Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination Information – All in One

Pharmacy Technician Certification Examination Information

Certification is the process by which a nongovernmental association or agency grants recognition to an individual who has met certain predetermined qualifications specified by that association or agency. The goal of the certification program of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) is to enable pharmacy technicians to work more effectively with pharmacists to offer greater patient care and service. The PTCB is responsible for the development and implementation of policies related to national certification for pharmacy technicians.


To achieve PTCB Certification, candidates must satisfy the following eligibility requirements:
• High school diploma or equivalent educational diploma (e.g., a GED or foreign diploma)
• Full disclosure of all criminal and state board of pharmacy (BOP) registration or licensure actions
• Compliance with all applicable PTCB Certification policies
• Passing score on the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE)
A candidate may be disqualified for PTCB Certification upon the disclosure or discovery of:
• Criminal conduct involving the candidate
• State BOP registration or licensure action involving the candidate
• Violation of a PTCB Certification policy, including but not limited to the Code of Conduct PTCB reserves the right to investigate criminal background, verify candidate eligibility, and deny certification to any individual.

After being certified, certified pharmacy technicians (CPhTs) must report any felony conviction, drug or pharmacy related violations, or state BOP action taken against their icenses or registrations at the occurrence and at the time of recertification to the PTCB for review. Disqualification determinations are made on a case-by-case basis.


There are two parts to being a CPhT. First, pharmacy technicians must sit for and pass the national PTCE. After a pharmacy technician has passed the examination, he or she may use the designation “CPhT.” Second, to continue to hold certification, a CPhT is required to obtain 20 hours of continuing education (CE) for recertification within 2 years of original certification or previous recertification. For more information regarding certification, visit the PTCB’s website (


Candidates who require testing accommodations must request special accommodations during the application process. Accommodations that are reasonable and consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) will be provided by the PTCB at no additional cost to candidates. Candidates who need to bring medical equipment into the testing room need to request an ccommodation if the item is not on the list of allowed items.


The PTCB does not discriminate against any individual because of race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, or national origin in administering its certification policies. The PTCB endorses the principles of equal opportunity.


The cost of the PTCB Examination is $129.


The passing score and all candidate results are reported as scaled scores. The passing scaled score for the PTCE is 650. The range of possible PTCE scores is 300 to 900.


The use of scaled scores is necessary because different forms of the PTCE are administered every year, and these forms may fluctuate slightly in difficulty.

The PTCB uses multiple forms containing different items to minimize item exposure and ensure the continuing relevance of test items. To ensure that the results of candidates taking two different forms are equivalent, the PTCB uses a process known as statistical equating. Statistical equating is a process by which scores on different forms of the PTCE are calibrated onto a common scale. Equating ensures that candidates of comparable proficiency will be likely to obtain approximately the same scaled scores regardless of fluctuations in the overall difficulty level from one examination form to another.


After an application is approved, candidates will be authorized to schedule and take the PTCE. The authorization to schedule lasts for 90 days. A candidate who is unable to take the exam during this period must withdraw his or her application to avoid forfeiting the application fee.

Candidates may schedule exam appointments online or call Pearson VUE at 866-902-0593. The PTCE is administered at more than 235 Pearson VUE test centers nationwide and DANTES military test centers.* After you have scheduled an appointment, an e-mail confirmation will be sent to you within approximately 24 hours. Candidates with approved testing accommodations must call 800-466-0450 to schedule exam appointments.

There is no charge to cancel or reschedule an exam appointment. However, appointments must be canceled or rescheduled at least one business day (24 hours) before the scheduled appointment. For example, if an appointment is scheduled for 11:00 am on Monday, it must be canceled or rescheduled by 11:00 am the previous Friday. Candidates who fail to appear for their scheduled exam appointment will forfeit all fees. Canceling and rescheduling are handled directly with Pearson VUE.

Candidates who fail to appear for their scheduled exam appointment, arrive more than 30 minutes late, or do not present valid ID will forfeit all fees. If this occurs, candidates must reapply and pay the applicable fees.

Candidates who are unable to test within the 90-day authorization period or simply wish to withdraw may do so from within their PTCB Account. Candidates with scheduled exam appointments must first cancel their appointments with Pearson VUE. Candidates who withdraw will receive a refund, less an administrative fee.

Candidates who miss their exam appointments because of an emergency may submit a withdrawal request to PTCB. Examples of what PTCB considers an emergency include serious illness, injury, or unexpected hospitalization; death in the immediate family; serious accident; and court appearance. Please see the Candidate Guidebook for more information about emergency withdrawals.


The PTCB’s most recent Job Analysis Study was completed in February 2012, with more than 25,000 pharmacy technicians from across the United States participating in the survey. The PTCB’s Certification Council and Board of Governors reviewed the 2012 Job Analysis Study and approved a new blueprint for the PTCE. An exact date for implementing the new blueprint has not been established, but it is anticipated that the PTCE will reflect the new blueprint starting in the latter half of 2013. Note that no changes are planned to the length of the PTCE (90 items across 1 hour and 50 minutes) or type of questions (multiple choice).


The most noticeable change in the new blueprint is the way in which content is organized. The current blueprint distributes exam content into three functional areas, giving it a task focus,as shown in the following table. Each functional area has a series of knowledge statements associated with it.


The new blueprint organizes content into nine knowledge domains, called “knowledge areas” in the table below, each with a number of subdomains. This organization gives the new blueprint a knowledge focus and conveys more information about the type and relative amount of content in the exam.


The vast majority of knowledge statements in the current blueprint are covered by one or more of the knowledge areas in the new blueprint. By extension,this means that the new PTCE content will be very similar to what is covered in the current exam.


The national PTCE applies to all practice settings. In preparing for the national PTCE, familiarity with the material contained in any basic pharmacy technician training manuals or books may be helpful. Your supervising pharmacist may also be helpful in designing a study plan. The PTCB does not endorse, recommend, or sponsor any review course, manuals, or books for the PTCB examination.The PTCB encourages pharmacy technicians to visit the “Exam Information” portion of the PTCB’s website ( Candidates are able to access a full-length practice test, a list of texts used to assist in writing questions for the examination, and a “Useful Numbers” section that provides the contact numbers for publishers of examination study materials.


CPhTs can apply for recertification beginning 100 days before the Certification expiration date. Applications should be submitted at least 30 days before the expiration date (the “renew by” date) to ensure adequate time for processing. Example: If your certification expires on July 31, 2013, the earliest you can submit your recertification application is April 22, 2013. To allow adequate time for processing, the latest you should submit your application is July 1,2013.

CPhTs are required to complete 20 hours of pharmacy-related CE (1 hour must be in medication safety) during each 2-year certification period. For more information regarding the recertification process, download a copy of PTCB’s Recertification Requirements and guidelines.

A maximum of 10 hours may be earned by completing in-service projects.
Pharmacy related subject matter includes the following topics:
• Medication distribution
• Inventory control systems
• Mathematics
• Biology
• Pharmaceutical sciences
• Pharmacy law
• Pharmacology and drug therapy
• Roles and duties of pharmacy technicians
CPhTs must complete all CE hours within the 2-year recertification cycle (on or before the expiration date). No CE hours completed before certification is granted may be used to satisfy recertification requirements. CE hours can only be applied to the recertification cycle in which they are completed and cannot be carried over and applied to future cycles.

• American Pharmacists Association
• American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
• Illinois Council of Health-System Pharmacists
• Michigan Pharmacists Association
• National Pharmacy Technician Association
• Pharmacy Technician’s Letter
• Pharmacy Times
• Power-Pak C.E.
• RxSchool
• U.S. Pharmacist

CPhTs must maintain their own records of CE hours earned during each recertification period and are responsible for maintaining these records for at least 1 year after the certification cycle ends. Acceptable documentation of participation in a college course may be either a transcript or a grade report. For in-service projects or other CEs for which a certificate of participation is not available, the supervising pharmacist or instructor must complete the Universal CE Form.


The Pharmacy Technician Certification Program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Technicians who pass the (ExCPT) Pharmacy Exam are granted the title of CPhT. The program was established by the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ICPT),which is now a part of the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). All content previously found
on is now available on


An individual who does not have a certification from the NHA must create a profile at The cost of the examination is $105.


1.1 Overview of technician duties and general information
1.1.1 The role of pharmacists and pharmacy technicians
1.1.2 Functions that a technician may and may not perform
1.1.3 Prescription department layout and work-flow
1.1.4 Pharmacy security
1.1.5 Inventory control
1.1.6 Stocking medications
1.1.7 Identifying expired products
1.2 Controlled substances
1.2.1 Difference among the controlled substances schedules
1.2.2 Refills, partial refills, filing, and prescription transfers
1.2.3 Correct procedures for handling Schedule V sales
1.2.4 Controlled Substance Act
1.2.5 DEA numbers
1.3 Other laws and regulations
1.3.1 Federal privacy act
1.3.2 Generic substitution (including brand vs. generic products)
1.3.3 Professionals with prescribing authority (and acronyms)
1.3.4 Child-resistant packaging
1.3.5 Role of government agencies (e.g., BOP,DEA, FDA)
1.3.6 Manufacturer drug package labeling
1.3.7 Over-the-counter (OTC) package labeling
2.1 Drug classification (23% of exam)
2.1.1 Major drug classes (e.g., analgesics, anesthetics, antibiotics)
2.1.2 Dosage forms (types, characteristics, and uses)
2.1.3 OTC products
2.1.4 National Drug Code number
2.2 Most frequently prescribed medications
2.2.1 Brand and generic names
2.2.2 Basic mechanism of action (pharmacology) and drug classification
2.2.3 Primary indications
2.2.4 Common adverse drug reactions, interactions, and contraindications
3.1 Prescription information (52% of exam)
3.1.1 Information required on a valid prescription form
3.1.2 Telephoned and faxed prescriptions
3.1.3 Refill requirements
3.1.4 Patient information (e.g., age, gender)
3.1.5 Interpreting prescribers’ directions for prescription labels
3.1.6 Recognizing and using common prescription abbreviations
3.2 Preparing and dispensing prescriptions
3.2.1 Avoiding errors (e.g., sound-alike, look-alike names)
3.2.2 Systems for checking prescriptions
3.2.3 Automated dispensing systems (including quality control)
3.2.4 Procedures for preparing prescriptions and data entry
3.2.5 Labeling prescriptions properly
3.2.6 The purpose and use of patient records
3.2.7 Proper packaging and storage
3.2.8 Managed care prescriptions
3.3 Calculations
3.3.1 Conversions and systems of measurement used in pharmacy
3.3.2 Calculating the amounts of prescription ingredients
3.3.3 Calculating quantity or days supply to be dispensed
3.3.4 Calculating individual and daily doses
3.3.5 Calculations used in compounding
3.3.6 Calculating dosages and administration rates for intravenous lines
3.3.7 Business calculations (pricing, markup, inventory control)
3.4 Sterile products, unit dose and repackaging
3.4.1 Drug distribution systems used in hospitals and nursing homes
3.4.2 Procedures for repackaging medications
3.4.3 Prescription compliance aids
3.4.4 Aseptic technique and the use of laminar flow hoods
3.4.5 Special procedures for chemotherapy
3.4.6 Routes of administration for parenteral products
3.4.7 Types of sterile products
3.4.8 Correct procedures for maintaining the sterile product environment
3.4.9 Accurate compounding and labeling of sterile product prescriptions


Candidates are strongly encouraged to prepare for the exam in advance.


The ExCPT is a secure, computer-based exam offered during business hours and some evenings and weekends at one of the PSI/LaserGrade Testing Centers located throughout the United States. Candidates may register by completing preregistration on the website followed by calling PSI/LaserGrade’s toll-free number (800-733-9267) to arrange a date, time, and location. Candidate identification is verified at the PSI/LaserGrade Testing Center at the time of the test.Candidates have 2 hours to answer 110 multiple-choice questions. Each question has four choices. One question is presented on the screen at a time. Candidates may mark the answers or they can skip questions and come back later. Final answers are submitted when the candidate indicates that he or she is finished.The exam is graded by the PSI/LaserGrade computer system, and the candidate is given results immediately.


PSI/LaserGrade is a computer-based public testing network with headquarters in Burbank, California, and Vancouver, Washington, and can be found on the Internet at The PSI network consists of secure and supervised testing centers located throughout North America and overseas at colleges, training schools, and certification related locations.


To take the exam at a PSI/LaserGrade Testing Center, candidates are required to present government issued photo identification, such as a valid passport, driver’s license, U.S. Armed Forces photo identification or a nondriver’s identification issued by a state department of motor vehicles. The identification must be clear and legible. The name on the photo identification must be the same as on the original registration. If the names are different, then a certified or notarized copy of a marriage license, divorce decree, adoption papers, or other legal documentation of name change should be provided. If the address on the government-issued photo identification is different from that supplied at the time of registration, the candidate must show proof of address, such as a current utility bill.


The exam is scored immediately, and successful candidates are given an official report by PSI/LaserGrade indicating that they passed the ExCPT immediately upon completion. Candidates may use this report to provide evidence to employers or regulatory boards that they passed.


The purpose of recertification is to promote high standards of practice for pharmacy technicians and to encourage their participation in CE to promote safe and effective patient care. Recertification also provides a means for recognizing pharmacy technicians who continue to demonstrate their qualifications by complying with CE requirements and adhering to high professional standards.


During the 2-year period before recertification, CPhTs must participate in at least 20 hours of (CE,including at least 1 hour of pharmacy law). Additional CE credits earned cannot be carried over to the next recertification period.
Acceptable topics include but are not limited to:
• Drug distribution
• Managed health care
• Therapeutic issues
• Communications
• Pharmacy operations
• Calculations
• Drug repackaging
• Inventory control
• Drug products
• Patient interaction
• Interpersonal skills
• Prescription compounding
• Pharmacy law (at least 1 hour required)

The NHA reserves the right to reject credits not deemed applicable to pharmacy technician practice.

Certified technicians may recertify up to 90 days after expiration of their certification, but are not allowed to include CE credit earned during this grace period. After this 90-day grace period, technicians will lose their certification status. Certified technicians who fail to recertify on time may be able to have their certification reinstated within 12 months of their expiration date.