If you are reading this, you likely want to become a pharmacy technician and have probably undergone some training or work experience. If so, then there’s only one last test that stands in your way of earning a fancy new certification license: the Pharmacy Tech Test.
The Pharmacy Tech Test is only one obstacle in one’s goal to become a certified pharmacy technician online, but it is an important, if not the most important, obstacle to face. I’m sure you asked, “how am I going to pass this exam?” “What do I need even to get started on this?” Here, we look for the answers. We’re going to talk about what precisely this exam is like; we are going to give a quick but in-depth guide so you can understand just what makes this thing tick.
Is the Pharmacy Tech Test hard? Let’s find out!
What is the Pharmacy Tech Exam Like?
You work so hard to reach the startling line; now you have to jump hurdle after hurdle for the gold medal. You just need to make that last dash—you know it’s all you need to pass, but it will feel devastating if you don’t. That is the Pharmacy Technical Test.
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Exam–or the PTCB Exam, or the wonderfully alliterative Pharmacy Tech Test–is an online exam you take at a Pearson test center, offered the entire year. The exam cost is $129, which needs to be paid whenever the test needs to be retaken. You can retake the exam if necessary. However, that the exam only ever needs to be completed once to obtain certification.
The pharmacy technician test measures a participant’s ability to understand pharmaceuticals and become a certified pharmacy technician online. It deals heavily with the nature of identifying disease states, medicine, and medication.
As of 2020, the Pharmacy Tech Exam and its questionaries fall into nine topics or “knowledge domains,” the domains being defined and briefly explained below:
- Pharmacology for Technicians; a basic understanding of drugs classes and drug mechanisms and why certain drugs are prescribed for particular diseases and disease states,
- Pharmacy Law and Regulations; knowledge of the laws and regulations for the distribution of drugs and the approval process,
- Sterile and Non-Sterile Compounding – knowing the difference between sterile and non-sterile drugs,
- Medication Safety; how to safely apply and take medication,
- Pharmacy Quality Assurance; how to ensure that each medication reaches their patients safely and effectively,
- Medication Order Entry and Fill Process; the procedure for ordering and filling medication,
- Pharmacy Inventory Management; the process of the pharmacy delivery system,
- Pharmacy Billing and Reimbursement; properly imbursing and reimbursing customers and their medication,
- And Pharmacy Information Systems Usage and Application; the system and knowledge of the system to maintain the supply and organization of medication.
The test is distributed only in the United States, though U.S. military members and their spouses can take it from anywhere in the world.
The exam consists of 90 randomly selected multiple-choice questions–questions such as “What is the brand name for a particular kind of drug?” or ask for the proper measurements or medication in this particular instance. Out of the 90 questions, only 80 are scored, but which of the 80 questions is just as random as the selection of questions themselves, so blind guesses can only get you so far.
All-in-all, be prepared for a two-hour affair!
Is the PTCB Exam Difficult?
The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Exam–the PTCB Exam–is the trial you must complete to earn your certification, become a Certified Pharmacy Technician, and thus enter the field of pharmaceuticals.
The Pharmacy Technician Exam is the line between amateurs and certified professionals and proves one’s motivation to become part of the pharmaceutical world. All of this to say, the Pharmacy Technician Test is difficult—it proves difficult even to college students who spend years studying medication.
The Exam and its accompanying license are for those who are eager to get right into the fieldwork and build up quite a bit of field experience. As such, its questions and queries get right into the heart of the field—they do not meander with asking basic questions. They only ask what a pharmacy technician should and has to know.
Mere rote memorization of keywords and sentences isn’t enough to overcome this challenge, though if you are able to do well on the practice tests without peeking a glance at the answer key, then you stand a chance against the world.
If we could put into words how hard is the pharmacy technician exam, then we would say that it is obviously not a test that someone with only a passing knowledge or interest in pharmaceuticals can complete. If you would like it to be put into a number, however, let’s talk about how many are expected to pass the test on average.
What Do You Need to Pass the Pharmacy Technician Exam?
You need to score 1400 out of 1,600 possible points on the Pharmacy Tech Test in order to pass. The passing score is on the higher end of the scale, where there is only so much room for error.
The average PTCB passing score percentage in 2020 was only 70%. But here’s the kicker: this is actually a higher percentage to the average scores between 2014 to 2019, which never went higher than 58%. This is also a drop compared to the earlier years of the exam (circa 1995), where applicants would pass with a 70 – 80% or higher . Additionally, fewer applicants applied in 2020 than in previous years. Generally, this implies an increase of difficulty over the years. This may be reflected with the recent updates that require the completion of a training program or the equivalent work experience before you are even able to take the exam.
This may all seem daunting, but understanding where the bar is raised only makes it easier to pass it through. What is most needed to be understood, however, is the process we need to take to reach that score—or even higher!
Studying for the Pharmacy Tech Exam
It is important to mention the difference between a pharmacy technician and other jobs or fields of pharmacy, like a standard pharmacist. A pharmacist would hand you your required prescriptions behind the counter, but it’s the pharmacy technician who works in the back of the pharmacy, dispensing prescription medication and performing jobs like measuring medication amounts, entering the orders within the pharmacy computer system, and verifying patient insurance. The job is very technical. If you want to pass the exam, you need to burrow the technical jargon into your skull and use it.
Now we get into the juicy bits: the essential tips and advice for actually passing the exam!
Five Tips for Passing the Pharmacy Exam
The best tips for passing the Pharmacy Technician Test will see us run our fingers on the ink of textbooks, download assistance apps, and stare through the glare of our computer screens.
Practice, Practice, and Practice Some More
There are many different practice tests for the pharmacy tech test, giving you an excellent test run. Mastering these practice tests, if nothing else, can give you a good idea of how the PTCB Exam will play out. If you happen to be lucky, you may even run into those exact questions on the big day.
Complete a Training Program
You might be wondering: “But I already have ten or fifty or a hundred whole hours of work experience passing around pill bottles. Why would I bother the training program if I already have the equivalent work experience?” The PTCB-Recognized Education/Training Program is designed explicitly for the PTCB Exam: it is issued by the same people for the specific purpose of gaining certification. Thus, the training program gives you the exact toolset you need to complete the pass the PTCB Exam. There is a reason a single training program is treated as equivalent to actual work experience—it is also considerably easier to apply for a training program instead of working in pharmaceuticals to earn the license to work in pharmaceuticals.
There are training programs in nearly every state, typically affiliated with a university, and more online for distance learning. Completing a training program requires quite a bit of your time, but it is certainly worth it to gain the right skillset.
Hit the Books
Textbooks and reading material on the given subjects will help you understand the questions and material on a technical level. Books make use of the most technical and precise jargon, which would be valuable to know when you see the same jargon in the test.
Take some time out of your day–an hour or maybe two–to hunker down and study the material. The most important aspect of studying is not just how much information you can cram into your skull but how often you can come across and understand the information. If you study irregularly or every other day, then you will only barely remember the fundamentals, maybe, and absolutely none of the important details.
Study regularly enough, and you’ll be thinking about and solving questions even when you are not studying. Take advantage of your free time because that information will also be important when you’re out on the field after you’ve finished your test.
All of this being said…
Don’t Stress Yourself Out
One mistake many test-takers make is over-exerting themselves in their studies and running themselves ragged come “Judgment Day.” No matter how hard is the pharmacy technician test, it is still a test. You don’t need to drink suspiciously cheap energy drinks to cram an all-nighter: a good night’s sleep and a thorough but brief session a day keeps the low scores away. Drink water and make sure you are well-rested and prepared when the day comes, instead of freaking out at the last second.
If you fail the exam, it is no big deal. You can always retake it. Failure is even a blessing sometimes: you can learn from your mistakes and fortify your study plan so that you can become an even better test taker!
Wrapping Things Up: Is the Pharmacy Tech Test Hard?
Like any test, the Pharmacy Technician Test’s difficulty reflects the test taker; those who are prepared to pass the exam will pass. The test will still ask much from its test-takers, and you must be ready to respond in kind.
The Pharmacy Technician Test is a critical start to any pharmacy technician career. Is the Pharmacy Tech Test hard? Only if you believe it is! Turn your brain a pill bottle rattling with all sorts of pharmaceutical knowledge, tips, and tricks, and go in with a confident pen-hand!
If you found this post helpful, you’re definitely going to like our other medical school tips here.