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The Definitive Practice Test Guide for the PTCB Exam

About the PTCB

Passing the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam, or PTCB, is one of four requirements that individuals must achieve in order to become a pharmacy technician. The test is periodically revised, with the latest revision effective January 1, 2020.

The PTCB exam was designed by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board to assess the knowledge and expertise of potential pharmacy technicians to ensure that it is sufficient to competently work in their chosen field.

The test is composed of 90 questions, with 10 being unscored. Examinees will not know which exam questions are scored and which are unscored, and the unscored questions may appear in any section. The total testing time is 1 hour 50 minutes to complete all four sections.

The four sections found on the PTCB are:

  • Medications (32 scored questions)
  • Federal Requirements (10 scored questions)
  • Patient Safety and Quality Assurance (21 scored questions)
  • Order Entry and Processing (17 scored questions)

Taking the PTCB can be a huge milestone for anyone pursuing a career as a pharmacy technician, which can also make it incredibly nerve-wracking. But understanding what to expect and how to best prepare can ensure that you are ready for the test come exam day.

Sections of the PTCB Exam

Federal Requirements

Questions about the Federal Requirements component of pharmacy occupy about 12.5% of the PTCB Exam. They center on the legal aspects of pharmacy work. You will need to be fluent in all types of federal requirements for pharmacy operation, including DEA and FDA laws, restricted drug programs, controlled substances, and recall requirements. Federal requirements for handling, disposal, and storage of pharmaceutical components are also covered.


The questions pertaining to the Medications section of content on the PTCB Exam make up about 40% of the test. They are all related to pharmaceuticals, their characteristics and classifications, possible drug interactions, handling, storage, and similar topics. You will also need to be able to calculate dosages, differentiate between generic and brand names, and determine product stability.

Order Entry and Processing

Calculations are involved in answering many of the Order Entry and Processing questions, as they cover the entire process of prescription management and make up about 21% of the PTCB certification test. Some of the additional topics covered are codes, medical terminology and its representation, labeling requirements, procedures to compound non-sterile products, equipment and supplies used for administration, lot numbers/expiration dates, and procedures for identifying and returning medications and supplies.

Patient Safety and Quality Assurance

The Patient Safety and Quality Assurance questions, which make up about 26% of the PTCB Exam, deal with everything related to patient safety and providing quality service and products to customers. Avoidance of errors, communication with customers, and hygiene issues are just a few of the topics covered. You will specifically need to know about high alert/risk medications and those that sound alike, error prevention strategies, pharmacist interventions, event reporting procedures, types of errors, and proper cleaning procedures.

What to Expect on Test Day

Prior to the actual day of the exam, it’s a great idea to contact your testing center to find out their standard procedures, particularly if you anticipate needing any special accommodations while taking the test. It’s also a great idea to give yourself plenty of time when leaving to take the exam. This extra time may come in handy if you have any issues finding the testing site or registering once you arrive.

Candidates will also have to agree to the PTCB Candidate Attestation before starting the exam, so it is a good idea to review the terms of this attestation prior to arriving.

What to Bring

The most important element to bring with you to the exam is a valid, unexpired, government-issued form of identification. The name must match the name of the individual on the PTCB account. Without having proper ID, candidates will be barred from taking the exam, and will forfeit all fees that have been paid.

What Not to Bring

The PTCB exam is administered electronically, and all other electronics and study aids are barred from the test room. It is best to either not bring these items with you or leave them in your vehicle when entering the testing site. Calculators are built into the exam, so it isn’t necessary to bring one on the day of your test.

Best Ways to Study for the PTCB

Take PTCB Practice Tests

Taking practice tests is a great way to prepare for any exam, but they can be especially beneficial for the PTCB exam. This test assesses direct knowledge, which means that PTCB practice tests can help you to identify the areas where you need to spend extra time studying. Practice exams allow the candidate to become familiar with the test format and the subject knowledge required to ace the exam.

Use Alternative Study Methods

While PTCB practice tests are great, some candidates may find it advantageous to supplement their study routine by adding alternative study methods, such as flashcards and study guides for the PTCB. By exposing yourself to similar content in multiple formats, you can often retain the information better, which can enhance your performance on exam day.

Simulate the Testing Experience

The PTCB exam spans just 110 minutes. Simulating the test environment by completing a 90-question practice exam within this timeframe is an excellent strategy to familiarize yourself with the exam experience. This process can give you an idea of how you will perform during the actual test, and it can help to calm your nerves since you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when you sit down to take the actual exam.

PTCB Tips and Tricks

Focus on Math and Calculations

Improving your mathematical skills is vital for the PTCB exam, particularly given the significant portion of the test dedicated to pharmacy math, which encompasses various calculations and conversions. Start by brushing up on the basics like arithmetic, fractions, decimals, percentages, and ratios, then move on to more specialized pharmacy computations. This includes dosage calculations, different unit conversions, understanding dilutions and concentrations, and calculating IV drip rates. Familiarize yourself with quick mental math techniques for common conversions to save time and ensure precision during the test. Also, challenge yourself with timed practice question to mimic the test environment and boost your efficiency in problem-solving during the actual exam.

Double-Check Your Answers

The pharmaceutical industry is riddled with instances where incorrect calculations, dosages, interactions, and instructions have led to adverse patient reactions. Accuracy is paramount when taking the PTCB, so if you have any time left when you’ve finished the questions, it’s a great idea to go back and double-check your answers, especially those that required calculations.

Double-Check Your Drug Names

Passing the PTCB requires knowing a lot about medications, and many have similar sounding names or spellings. Make sure you are certain which medication they are requesting information about by double-checking the name in the question before answering.

Take Advantage of Mnemonic Devices

Mnemonic devices can be helpful for remembering drug names, their classifications, and associated information. Create your own mnemonics or use established ones to aid your memory and recall during the exam. Mnemonics can be especially useful when dealing with similar-sounding drug names.

Study the Top 200 Drugs

Knowing the top 200 drugs is a key aspect of the PTCB exam. This list includes the most commonly prescribed medications, which means you’ll likely encounter them frequently in a pharmacy setting. Understanding these drugs encompasses not only their names but also their uses, side effects, dosing, and potential drug interactions.


1. How much does it cost to take the PTCB?

The cost of the PTCB exam is $129.00.

2. Can I take the PTCB exam again if I fail it the first time?

Yes, you can take the PTCB up to four times. If you fail the first time, you must wait 60 days before trying again. The waiting period is the same for the third attempt. If you have failed it on your third attempt, you must wait six months before taking the exam again.

3. When will I receive my score?

PTCB exam scores are available online approximately one to three weeks after the examinee’s test date. If requested, the testing site may be willing to send your results to your email address when they become available.

4. What happens if I pass the exam?

As soon as you’ve received your official exam results, your certification becomes active. You will be able to download a copy of your certificate through your PTCB account, and your certification status will be verifiable through PTCB’s Certification Verification page.

5. What score do I need to pass the PTCB exam?

The PTCB exam uses a scaled scoring model, so you won’t receive a simple percentage score. Instead, the score you receive will range between 1000-1600, with a score of 1400 or above considered a passing grade.