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Certified Coding Specialist (CCS®) 

Coding specialists are skilled in classifying medical data from patient records, often in a hospital setting but also in a variety of other healthcare settings. The CCS credential demonstrates a practitioner's tested skills in data quality and accuracy as well as mastery of coding proficiency.  

The CCS certification is a natural progression for professionals experienced in coding inpatient and outpatient records. Coding specialists create coded data used by hospitals and medical providers to obtain reimbursement from insurance companies or government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid. Researchers and public health officials also use this data to monitor patterns and explore new interventions. 

CCSs: 

  • Review patients’ records and assign numeric codes for each diagnosis and procedure. 
  • Possess expertise in the ICD-10-CM and CPT® coding systems. 
  • Are versed in medical terminology, disease processes, and pharmacology concepts. 

Eligibility Requirements

Candidates must meet one of the following eligibility requirements to sit for the CCS examination:  

  • Complete courses in all the following topics: anatomy & physiology, pathophysiology, pharmacology, medical terminology, reimbursement methodology, intermediate/advanced ICD diagnostic coding, and procedural coding and medical services (CPT/HCPCS)
  • Minimum of two (2) years of related coding experience directly applying codes; or 
  • Hold the CCA® credential plus one (1) year of coding experience directly applying codes; or 
  • Hold a coding credential from another certifying organization plus one (1) year of coding experience directly applying codes; or 
  • Hold a CCS-P®, RHIT®, or RHIA® credential 

Apply for the Exam

Apply to take the Certified Coding Specialistexam.     

About the CCS Exam

Certified Professionals and Pass Rates 

As of 12/31/19, there were 31,355 certified CCS professionals. 

Year 

Exam 

# First Time Testers 

Pass Rate First Time Testers 

2019* 

CCS 

1,990 

80% 

2018* 

CCS 

2,101 

81% 

2017 

CCS

2,191 

75% 

*U.S. and Canada results only 

Exam Specifications 

The CCS is a timed exam. Candidates have four hours to complete the exam. The total number of questions on the exam range between 115 and 140 total items. The exam consists of two sections, a Multiple-Choice Section and a Medical Scenario Section (inpatient, outpatient, and emergency department). The exam is given in a computer-based format. 

AHIMA exams contain a variety of questions or item types that require you to use your knowledge, skills, and/or experience to select the best answer. Each exam includes scored questions and pre-test questions randomly distributed throughout the exam. Pre-test questions are not counted in the final results. 

The passing score for the CCS is 300. 

Competencies for CCS fall into four domains. Each domain accounts for a specific percentage of the total questions on the certification exam. See the Exam Content Outline below for greater detail. 

Certified Coding Specialist (CCS) Exam Content Outline (Effective 7/1/20)

Tasks: 

  1. Apply diagnosis and procedure codes based on provider's documentation in the health record
  2. Determine principal/primary diagnosis and procedure
  3. Apply coding conventions/guidelines and regulatory guidance
  4. Apply CPT/HCPCS modifiers to outpatient procedures
  5. Sequence diagnoses and procedures
  6. Apply present on admission (POA) guidelines
  7. Address coding edits
  8. Assign reimbursement classifications
  9. Abstract pertinent data from health record
  10. Recognize major condition and co-morbidity (MCC) and condition and co-morbidity (CC)

Tasks: 

  1. Review health record to assign diagnosis and procedure codes for an encounter
  2. Review and address health record discrepancies

Tasks: 

  1. Determine if a provider query is compliant
  2. Analyze current documentation to identify query opportunities

Tasks: 

  1. Ensure integrity of health records
  2. Apply payer-specific guidelines 
  3. Recognize patient safety indicators (PSIs) and hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) based on documentation 
  4. Ensure compliance with HIPAA guidelines
  5. Ensure adherence to AHIMA's Standards of Ethical Coding
  6. Apply the Uniform Hospital Discharge Data Set (UHDDS)

Mandatory Code Books

On test day, all candidates must bring the correct codebooks to the test center. Candidates who do not have the correct codebooks will not be allowed to test and forfeit their exam fees. The full list of allowable codebooks are can be found in the PDF below.

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