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How to Study and Prepare for the Pharmacy Tech Certification


What’s with a pharmacy technician certification?

With all the rapid advancements in the field of science and technology, particularly medicine, the pharmaceutical industry has been motivated to produce better forms of medications and treatments for all kinds of diseases. Every year, we hear about new viruses or evolved illnesses in the news, but thankfully, our top scientists are doing a good job at keeping us away from illness. Due to the advancement of medical science, the demand for more specialists has never been higher. The federal government in the USA has made it a point to make sure that the healthcare professionals who’re treating patients are competent. This is why in the hospital and pharmaceutical industry, everyone needs to be certified.

The baby boomer generation of America continue to be a large percentage of the American population, and they are now aging. This forces the pharmaceutical companies to compete and comply with the needs of their elderly patients. Thanks to the recently passed Comprehensive Healthcare Reform Law, people who don’t have insurance now have access to proper medication at an affordable price. With a lot of people needing to have their prescriptions filled, pharmacists are now having a hard time keeping up with the demand. To help them with the tedious task of preparing medications and prescription filling, pharmacy technicians are now being employed by hospital pharmacies and even in laboratories. In compliance with the government’s need for competent people, he or she must pass the pharmacy technician certification exams.

Pharmacy technician certification exams or PTCE are offered by the PTCB or Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the Institute for the ICPT, two of the most respected organizations in the USA. If an aspiring pharmacy technician passes any of these two pharmacy technician certification exams, they will be certified pharmacy technicians. Because of the common occurrence of medical malpractice in the USA, it’s only fair that the certifications will guarantee the highest standards in competency. This is one of the many reasons why an aspiring technician needs to pass the pharmacy technician certification.

Certification exams coming from the PTCB or Pharmacy Technician Certification Board are overseen by the Pearson VUE. The Pearson VUE Professional Centres are located almost everywhere in the USA and is always the venue for the PTCE or pharmacy technician certification exams. In order to be eligible for the exam, you need to have an high school diploma or its equivalent, apart from finishing a minimum of 2 years’ worth of education in the respective pharmacology or pharmacy technicians courses. The PTCE covers different clinical and administrative tasks usually being undertaken by a pharmacy technician working in an actual pharmacy. Simply put, it gives you an idea on how much you’re ready to work in the field and how competent you are in the eyes of the governing bodies.

Once he or she passes the pharmacy technician certification exam or exams, they will carry the initials CpHT or Certified Pharmacy Technician after their name. but passing the exam is not a one time thing. You need to renew your certification every 2 years and you need to complete at least 20 hours of continuing education within the 2 year period. The ICPT and PTCB designed this so it encourages pharmacy technicians to be updated with the latest technology in the pharmaceutical industry. Getting certified can open a lot of opportunities for a CpHT, like bigger salaries, career advancement, and even getting a job in high-paying industries like laboratories and military.

Why do people take pharmacy technician certifications?

The government, along with some private healthcare facilities, is encouraging non-certified pharmacy technicians to get certified. Not only will patients and customers feel slightly at ease knowing that their medications are handled by competent professionals, certifications are more beneficial towards the pharmacy technician. According to the ASHP or American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Task Force of Personnel in Pharmacy, certification or getting certified is a process that’s being carried out by an individual in order for him to be recognized by an organization or non-governmental agency as someone who’s met the qualifications specified by said organization or association. Nurses get certifications. Doctors get certifications. Lab technicians get certifications. Everybody working in the healthcare industry needs to be certified by their respective governing bodies. The certifications also act as a measure of how competent an individual is. Due to the holistic nature of certification exams, it will be able to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of a pharmacy technician.

The PTCB was established in 1995 and has awarded thousands of certifications to pharmacy technicians. The PTCB is a nationally-recognized body by the US government as the organization for filtering out competent pharmacy technicians. The PTCE is a test to measure your knowledge and skills when working in an actual environment in various capacities. The PTCE or pharmacy technician certification exams are made up of three basic functions: assistance to the pharmacists in patient service, medication control and inventory, and administration in pharmacy practices. The certification exam is computed-based, but the candidates can still take it even if they are not so technically skilled in handling computers. A tutorial will be given before the exam, or if you’re lucky enough, you will be exposed to the certification exams if your institution is going to let you take practice exams. To prevent cheating, examinees are given the same set of exams on the same subject matters but the items will vary.

There is an allotted 2 hours for completion of the exam, which is made up of 80 multiple choice questions plus 10 pre-test questions, which needs to be answered even if you end up guessing some of them. The total number of your correct answers will serve as the basis for your certification’s final score. Your final score will not be affected by the 10 pre-test questions because they are not counted towards your score. The PCTB put them there to determine the information needed for designing the future examinations.

Pharmacy technicians who pass the certification exams need to renew their licenses every two years, with at least 20 hours of continuing education related to the field of pharmacology. These include Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy, and other life sciences, as well as Math and Calculus. College courses are also counted as 15 hours of continuing education but you can only use one college course during your recertification period.

Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam Information

A minimum requirement for the pharmacy technician certification exams is a high school diploma or the equivalent, and the test taker must be at least 18 years old in order to participate in the national certification exam. They also don’t have to be enrolled nor complete a formal training program, as most certifications in the healthcare industry need. Aspiring technicians will also need to be free from convictions of any drug-related crime or felony charge. They also need to be free from license suspension or revocation if they are coming from another state by the Board of Pharmacy.

Types of Exams

Technicians can choose to take any of the recognized certification exams coming from the PTCB or Pharmacy Certification Board and ICPT or Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians. An individual getting a passing score automatically gets a certification. Another recertification will be done in 2 years.

The PTCE or pharmacy technician certification exam is created by the PTCB and lasts for 110 minutes or close to 2 hours, covering 80 multiple choices and covers the following areas:

  • Patient Service (66%)
  • Medication & Inventory Control (22%)
  • Administration & Management (12%)

Another set of exam is provided by the ICPT and is called the ExCPT. When an individual achieves a passing score, he is also given a CPhT certificate, which bears the same weight as the certification given by the PTCB. The exams can be taken in one of 600 testing centres, which means that an aspiring pharmacy technician will have a testing centre right where they live. The ExCPT covers the following items:

  • Drugs & Drug Products
  • Regulation & Technician Duties
  • The Pharmaceutical Dispensing Process

Practice certification exams

Individuals enrolled in formal training related to pharmacy technicians may be exposed to the certification exams whilst they are studying because of the presence of practice tests. These practice tests are designed to simulate the actual testing experience. The tests can be downloaded from the Internet and/or can be attained from their instructors. There’s no danger of leakage as the test items are not going to be used in the actual certification exam. If item number 1 focuses on a side effect of paracetamol on the practice test, the actual test item in the certification exams will be different, like side effect of aspirin or acetaminophen.

Tips on passing the pharmacy technician certification

For those of you who are dreaming of becoming a pharmacy technician, then passing the certification exams should be your number one priority. Apart from the ICPT and the PTCB< the NHA or National Healthcare Association also offers a certification exam for pharmacy technicians. The goal of the exam is to gauge your skills and to legally quantify your skills as a pharmacy technician. in order to pass the exams, you need to be mindful of two things:

Understanding the Pharmacy Tech Certification Exam

The PTCB exam has 90 multiple choice questions and you need to take 2 hours to finish the entire thing. Computers are in charge of correcting the exam, so you will have your results the moment you pass it in. exams are made available all year round and is available every day of the week. For those of you who fail the exam, you are given three tries to get it right and you need to take the second exam 60 days after your first try.

Passing the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam

The test will contain ten items that are not counted towards your total score. These are referred to as pre-test questions and are used to determine the content of the future pharmacy technician certification exams. The items will cover the following domains:

  • Sterile and Non-sterile Compounding
  • Pharmacology for Technicians
  • Pharmacy Law and Regulations
  • Pharmacy Quality Assurance
  • Medication Safety
  • Pharmacy Billing and Reimbursement
  • Medication Order Entry and Fill Process
  • Pharmacy Information Systems Usage and Application
  • Pharmacy Inventory Management

Meanwhile, the NHA pharmacy technician certification exam contains 110 multiple choice questions and is a computer-based exam that takes 3 hours to finish. Once you submit the exam, you will know if you pass or fail immediately.

The exam questions on 3 areas: the dispensing process, drugs and products of drugs and regulations of technicians.

Questions for the dispensing process include the following (52% of exam):

  • Prescription information
  • Calculations
  • Preparation and dispensing prescriptions
  • Sterilization of products, unit dosing and repackaging

Questions for the regulation and duties of technicians include (25% of exam):

  • Overview of technician duties and general info
  • Controlled substances
  • Other regulations and laws

Questions in the area of drugs and products of drugs consists of (23% of exam):

  • Classification of drugs
  • Most frequently prescribed medications
  • How to Prepare for the Pharmacy Technician Exam

The preparation of the pharmacy technician certification exams has been made simpler due to the available resources and study guides present in several institutions and on the Internet. The exam questions that cover medications, contraindication and the side effects of medications can also be practiced on practice certification exams. This type of coverage should also help you study on the basic knowledges of medication and dosage requirements. The PTCB website will also provide you with several study guides that will help you pass the exam.

Now that you know how to pass the pharmacy technician certification exams, the first thing that you should do is to get your bases covered. This will include knowing about basic computations, a little background in life sciences, and experience in the healthcare industry is not a requirement but will be of great help to you. You can also ask your friends or family members in the pharmaceutical industry to help you with the certification. After all, there’s no one more certified to help you than actual certified professionals.