How to Pass the PTCB Exam
Did you know that seven dispensing pharmacies encompass over 70% of the pharmacy market in the United States? Pharmacies are one of the most popular industries that employ pharmacy technicians.
Becoming a pharmacy technician opens the door to working with patients, pharmacists, and other healthcare workers. The job sometimes serves as a first step in pursuing a career as a pharmacist.
To become a pharmacy tech, you likely will need to take and pass the PTCB exam. Many students start getting sweaty palms just hearing the word “exam.” Luckily, we are here to tell you more about how you can prepare for the PTCB and get the score you need the first time.
What Is a Pharmacy Technician?
Pharmacy technicians, or pharmacy techs for short, assist the pharmacist in several tasks. Primarily, they focus on dispensing medication and often work in pharmacies or hospitals. Other pharmacy tech duties include:
Collecting patient information
Managing and stocking inventory supplies
Process insurance claims and payments
Communicate between the patient and pharmacist
Administrative responsibilities (e.g., answering phones and scheduling medication pick-ups)
While all pharmacy techs need to have experience and knowledge working with the automatic dispensing of medication, some states also allow pharmacy techs to mix specific compounds for medications. You should always be familiar with local restrictions before performing any task as a pharmacy technician.
If you work in a hospital, intravenous medications are more commonplace. Facilities should provide training on mixing and preparing intravenous medications for administration by qualified staff.
How Do You Become a Pharmacy Tech?
The first step to becoming a pharmacy tech is obtaining a high school diploma or GED. Some pharmacy technicians receive on-the-job training, though most states and facilities prefer post-secondary education. You can find pharmacy technician schools in local community colleges or vocational programs.
Schooling typically takes less than a year, and you can often find programs online. When searching for schools, ensure you only look up accredited programs.
After schooling, you may need to also complete an externship. This gives you experience in a clinic and is often a requirement to complete most programs. Lastly, to become a pharmacy tech, you need to take and pass the PTCB exam.
What Is the PTCB Exam?
Nearly 84% of pharmacy techs are certified. Certification expands job opportunities, pay, and credentials. Many hospitals or pharmacies expect certification, and it can often be the difference-maker between you or another candidate landing the position.
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam is typically taken after completing an accredited pharmacy tech training program or after working a designated amount of hours on the job. The test typically takes around two hours and includes 90 questions. The exam is in a multiple choice format and administered on the computer.
The exam costs $129 and is offered year-round. With over 1,400 approved testing facilities, you should not have any issues finding one near you. In order to register to take the PTCB, you must also:
Be a resident and citizen of the United States
Complete a qualified training program or provide proof of adequate experience
Pass appropriate background checks
Comply with PTCB policies
Study Tips to Pass the Pharmacy Tech Exam
After passing the exam, you will be a cPhT. Keep in mind that certification is different from state registration, and that while some states might only require you to fill out online paperwork, others will have additional state-specific requirements. When in doubt, it’s best to check with your program director or employer to make sure you are receiving the correct information.
Certification is provided on a national level. Currently, seven states and the District of Columbia do not have certification requirements. The seven states that do not require certification include:
Even if you do not live in a state that requires certification, it can be a helpful way to set yourself apart, especially if you plan on advancing your career or moving. Some of the best ways to pass the PTCB exam are:
Use a study guide
Utilize practice exams
Grab a study partner
Use a Pharmacy Tech Study Guide
A study guide for the PTCB exam should include four primary sections. The main testing segments on the PTCB exam include:
Order Entry and Processing
Ideally, you should have a study guide for each of the four topics listed above. Let’s break down what to include in each umbrella topic.
The Federal Requirements section covers how to handle and dispose of waste and controlled substances. You will also need to understand federal regulations involving controlled substances and the calculations involved.
The next and most comprehensive section involves Medications.You need to be proficient in medication classification, drug interactions, contraindications, and much more. In this section, you will also want to freshen up your math skills. Medications require careful calculations, and you will need to convert medications accurately from one dosing unit to another.
The Order Entry and Processing section includes more questions than federal requirements, so it is not something you want to neglect. It covers non-sterile and sterile compounding, order and fills processes, information systems, and more.
The last section reviews Patient Safety and Quality Assurance. It includes identifying prescription errors, abnormal doses, incorrect quantities, and incorrect drugs. It also covers calculations, reporting adverse events, and hygiene and cleaning standards.
2. Use Pharmacy Exam Prep Material
In addition to a study guide, you may want additional exam prep material. These include two main categories:
Let’s dive into the benefits of flashcards first. Flashcard material usually comes from a study guide and highlights key facts. The facts should be concise and easy to memorize. For example, you may have written the name of a medication on the front and have a few key facts on the back, such as:
Is it a controlled substance?
What are common drug interactions?
What drug dose or format does it come in?
Flashcards are critical for two reasons. First, they promote self-testing. From there, they give an excellent benchmark for learning and progress.
If you only accurately recalled 50% of your deck one week and 75% the next week, it gives you a better measurement of where your progress is. Flashcards also help you identify areas you need more practice in.
Ideally, for the PTCB exam you should separate your flashcards into four categories using the subjects listed above. As you practice each deck, you can determine what courses you need to review in your study guide.
The tool to get you ready for test day are practice exams. Using online practice exams is arguably the best way you can replicate test day. Online sites like Union Test Prep use test questions similar to what you would see on the actual exam. You can take multiple practice exams to measure progress and determine passing scores.
Remember that a practice exam does not guarantee topics or questions covered on test day. You should use it in conjunction with the other tools listed above.
3. Practice With a Friend
Finding the time and motivation to study is arguably one of the biggest hurdles. Practicing with a friend or family member helps you stay on task and motivated.
Practicing with a friend can also make reviewing flashcards easier and give you a new perspective on learning difficult topics. It’s even better if you can pick a friend who is also practicing for the PTCB exam.
It’s best to start by reviewing the study guide together and discussing the information you think is most relevant or challenging to recall. After you have reviewed the study guide, start making flashcards for concepts you’ve identified as important.
Reviewing flashcards can help you more easily digest and process information and key terms. Once you have a good grasp of the flashcards, it’s time to take a practice exam. This is one area that you shouldn’t tackle as a team. If you take a practice test with a friend, you might miss areas that you are struggling with individually.
What To Expect on Exam Day
The easiest way to tell whether you are prepared for the PTCB exam is by taking a couple of practice exams. If your scores match your understanding of exam materials, you could be ready to schedule your test.
Here is what you should plan for on the day of the exam:
Bring proof of identity (e.g., driver’s license)
Authorization to test letter or proof
Leave electronics and personal belongings at home, in the car, or in a provided locker. Lockers are not available at every location, so it is best to call the testing center to verify this before test day.
The entire test is administered online, and you will not need pencils or calculators. Everything you need for the actual exam will be provided for you. After you complete the test, you will receive an unofficial score.
PTCB scores range from 1000 to 1600, and you need a 1400 or higher to pass. Your official score will be sent within two to three weeks.
Start Prepping for the PTCB Exam
Have you wondered if you should take the PTCB exam? In most states, you need to take and pass the PTCB exam before starting work as a pharmacy tech.
If you’d like to boost your resume, you will find the PTCB exam well worth your time, money, and effort. Online platforms like Union Test Prep offer easy ways to study for the test. You can increase your chances of passing by utilizing our online tools, so what are you waiting for? Sign up today to get started!
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