Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam

Although certification is not mandatory in all states, most employers prefer certified pharmacy technicians as they are skilled and updated with latest medical innovations in the Pharmaceutical world. Getting certified involves passing the exam given either by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) or National Health Board (NHA). While both the boards are accredited by the American Society Of Hospital Pharmacists (ASHP), the PTCB is preferred by a majority of pharmacy technicians as well as employers as it has been around for a long time and therefore widely recognized. Certification earned from either of the boards widens employment opportunities and can help in giving a rise to the salary of a Pharmacy Technician (PT).

The following information is a step by step guide, taking you through entire process of certification:


What is PTCB?

The PTCB established in 1995, is a private national organization which provides certification to qualified pharmacy technician, thus promoting skilled pharmacy technicians, ensuring safe patient care to pharmacy customers. PTCB headquarters are in Washington, D.C. and it has been granted accreditation by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists (ASHP) and National Commission for Certifying Agencies(NCCA). Since their inception they have certified over 587,536 (as of Dec. 31, 2015) pharmacy technicians across the country. The PTCB develops, promotes and administers the Pharmacy Technician Exam (PTCE). Passing this exam a pharmacy technician can carry the status of a Certified Pharmacy Technician (CphT). In order to maintain certification CPhTs must recertify every two years by completing 20 hours of continuing education.

Eligibility for Certification

• High School Diploma or GED

• Complete disclosure of all criminal and State Board pf Pharmacy registration or licensure actions.

• Compliance with all applicable PTCB Certification policies.

• Passing Score of 1400 on the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam(PTCE)

Application and Fees: You can apply online on the PTCB website. The cost to apply for certification and take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) is $129. You have 30 days from the application submission date to submit supporting documentation (e.g. conduct closure), after which incomplete applications will receive a refund of the application fee paid, less an administrative fee of $25. After successfully applying you will be authorized to schedule an exam appointment. For any reason if the you fail to take the exam, or do not pass with the passing score, a fee of $129 and a waiting period of 60 days will be applicable for re-taking the exam.

You can pay fees by credit card (American Express, Discover, MasterCard, or VISA) or by check.

Schedule the Exam: Once the application is approved you will receive authorization to schedule the exam via email from PTCB. You get an authorization period of 90 days after which the authorization period expires. Failure to schedule the exam within this period will result in forfeiting of all fees and you must reapply to take the exam. You require visiting or calling (866) 902-0593 between 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Monday to Friday to schedule an appointment. The PTCE is currently available at over 250 Pearson VUE test centers nationwide.

Format and Contents of the Exam: The PTCE is a computer-based exam administered at Pearson VUE test centers nationwide. It is a two hour, multiple-choice, exam that contains 90 questions, 80 scored questions and 10 unscored questions. Each question lists four possible answers, only one of which is the correct or best answer. Unscored questions are randomly distributed throughout the exam, and the score depends on the responses to the 80 scored questions. Precisely 1 hour and 50 minutes are allotted for answering and the remaining 10 minutes for a tutorial and post-exam survey.

An outline of the content and percentage of questions allocated to each area is as follows:

Pharmacology Of Technicians Covers 13.75% Of The Questions:

• Generic and brand names of medications

• Therapeutic equivalence

• Drug interactions (e.g., drug-disease, drug-dietary supplement, drug-OTC, drug-laboratory, and drug-nutrient)

• Strengths/dose, dosage forms, physical appearance, ways of administrating, and duration of drug therapy

• Common and severe side or adverse effects, allergies, and therapeutic contraindications associated with medications

• Dosage and indication of legend, OTC medications, herbal and dietary supplements

Pharmacy Law And Regulations Covers 12.75% Of The Questions:

• Storage, handling, and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes (e.g., MSDS)

• Hazardous substances exposure, prevention and treatment (e.g., eyewash, spill kit, MSDS)

• Controlled substance transfer regulations (DEA)

• Controlled substance documentation requirements for receiving, ordering, returning, loss/theft, destruction (DEA)

• Formula to verify the validity of a prescriber’s DEA number (DEA)

• Record keeping, documentation, and record retention (e.g., length of time prescriptions are maintained on file)

• Restricted drug programs and related prescription-processing requirements (e.g., thalidomide, isotretinoin, clozapine

• Professional standards related to data integrity, security, and confidentiality (e.g., HIPAA, backing up and archiving)

• Requirement for consultation (e.g., OBRA'90)

• FDA’s recall classification

• Infection control standards (e.g., laminar air flow, clean room, hand washing, cleaning counting trays, countertop, and equipment) (OSHA, USP 795 and 797)

• Record keeping for repackaged and recalled products and supplies (TJC, BOP)

• Professional standards regarding the roles and responsibilities of pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and other pharmacy employees (TJC, BOP)

• Reconciliation between state and federal laws and regulations

• Facility, equipment, and supply requirements (e.g., space requirements, prescription file storage, cleanliness, reference materials) (TJC, USP, BOP)

Sterile and Non-Sterile Compounding covers 8.75% Of The Questions

• Infection control (e.g., hand washing, PPE)

• Handling Storage and disposal requirements (e.g., waste streams)

• Documentation (e.g., batch preparation, compounding record)

• Determine product stability (e.g., beyond use dating, signs of incompatibility)

• Selection and use of equipment and supplies

• Sterile compounding processes

• Non-sterile compounding processes

Medication Safety Comprises 12.5% of the Questions

• Error prevention strategies for data entry (e.g., prescription or medication order to correct patient)

• Patient package insert and medication guide requirements (e.g., special directions and precautions)

• Identify issues that require pharmacist intervention (e.g., DUR, ADE, OTC recommendation, therapeutic substitution, misuse, missed dose)

• Look-alike/sound-alike medications

• High-alert/risk medications

• Common safety strategies (e.g., tall man lettering, separating inventory, leading and trailing zeros, limit use of error prone abbreviations)

Pharmacy Quality Assurance Comprises 7.5% of the Questions

• Quality assurance practices for medication and inventory control systems (e.g., matching National Drug Code (NDC) number, bar code, data entry)

• Infection control procedures and documentation (e.g., personal protective equipment [PPE], needle recapping)

• Risk management guidelines and regulations (e.g., error prevention strategies)

• Communication channels necessary to ensure appropriate follow-up and problem resolution (e.g., product recalls, shortages)

• Productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction measures

Medication Order Entry and Fill Process Comprises 17.5% Of The Questions

• Order entry process

• Intake, interpretation, and data entry

• Calculate doses required

• Fill process (e.g., select appropriate product, apply special handling requirements, measure, and prepare product for final check)

• Labeling requirements (e.g., auxiliary and warning labels, expiration date, patient specific information)

• Packaging requirements (e.g., type of bags, syringes, glass, pvc, child resistant, light resistant)

• Dispensing process (e.g., validation, documentation and distribution)

Pharmacy Inventory Management Comprises 8.75% of the Questions

• Function and application of NDC, lot numbers and expiration dates

• Formulary or approved/preferred product list

• Ordering and receiving processes (e.g., maintain par levels, rotate stock)

• Storage requirements (e.g., refrigeration, freezer, warmer)

Discarding (e.g., recalls, returns, outdates, reverse distribution)

Pharmacy Billing and Reimbursement Comprises 8.75% of the Questions

• Reimbursement policies and plans (e.g., HMOs, PPO, CMS, private plans)

• Third party resolution (e.g., prior authorization, rejected claims, plan limitations)

• Third-party reimbursement systems (e.g., PBM, medication assistance programs, coupons, and self-pay)

• Healthcare reimbursement systems (e.g., home health, long-term care, home infusion)

• Coordination of benefits

Pharmacy Information Systems Usage and Application Comprises 10.00% of The Questions

• Pharmacy-related computer applications for documenting the dispensing of prescriptions or medication orders (e.g., maintaining the electronic medical record, patient adherence, risk factors, alcohol drug use, drug allergies, side effects)

• Databases, pharmacy computer applications, and documentation management (e.g., user access, drug database, interface, inventory report, usage reports, override reports, diversion reports)

Preparation for the exams: The PTCB offers books, study materials and PTCE practice tests on their website. Additionally a tutorial is provided on the Pearson VUE website where you get an opportunity to experience the look, feel and functionality of the exam. However you need to note that this tutorial is not PTCB specific and some features do not apply to the PTCE. The American Pharmacists Association (APA) also offers many study resources on their website. Some study resources on their website include, a complete training set for pharmacy technicians called APhA Pharmacy Technician Certification Training Series SET; Pharmacy Technician Certification Quick-Study Guide 3rd Edition by Susan Moss Marks and William A. Hopkins. Some other eBooks available on Amazon include Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam Review 3rd Edition by Lorraine C. Zentzand The Pharmacy Technician: A Comprehensive Approach Second Edition by Jahangir Moini.

On the exam day you are expected to arrive 30 minutes before the exam appointment. You to need to carry an approved form of ID proof, ensuring that the name matches with name mentioned on your PTCB Account.

After the Exam: At the end of the PTCE, an unofficial exam result is presented on screen. Additionally, the unofficial exam result will be printed and given to the candidate.The passing score of all candidates is scaled at 1400, with range possible scores of 1000 to 1600. Official score reports are available online approximately one to three weeks following your exam. Approximately four to six weeks after the exam, candidates who pass the PTCE receive a printed certificate. Alternatively you can also log into your PTCB Account to download and print an official certificate.

Recertification and Reinstatement

After certification you are required to recertify every two years to maintain certification. Application for recertification must be made 60 days prior to the certification expiry date. The application deadline is the first day of your certification expiration month. A late fee of $25 is applicable for all applications received after application deadline. The standard fee for recertification is $40. Besides, within the two year recertification cycle, on or before the application deadline, as a certified PT, you are required to complete 20 hours of continuing education in order to be eligible for recertification.

If you fail to recertify within the application deadline, you can apply for reinstatement within a year of the expiration date. You can apply online from within your PTCB Account by paying a fee of $80. Additionally you require to complete one additional hour of continuing education. Failure to reinstate will require you to passing the PTCE in order to regain certification.


The Exam for the certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) is offered by the National Healthcareer Association.

The Exam for the certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) is offered by the National Healthcareer Association.

Pre-requisites and Registration:

High School diploma or GED

18 years of age

Have completed 12 months of pharmacy related experience or have completed a training program

Registration can be made online on the NHA website with an application fee of $105.

Exam Content:

Regulations and Technician Duties (25% of Exam)

Overview of technician duties and general information

The role of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians

Functions that a technician may and may not perform

Prescription department layout and workflow

Pharmacy security

Inventory control

Stocking medications

Identifying expired products

Controlled substances

Difference among the controlled substances schedules

Refills, partial refills, filing, and prescription transfers

Correct procedures for handling Schedule V sales

Controlled Substance Act

DEA numbers

Other laws and regulations

Federal privacy act

Generic substitution (incl. brand vs. generic products)

Professionals with prescribing authority (and acronyms)

Child-resistant packaging

Role of government agencies (Board of Pharmacy, DEA, FDA, etc.)

Manufacturer drug package labeling

OTC package labeling

Drugs and Drug Therapy (23% Of Exam)

Drug Classification

Major drug classes (e.g., analgesics, anesthetics, antibiotics, etc.)

Dosage forms (types, characteristics and uses)

Over-the-counter products

NDC number

Most frequently prescribed medications

Brand and generic names

Basic mechanism of action (pharmacology) and drug classification

Primary indications

Common adverse drug reactions, interactions, & contraindications

Dispensing Process (52% Of Exam)

Prescription information

Information required on a valid prescription form

Telephoned and faxed prescriptions

Refill requirements

Patient information (age, gender, etc.)

Interpreting prescribers’ directions for prescription labels

Recognizing and using common prescription abbreviations

Preparing/dispensing prescriptions

Avoiding errors (such as sound-alike/look-alike names)

Systems for checking prescriptions

Automated dispensing systems (including quality control)

Procedures for preparing prescriptions and data entry

Labeling prescriptions properly

The purpose and use of patient records

Proper packaging and storage

Managed care prescriptions


Conversions / Systems of measurement used in pharmacy

Calculating the amounts of prescription ingredients

Calculating quantity or days supply to be dispensed

Calculating individual and daily doses

Calculations used in compounding

Calculating dosages and administration rates for IVs

Business calculations (pricing, markup, inventory control)

Sterile products, unit dose and repackaging

Drug distribution systems used in hospitals and nursing homes

Procedures for repackaging medications

Prescription compliance aids

Aseptic technique and the use of laminar flow hoods

Special procedures for chemotherapy

Routes of administration for parenteral products

Types of sterile products

Correct procedures for maintaining the sterile product environment

Accurate compounding and labeling of sterile product prescriptions

Exam Preparation: The following resources are often referred to by candidates to prepare for the exam.

• American Pharmacists Association, The Pharmacy Technician Workbook and Certification Review, Third Edition

(Englewood, CO: Morton Publishing, 2007).

• Lile JM, Miller DE and Rybicki AL, Pharmacy Certified Technician Training Manual, Tenth Edition, (Lansing, MI:

Michigan Pharmacists Association, 2006).

• Posey LM, APhA’s Complete Review for the Pharmacy Technician, Second Edition, (Washington, DC: American

Pharmaceutical Association, 2007).

• Reifman N, Certification Review for Pharmacy Technicians, Seventh Edition (Golden, CO: Ark Pharmaceutical

Consultants, 2004).

• Schafermeyer KW and Williams, Brandon, The National Pharmacy Technician Training Program, 7th Edition.

Taking the Exam and Scoring: The ExCPT is a computerized 2 hours and 10 mins to answer 120 multiple choice questions. Each question has four choices. The exam is scored immediately and if successful you will be given an official report, indicating whether you have passed or not. The passing score for the ExCPT is 390. Within four weeks of passing the exam, you will receive the certificate, thereafter which you can use the designation of CPht(certified pharmacy technician).

Recertification and Reinstatement: Certification must be renewed every 2 years. During the two year period of certification, you must participate in 20 hours of continuing education. You must apply for recertification upto 90 days after expiration by paying a fee of $40.

The fee for reinstatement is $80 and applies to those individuals in which certification has been expired for less than 12 months.

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