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 going into effect on 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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
While 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 sometimes retain the information better, which can enhance your performance on exam day.
The total testing time for the PTCB® is only one hour and fifty minutes, and it’s a great idea to simulate the testing experience by taking a practice exam with 90 questions on it during the allotted amount of time. 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.
A big portion of the exam is related to pharmacy math, including calculations and conversions. Spend some time practicing these types of problems so that you can make calculations quickly and accurately.
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.
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.
The cost of the PTCB® exam is $129.00.
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.
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.
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.
Let's continue studying where you left off.