Is the PTCB Exam Hard?

Is the PTCB Exam Hard?

Is the PTCB Exam Hard?

Did you know that in 2021, over 430,000 pharmacy technicians were employed in the United States? With an aging population and ever-increasing medical treatments available, pharmacy technicians are a crucial link in the healthcare chain.

However, to become a pharmacist technician, you must pass an exam known as the PTCB. While this exam may seem intimidating, passing the test shouldn’t be difficult if you prepare properly.

Knowing how and what to study can be tricky with any large exam. This article contains everything you need about passing the PTCB, including what kinds of test questions to expect, how long the exam is, and the average pass rate.

What is the PTCB Exam?

First, what is the PTCB exam, and why do you need it? The PTCB exam is the test people take to earn their credentials as pharmacy technicians. PTCB stands for Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, the gold-standard organization in pharmacy technician credentialing. Once you take and pass the test, you will be a certified pharmacy technician (CPhT). While not every state or employer requires you to be certified, it goes a long way in proving your knowledge and commitment to the profession.

Topics and Concepts You’ll Encounter on the PTCB Exam

The PTCB exam covers the following topics:

  • Medications (40%)

  • Federal Requirements (12.5%)

  • Patient Safety and Quality Assurance (26.25%)

  • Order Entry and Processing (21.25%)

The Medications section is the largest and deals with medication classification, storage, contraindications, dosing, interactions, and brand names vs. generics. For this section, examples of concepts you need to know include the active ingredients in common medicines like Zantac or the contraindications for a cholesterol drug like Zocor. Brand and generic drug names are some of the most frequently asked questions on the exam. Hence, it’s a good idea to be knowledgeable about the top 200 medications most pharmacy technicians come across.

Despite being the smallest part of the test, many people find the Federal Requirements concepts the most difficult because this section requires you to understand and know how to apply federal pharmacy law. You will need to know federal regulations for controlled substances and prescriptions, how to handle and dispose of hazardous and non-hazardous materials, and what to do in the event of a recall.

The Patient Safety and Quality Assurance section assesses your ability to provide reasonable and prudent care to those you serve. This part of the exam will test your ability to spot and prevent errors, report unexpected events, and involve the pharmacist if an issue is beyond the scope of your practice. You should also know cleaning and hygiene standards and look-alike/sound-alike medications to do well in this section.

Order Processing and Entry will test your knowledge of compounding medications, medication equipment such as syringes, and important pharmacy numbers (lot, expiration, NDC). This section also includes common pharmacy calculations such as ratio, portion, and conversion, so it’s a good idea to brush up on your pharmacy-based math skills before test day.

Of the 90 questions on the PTCB exam, 10 of those will be unscored. What does this mean? It means that no matter how you answer those ten questions, they will have zero impact on your overall score. Unfortunately, you won’t know which ten questions are unscored,, so you must put forth your best effort for each question.

Is the PTCB Exam Hard?

If you’ve newly considering becoming a pharmacy technician or have yet to start studying, you may ask yourself, “Is the PTCB exam hard?”

Facing any exam can be nerve-wracking, so it’s not an easy yes or no answer. If you’ve already been working in a pharmacy or have done well in a PTCB study course, the exam may serve as a formality to prove your knowledge. If you regularly deal with test anxiety or haven’t properly prepared, you will likely find the test much more difficult.

The PTCB requires much specialized knowledge, so it’s a test you can only do well on with advanced preparation. The average pass rate for this exam is 72%, which means if you study hard and try your best, the odds are that you will pass.

How to Prep for the PTCB Exam

Be Familiar With Topics That Will Appear On the Exam

You must be familiar with all the covered topics when taking any exam. Because the PTCB exam requires you to have a lot of specialized knowledge, you can’t just show up to test day relying on the fact that you’re “good” at a certain subject, like you may have been able to do on other general knowledge exams. If you have limited time to study for the PTCB, start by reviewing the Medications section, as it makes up the largest portion of the exam.

Find the Study Method That Works Best for You

Everyone learns differently, so it’s helpful to know the study method that works best for you. Some people can read test prep material and absorb it, while others find a more “hands-on” approach useful by writing out definitions or creating tables and charts. Studies show that physically writing things down on paper helps trigger better memory recall. Creating physical flashcards and quizzing yourself can help you remember facts more efficiently than passively studying.

Take PTCB Practice Tests

Once you feel confident in your knowledge, it’s helpful to try your hand at some practice questions. Practice tests are one of the best gauges of how well-prepared you are, so they’re an invaluable tool if you want to ensure you pass the PTCB test the first time you take it. The PTCB offers official practice tests for a fee, but there are other free PTCB practice tests out there as well. If you’re not using official test prep materials, ensure the website you’re using to study is a quality resource that utilizes current test formatting and standards. Union Test Prep’s PTCB practice test questions were created to be the same style, difficulty level, and subject matter as what you’ll find on the actual PTCB exam, and are a great resource to leverage as you’re preparing to take your test.

Take Breaks

While it’s great to put a lot of time and effort into your study, you’ll also need to take breaks for your brain to rest and unwind. After all, you can’t expect to perform at your highest level on exam day if your mind feels exhausted and overwhelmed. Purposeful breaks of 5-60 minutes in between study sessions can increase your energy and ability to focus. “Purposeful” is the key word here; mindless scrolling on TikTok or Instagram won’t yield the same benefits as stretching, phoning a friend, or a brisk walk.

FAQs About the PTCB Exam

How Much Does the PTCB Exam Cost?

The PTCB exam is $129, but make sure you check with your testing center to verify there aren’t additional fees applicable to your situation.

To register for the PTCB exam, you must be a United States citizen who has completed 1400 hours of a recognized training program or at least 500 hours of equivalent work experience.

Can You Retake the PTCB Exam?

Yes, the good news is that you can retake the PTCB exam! While a retake shouldn’t be your goal, it is reassuring to know that if you fail it the first time, you get another chance. You have to wait 60 days before a second attempt and 60 days before a third attempt.

If you’ve failed three times and have to take the PTCB exam a fourth time, you must wait an additional six months.

What’s a Passing Score on the PTCB?

The PTCB exam uses a scaled scoring system, so your score will be displayed as a number between 1000-1600, with a score of 1400 considered passing. While you won’t receive your official test results until several weeks after your test date, your unofficial result will appear on the screen immediately after you finish the exam.

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