Certified Surgical Technologist Exam

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Certified Surgical Technologist (CST)


The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA), formerly the Liaison Council on Certification for the Surgical Technologist (LCC-ST), was created in 1974 as a division of the Association of Surgical Technologists (AST). It later incorporated in 1992 as an independent institution responsible for administering all aspects of certification for surgical technologists and first assistants. In 2005, the NBSTSA changed its policies to provide more flexibility to graduating surgical technology students and began to allow students to take the CST exam up to 30 days prior to graduation. Students who passed the exam were then mailed their certificates and exam results upon proof of graduation. In addition, instructors were now permitted to register an entire class to take the exam as a group at a nearby Prometric testing center. Initially only graduates of a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Programs (CAAHEP) were allowed to sit for the exam. This was expanded in 2006 to include Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)-accredited programs. In 2008, the NBSTSA contracted with Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc. (AMP) to be its exclusive testing vendor. That year, on-campus Web-based testing was instituted in those schools whose facilities were reviewed and certified by AMP, allowing entire graduating classes to be tested together on campus without having to individually apply for and schedule exams or travel off-site to take them. [1]

Function of the Test

CST Study Guide

The CST exam is a voluntary test that is open to graduates of accredited surgical technology and surgical first assisting programs, military surgical assisting programs, and previously certified individuals that choose to use retesting instead of continuing education to maintain their certification. Candidates who were graduated from programs that are not CAAHEP or ABHES accredited may choose an “accelerated alternate delivery pathway” by completing additional coursework at approved institutions.[2] In the first year of on-campus testing, 2,210 candidates took the exam at their educational institution and another 6,709 used an authorized testing center. The pass rate for both was 65%. Now, over 17,000 people take the CST exam each year. The average pass rate for fiscal years 2013 and 2014 was 75% for the Web based on-campus exam and about 70% for those taking the exam at an AMP center. Close to 40% of candidates now take the exam on campus.[3] After passing the exam, surgical technicians are authorized to use the CST designation, indicating that they have met the national standard of competence in their field.[4]

Test Administration

CST Flashcards

The examination application must be completed, signed, and mailed to the NBSTSA with a 2x2 passport quality photo, proof of education, work experience and/or prior certification, and payment by check, money order, or credit card. The cost to take the exam is $190 for ASA/AST members and $290 for non-members, which includes a $60 non-refundable processing fee. Those who pay by credit card may request rush processing for an additional, non-refundable fee of $50.[5] Upon receiving an Authorization to Test (ATT) letter, a candidate can schedule their exam directly with the testing vendor, Applied Measurement Professionals, Inc. (AMP). Testing centers are located in all 50 states. Active duty overseas military personnel who are stationed 100 miles or more from an AMP testing center may apply to take their exam through their military base education center. Candidates with disabilities who require special accommodations must submit their request along with supporting documentation at the time of application. The NBSTSA provides accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended (ADAAA). [6] Many schools have chosen to become NBSTSA-authorized testing centers for their students. Candidates enrolled in one of these schools must submit applications through the institution within 30 days pre- or post-graduation, and will be tested on campus along with their graduating class. To insure compliance with ADA regulations, candidates with disabilities who require special accommodations must sit for the exam in an AMP testing center.[7] Candidates who do not pass the exam may retake it up to three times in a given calendar year. There is no waiting period between attempts, and no limit to the total number of attempts a candidate may make. However, the entire application process must be completed, including payment of the entire testing fee, for each attempt.[8]

Test Format

Sections of the CST Test
CST Test Subject Areas # of Questions
Peri-Operative Care 105
Additional Duties 20
Basic Science 50
Total 175

Test Environment

Applied Measurement Professionals Inc administers the CST examination. On the day of the exam, candidates are expected to arrive on time with a valid ID. Candidates will then be taken to a computer, where the tutorial and test will take place. Test-takers will find out their scores (pass/fail) within five minutes of completing the exam. A detailed score report will be mailed within the following two weeks. [9]

Test Structure

The CST Exam contains 175 questions, as well as 25 unscored, pretest questions, a total of 200 items. All 200 have to do with three major topics: Peri-Operative Care; Additional Duties; and Basic Science. The time allotted to complete the exam is four hours. [10]

Sample Questions

More free CST practice test questions.


There are a total of 200 multiple-choice questions on the exam, of which 25 are “pretest” items that are not scored. Candidates must answer at least 118 of the 175 scored questions to pass the exam. Because only correct answers are counted, there is no penalty for guessing the answer to any questions. Candidates using an AMP testing center will receive a pass/fail report before leaving the center, followed in two weeks by official NBSTSA notification.[11] Because students may take the on-campus test up to 30 days prior to graduation, test scores for these candidates are not released until NBSTSA has received official transcripts or a notarized letter from the school as proof of graduation.[12]


  1. ^ The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting Archive News November 12, 2014
  2. ^ CST Examinations Eligibility and Fees November 12, 2014
  3. ^ NBSTSA Certification Statistics: Certified Surgical Technologists and Certified Surgical First Assistants November 12, 2014
  4. ^ 2014 CST Candidate Handbook November 12, 2014
  5. ^ 2014 Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) Examination Application November 12, 2014
  6. ^ 2014 CST Candidate Handbook November 12, 2014
  7. ^ On Campus Web Based (WBT) Testing November 12, 2014
  8. ^ 2014 CST Candidate Handbook November 12, 2014
  9. ^ Test Information 17 October 2014
  10. ^ CST Handbook 17 October 2014
  11. ^ Examination Results November 14, 2014
  12. ^ 2014 WBT On Campus Testing Guide November 14, 2014