards!! Thanks again for sharing them!

  • Melissa

    I would love the flashcards.
    Thank you soo much!

  • Manny

    Can’t afford the $10.00. Would you please email the flashcards to me at Thank you.

  • Christina B

    Hi Jess, thank you for sharing your flashcards! Do you have the notes from Laura Gasparis as well?
    Thanks, Christina

    • Hi Christina, I just emailed you since I had some time to spare.

  • Janice Tequila Smith

    Thank you for sharing. I definitely needed some inspiration. Please email me the Laura Gasparis notes if possible. Good luck with your journey. @jesschang07:disqus

  • Jesika Raymond

    Thanks for the info! I plan to purchase your flash cards! Could you email the Laura Gasparis notes? Thanks!

  • Kate

    I would like to purchase your flash cards.

  • Kate

    Hello! I would like to purchase your flash cards. Can you email me at

  • Shay Randall-Schultz

    Hello! I purchased the flash cards a few days ago, but how do I get them? I haven’t received any type of link that would allow a download. Also, do you have the Laura Gasparis notes that I read in a comment below? Thank you so much!

    • Hi Shay, I resent the email. Let me know if you continue to have issues. The notes are included in the download. Please open and save the documents shortly after receiving the email otherwise the link expires. I hope that helps!

  • Jesika Raymond

    I already purchased the flash cards. I see you mentioned below that the Laura Gasparis notes are included but I do not see them? Thanks!!

    • Hi Jesika, I’ve sent you another email with those notes as an attachment. Please keep in mind that these are by no means complete and are just my notes that I typed when I was listening. I’ve only made them available because people were asking and I don’t have time to respond to every request. It was included as one of the links in the email. Good luck with the exam.

  • elizabeth

    I would definitely be interested in your notes. My email is Thanks!

  • Lilee Valdes

    Hello, I purchased the flashcards. How can I access them? Thanks so much. Email is

  • Bill Hustle

    Please send me the cards I have 3 months to prepare for the test before my interview with an CRNA school, Thank you so so much!!! YOU R AWESOME!!!! email —-

  • riya roney

    can u please email me notes and flash card to thanks in advance

  • Melissa S

    I paid for the notes and flash cards. I still have not received them. Please email me back regarding this matter.

    • Hi Melissa, I’ve emailed you regarding this issue. Let me know how it goes.

  • Andrew Irizarry

    Hi Jessica,
    I’m currently interviewing for CRNA and served on the board of AACN last year. Would you be able to assist me in letting me know how you got to see LG’s videos? I would love to watch them and take my own notes.

    Thanks for your time!

    • A friend of mine had it on a USB drive. Unfortunately the file is huge and I cannot send it.

  • Vokmil

    hi @jesschang07:disqus , do you still have the flash cards and the LG notes. you can email me at with the process of acquiring them, thanks.

  • Vokmil

    hi @jesschang07:disqus, how do i purchase the i get them instantly after paying. can email me at

    • Click on the box in the post. You will get a link in the email. The link expires in 24 hours so please download it right away. Good luck with the exam.

      • Vokmil

        which box, the one that says checkout

      • Vokmil

        figured it out, thanks

  • Jamare Reed

    Hey I am preparing my self to take the CCRN. How many flash card do you have available?

  • jade vo

    Hi Jessica, I’m preparing for the CCRN but mine is in pediatric and I’m trying to find resources to help me study. I can’t afford buying Laura G. videos and literally no one talked about pediatric ccrn. I figured I’ll try to look at your flashcard and if possible, your notes from the videos. Something is better than nothing, right ? Thanks!

  • Jesse Ward

    Hello, I bought your flash cards but have not received an email. Thanks.

    • Jesse Ward

      Also bought your recommended Alki app. Really hope you are still sending out flash card links….

    • Jesse Ward

      Don’t forget to check your junk mail people!! Thanks again for resending Jessica!! :))