Pharmacy Tech Exam Prep: Experts Explain What to Expect from the PTCB Exam

PTCB exam prep

When picking up a prescription at a drugstore, have you ever wondered about the pharmacy technicians behind the counter? When you think about it, being a pharmacy technician looks like a pretty good job—they get to work in the growing field of healthcare and help connect people with the prescriptions that let them live happier and healthier lives. But how do they get started in that job?

One important step for landing one of these positions is education, but an important factor to consider is earning a pharmacy technician certification by passing the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board’s (PTCB) pharmacy technician certification exam (PTCE).

Read on as we take a closer look at what you can expect from the exam.

Is the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) required?

The answer to this question will vary from state to state. But even if your state does not require the exam, that doesn’t mean passing the exam is a waste of time. According to a survey conducted for the PTCB, the public overwhelmingly wants pharmacy technicians to be certified.* In fact, 85 percent said certification is “very important” in the study. Additionally, certification is an excellent way to stand out to employers and show that you’re serious about your work.

What to expect when taking the PTCB exam

The format of the PTCB exam consists of 90 multiple choice questions. But there’s a small catch to keep in mind—only 80 of the multiple-choice questions are scored, while 10 are not. Of course, as the test taker, you won’t know which ones count and which ones don’t, as they’re spread randomly throughout the test. Test takers are given one hour and 50 minutes to complete, so, with 90 questions to answer, that gives you a minute and 22 seconds per question on average. To be on top of your game, you need to know your material. So what can you expect from the exam? Let’s take a look.

Topics covered in the PTCB exam

The PTCB exam tests students in nine categories, which are referred to as “knowledge domains” by the board. Within each of the knowledge domains are more specific subdomains. Test takers can expect to cover questions related to these topics:

  • Pharmacology for technicians
  • Pharmacy law and regulations
  • Sterile and non-sterile compounding
  • Medication safety
  • Pharmacy quality assurance
  • Medication order entry and fill process
  • Pharmacy inventory management
  • Pharmacy billing and reimbursement
  • Pharmacy information system usage and application

For more detailed information about topics that are covered in the exam, prospective test takers should look at the PTCE Blueprint.

PTCB exam prep resources

If you’re going to take the PTCE, then you’ll need to get in some serious study time. Fortunately, there are several good resources for students, both from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and external sources. Here are some options to consider:

1. Official PTCB Practice Exam

Practice makes perfect—and what better practice exam is out there than the one created by the PTCB itself? The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board has compiled a practice exam that mirrors the actual exam in both content and format. So when a student sits down to the real exam, there should be no surprises as to the type of questions and the look of the exam. Just like the official exam, the practice version contains 90 questions, allowing students to pace themselves against the clock at home.

2. Official PTCB Calculations Practice App

Have some spare time while riding the bus or relaxing at home? Simply take out your phone and try out the Official PTCB Calculations Practice Questions App—available for both Apple and Android devices. The app gives users the opportunity to practice typical calculation questions found on the exam. These questions are actually pulled from earlier versions of the exam, giving students a very realistic look at what they will encounter during the real thing. Like the actual exam, the app includes 90 questions. The app also contains detailed explanations of how the correct answer was determined.

3. Pharmacy technician training

For some students, enrolling in a program is a wise option. Rasmussen College, for instance, offers a Pharmacy Technician’s Certificate  program that prepares students to take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam. The coursework focuses on essential skills along with real-life scenarios for pharmacy technicians. The fee for taking the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam the first time is included in each student’s program costs. The Rasmussen College Pharmacy Technician Certificate program may be completed in as few as nine months.

PTCB exam advice from a pharmacy technician

To prepare for the PTCE, Jared Leonard, a Minnesota pharmacy technician and pharmacy student, recommends practice tests that resemble the actual test. Additionally, Leonard says there are a couple of focus areas that test takers may struggle with.

“I think the most challenging part of the exam, and where I’d recommend students spend most of their time preparing, is with the calculations,” Leonard said. “It’s the highest-rated part of the exam. You need to calculate things like going from grams to milliliters and fluid ounces to milliliters. You’ll do a lot of calculations from the royal to metric systems of measurement.”

Leonard also recommends spending some time studying pharmacy law—know the major laws and regulations guiding pharmacy workers and what they do. 

Be prepared to succeed with the PTCB Exam

No doubt about it, the healthcare field is not going away and becoming a pharmacy technician may be a great place for you to be. It’s a profession that has a lot going for it, including job growth and stability. While you could always try your hand at preparing for the PTCB exam on your own, you may want to consider a structured educational program designed to help you master the concepts and materials needed to pass. Check out Rasmussen College’s Pharmacy Technician Certificate program page to learn more about the program and how it can help prepare you for an exciting healthcare role.

*PTCB Public Perception Survey, 2016

Gordon Hanson

Gordon is a freelance writer for Collegis Education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. He enjoys using the storytelling power of words to help others discover new paths in the journeys of life.

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