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7 Steps to CCS Exam Success

by Mary Beth York, CCS, CCS-P, CIC

The CCS exam tests your acute hospital inpatient and outpatient coding skills at a mastery level. It is recommended (but not mandated) that you have at least three years hands-on acute hospital experience coding inpatient and outpatient records. The successful candidate will also demonstrate proficiency in anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology.

The key to successfully passing the CCS exam is having the skill to recall, analyze and apply the Official Guidelines for Coding and Reporting. You also need to use your ICD-10 and AMA CPT coding books skillfully.

During the CCS exam, follow these basic coding steps for each and every diagnosis and/or procedure code assignment. Failure to follow these steps can and will result in an incorrect code assignment.

Seven Basic Coding Steps

  1. Locate the main term in the ICD-10-CM Alphabetic Index
  2. Identify nonessential modifiers related to the main term
  3. Review all subterms related to the main term
  4. Follow all index cross-reference instructions
    1. Refer to any notes in the Alphabetic Index
  5. Verify the selected code in the Tabular
    1. Read the code title
  6. Follow all Tabular instructions
    1. They can be found
      1. At the code itself
      2. At the category
      3. At the beginning of the section and/or chapter
    2. Refer to other codes as instructed
    3. Determine whether an additional character must be added
    4. Determine laterality (right or left) and any applicable extensions
  7. Assign the code

Having coached hundreds of individuals to CCS success, I have found that preparation is essential and time consuming. Remember: once you successfully pass the CCS exam, you never have to do that again!


Coders and CDIS: Apply now for CCS Exam Prep
Learn from nationally renowned CCS exam instructor Mary Beth York! Online studies plus live instruction; proven test-taking strategies that have helped hundreds to achieve CCS success.

CCS Exam Prep: CCS for Hospital Coders or CCS Exam Prep: CCS for CDI

About the Author

Mary Beth York, CCS, CCS-P, CIC
Mary Beth York has over twenty year's experience in coding, auditing and documentation improvement for hospitals ranging from community to teaching hospitals as well as physician group practices. Mary Beth is the author of Libman Education's highly successful CCS Exam Prep course, as well as Libman Education's highly successful CCA Exam Review course. 

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