How I Passed My PTCB Exam on the First Try

  • Sadie Black
  • |

So, your goal is to become a licensed CPhT (Certified Pharmacy Technician)? Maybe you’ve spent the last several months in school, maybe you’re currently working, but now is the time to take the final exam and figure out exactly what you need to do in order to pass. Before you jump in and get overwhelmed, here are the things I personally did to pass the test on my first try.

1. I learned the test

When I say I learned the test, I mean I knew what categories there were, how long I would have to take it, and the format of the questions. My goal was to walk into the test and not be surprised by anything, I wanted to be prepared. There are 9 categories on the test, which I then used to decide what I needed to study more or less of. I had already been working as a Pharmacy Technician for a while, so I was fairly confident with the Pharmacology section, but I had never compounded so I studied the Sterile and Non-Sterile Compounding information as much as I could. I also knew that you had 1 hour and 50 minutes to complete 90 questions, and 10 of them were unscored, so I didn’t give myself any more than 60-to-90 seconds per question. By doing it that way, I ended up having time left over, and I was able to flag the questions I had trouble with and go back to them. Pearson Vue, the testing center for PTCB, offers an exam tutorial so you know exactly what the test will look like, and I took full advantage of that. Again, I didn’t want there to be any surprises. Also remember, the law portion of the test is for federal law, not your state’s law.

2. I purchased study materials, and even used free ones.

PTCB offers two different practice exams, priced at $29 for one or $49 for both and I bought both. Based on the practice exams, I created paper flash cards that I would keep with me and if I had down time at work, home, school, really anywhere I could possibly get 5 minutes of studying, I would pull them out. I kept super easy questions on the flash cards, like the top 200 drugs name brand to generic, medical abbreviations (also known as sig codes), and anything else that would be a short one- or two-word question and answer. The most helpful thing for me was to download and purchase the PTCE Pocket Prep app. At the time of me purchasing it, there were 700 questions to go through and a new one added every day as a Question of the Day. Using that app, I could create mini quizzes for myself that were specific to the category or categories I chose. If I got a question wrong, it would tell me why the correct answer was correct, which made me feel like I got double the value.

3. I scheduled my exam in advance.

This one may sound like a no brainer, but a lot of people don’t realize that you have to actually apply to take the test. It may sound silly, but you don’t apply and get to schedule the exam in the same day. PTCB requires certain eligibility requirements to be met such as being a high school graduate, or within 60 days of graduating, a disclosure of any criminal or State Board of Pharmacy licensure actions, and they do actually verify this information. I decided to take my test in April, was able to schedule it in May, and actually took my exam in September. I’m not suggesting you wait 3 months, but definitely give yourself plenty of time to study. There is too much knowledge needed to try and cram it in within a week and expect to pass.

4. I used my testing skills.

By testing skills, I mean the things we all heard growing up in school; read carefully, don’t take too much time on any one question, don’t leave a question blank and only guess as your last option. The biggest take away however, is read carefully. The PTCE will try to trick you and word things strangely to trip you up. For example, a question may say Billy, a large child for his age is 12 years old and in sixth grade. Billy weighs 120 lbs, and has an infection. Billy’s doctor has been practicing for 30 years and has prescribed him Amoxicillin 400mg/5mL, how many milligrams will be needed for his dose? That question has over 40 words, yet only a few are needed: 120lbs, Amoxicillin 400mg/5mL, how many milligrams will be needed? With really wordy questions, I would answer the question but flag it and go back to make sure I really understood the question.

Overall, I know this seems like a lot, but give yourself plenty of time and you will have no problem! The test seems scarier than it actually is. As a bonus, at the end you will get an unofficial score so you will have an idea on whether or not you passed.

PTCB offers two different practice exams, priced at $29 for one or $49 for both and I bought both. Based on the practice exams, I created paper flash cards that I would keep with me and if I had down time at work, home, school, really anywhere I could possibly get 5 minutes of studying, I would pull them out. I kept super easy questions on the flash cards, like the top 200 drugs name brand to generic, medical abbreviations (also known as sig codes), and anything else that would be a short one- or two-word question and answer.

The most helpful thing for me was to download and purchase the PTCE Pocket Prep app. At the time of me purchasing it, there were 700 questions to go through and a new one added every day as a Question of the Day. Using that app, I could create mini quizzes for myself that were specific to the category or categories I chose. If I got a question wrong, it would tell me why the correct answer was correct, which made me feel like I got double the value.

Sadie Black

Meet The Author

Sadie Black is a certified and licensed pharmacy technician. She received her Associate of Science in Pharmacy Technician with a pre-major in pharmacy study before earning her state certification and national license from the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board. Sadie has experience working in both chain and independent pharmacies as lead pharmacy tech and is a member of the National Pharmacy Tech Association.

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