The Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Exam is the last stop for any prospective pharmacy tech to get their coveted certification license and pursue a worthwhile–if stressful–career as a pharmacy technician.
Let’s assume that you are here because you have everything put together—you’ve paid for the exam, you have a study plan, you’re raring to go—but there’s just one thing on your mind: what do I need to pass this test? What is the passing score for the pharmacy technician exam?
There is a straightforward answer, but you didn’t come here just to ask how large a number is. There is only one thing on your mind: what does it take to pass the pharmacy tech test?
What is the Pharmacy Tech Test?
You must pass the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board Exam to become a certified pharmacy technician. Certified pharmacy technicians take higher-level positions and make more money than uncertified pharmacy technicians.
The pharmacy tech test measures the cumulative knowledge and experience of the prospective pharmacy technician. The test is heavily skewed towards understanding technical jargon and knowing how to apply practical knowledge, like filling a prescription to a certain milliliter or what to do if a patient needs to be reimbursed for any troubles or missing medication.
The Certification Board expects the test takers to have an exceptionally high level of proficiency and experience in the field. Since this is a field of medicine and health, anything less than the most proficient pharmacy technician cannot be certified.
Now we have set the idea of what a pharmacy tech is supposed to do and whom the pharmacy tech test aims towards. But is the pharmacy tech test hard?
Is the Pharmacy Tech Test Hard?
We have listed elsewhere how difficult the pharmacy tech test is, including listing all of the knowledge domains or subjects and the possible tips you need to study effectively. If you are looking more on passing the exam, those articles are more worth your time. This article specializes in ascertaining the difficulty of the pharmacy tech test in a vacuum: what exactly you would need to achieve or the level you need to be at to pass with flying colors.
But to summarize the points of the previous article, the pharmacy tech test is not a simple task. If you study well enough, you can pass it and assure your future career as a certified pharmacy technician. You only need to pass the pharmacy tech test once to become certified (however, you need to complete either a PTCB-Recognized Education/Training Program or have an equivalent amount of work experience as a pharmacy technician (~500 hours) to take the test.
Other articles on the pharmacy technician test detail the complete requirements to undertake the exam!). Even if you end up failing, you can retake the test up to three times a year–although, if you have to retake the exam any more than four times, the board is going to start asking questions!
The pharmacy tech test is not the most challenging examination, but, much like other career-defining tests, you should not take it lightly. The material will ask a lot of you, the test taker. To even get a passing grade, you need to accumulate much proficiency and experience in pharmacology. But you already knew that, did you?
How Hard is it to Pass the Pharmacy Tech Test?
The pharmacy technician exam passing score is 1400 points, out of a possible 1600 points. That is 87.5% of the total possible cores, which is relatively high for a standard test. American education schools typically pass students on exams or classes at 60% at least.
Passing this test is a tight margin, though not at all impossible. Each question would weigh approximately 17 points; however, different questions are weighted more or less significantly. While one question may be easy but net you fewer points, another question may be more difficult, but if answered correctly, the score may carry you closer to an overall passing grade.
As of the 2020 pharmacy technician exam results, only an average of 70% of applicants passed the exam. If that seems like a low percentage to you, this is, in reality, the highest average percentage in years; between 2014 to 2019, the average rate of applicants who made a score of 1400 or more never went higher than 58%! That’s nuts!
Historically, since the exam has been made to answer online, the average passing percentage for applicants has only barely increased over time and has typically stayed on the lower scale for the longest time. The marked improvement may be due to a recent change to the exam that prohibits participants from taking the PTCB until they have completed a PTCB-Recognized Education/Training Program or earned an equivalent number of hours working as a pharmacy technician.
Some questions are much more challenging than others. Some may infer on simple ideas of pharmacology, like the definition or names of certain concepts or items familiar to a pharmacy technician. At the same time, other questions would like you to stop and formulate an entire scenario or sequence and answer it in the best possible manner.
In summary, the pharmacy tech test is not something that an upcoming applicant should take likely: it will take you weeks of dedicated training and research just to pass. Which begs the question: what questions are on the exam?
How Many Questions Are on the Pharmacy Tech Exam?
The pharmacy tech test consists of ninety multiple-choice questions based around the nine knowledge domains of a pharmacy technician, including the simple understanding of drugs and prescription, laws and regulations, knowing the difference between sterile and non-sterile compounding, medication safety, inventory management, and billing and (re-)reimbursement.
According to the Certification Board, the questions and the passing score were chosen by the industry’s best practices and overseen by a panel of experts to evaluate the questions and the kind of certified pharmacy technician who would pass the exam under these standards.
These ninety questions are randomly selected from an existing pool assembled by the board. However, only eighty of the questions are graded, which gives you a slight margin of error in passing the exam. Of course, there is no clear indication as to which questions are graded. In addition, recall that some questions are weighted more significantly than others. Do not take this as an excuse to choose not to answer questions, however! You need every single point possible if you want to pass the test! Push come to shove, however, and you have just a little wiggle room to make an educated guess (so long as it’s educated!).
Additionally, no two exams are precisely the same, to avoid people using the pharmacy technician exam results of other exam years and cruise their way to an easy grade. While you can use PTCB practice tests online to test your understanding with little punishment, please don’t rely on it as the answers in passing the exam. If you get lucky, you may run into one or two questions on the actual test.
In summary, there are enough questions on the pharmacy tech exam to give you quite a bit of trouble if you are not paying attention. The pharmacy tech test is naturally focused on the questions asked of pharmacy technicians to test and measure their knowledge of their craft. Ninety questions to answer is quite a lot for a single session. It is a two-hour affair to complete the exam, so by all means, be ready to prepare with weeks of study and a confident and healthy mindset when the day comes!
How is the PCTB Scored?
Now, the PCTB score range is not so straightforward. You may have to make 1400 points in the exam, but it’s scaled and not necessarily in your favor. For starters, out of 1600 possible points, the actual lowest score you can make is 1000. When you consider this scaling, with the 1400 points out of 1600 points with a given minimum of 1000, then getting 1400 points is closer to getting a 66.7% on your test than it is to an 85.7%.
This scale is much more relative to the standard grading scale of American education, as we discussed earlier. Understanding this scale gives a better idea of how difficult the test is. A 67% on an examination is more manageable than an 86%. The grading scale also considers the ten ungraded questions, which gives you slightly more leeway in failing to answer the questions.
The different scale for the PTCB score range is due to the difficulty of the questions themselves: some may weigh heavier because they may ask more from the test taker than other questions.
Wrapping Things Up: What is the Passing Score for the Pharmacy Technician Exam?
To pass the Pharmacy Technician Exam, you need to gain 1400 points out of 1600, or a good 67%. You need to understand the material of all ninety questions, with the slightest bit of leeway in only needing to account for eighty. If possible, you weigh your knowledge of the field with the questions that give you trouble and take some chances. While this sounds daunting, this is not an impossible task.
The passing score of the pharmacy technician exam is high, but if you’re fully prepared for the task and know what you’re getting into, you should be fine!
If you found this post helpful, you’re definitely going to like our other medical school tips here.
> Is Becoming a Pharmacy Tech Worth It?
> Is the Pharmacy Tech Test Hard?
> Do Pharmacy Techs Make Good Money?