National Opticianry Competency Examination

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The National Opticianry Competency Examination (NOCE) was created by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO), a professional organization founded in 1976 to administer certifying examinations to opticians.[1] Currently, the ABO and the National Contact Lens Examiners (ABO-NCLE) work together as sister organizations to certify all opticians. Opticians who specialize in eyeglasses take the NOCE, while opticians who specialize in contact lenses take a somewhat different exam, the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE).[2] Since the beginning of certification in 1976, approximately 100,000 certifications have been awarded by the ABO-NCLE to opticians, and more than 40,000 certifications are held by currently-practicing opticians.[1]

The NOCE is regularly revised by the ABO-NCLE. Periodic Job Analysis studies identify the knowledge and competencies most crucial to the current state of the art in opticianry, and groups of certified opticians use this information to construct a psychometrically valid examination.[2] The examination is updated approximately every three years.[3]

Function of the Test

NOCE Study Guide

The NOCE is a certification examination for opticians who wish to dispense eyeglasses. This certification is nationally recognized by state licensing boards in the United States.[1] Specifically, ABO-NCLE exams are the basis for optician licensing in 90% of states, and 23% of licensing states require current ABO-NCLE certification for any currently-practicing opticians who wish to move into and practice in that state.[4]

The ABO-NCLE does not appear to publish historical scoring data. However, in 2013, 3470 candidates took the NOCE, of whom 62.5% (2169) passed.[2]

Test Administration

NOCE Flashcards

In order to register to take the NOCE, candidates must be at least 18 years and hold the equivalent of a high school diploma.

As of August 2014, the NOCE is offered four times per year: in August, November, February, and May. Candidates must register to take the examination in advance. Regular registration ends five weeks before the exam period begins, and late registration ends four weeks before the exam period begins. The cost to register to take the NOCE is $225 during the regular registration period and $300 during the late registration period.[2]

The NOCE is administered by computer at PSY Test Centers.[3] The length of the test is variously reported as being 120 minutes[3] or 150 minutes.[2]

Candidates receive their official results by email four to six weeks following the examination date.[3] Unsuccessful candidates receive a diagnostic score report detailing whether their score on each given subject in the exam was low, medium, or high.[3] Candidates who wish to retake the examination are not allowed to register for the next regularly-scheduled exam, but must wait for the second future exam period. For example, a candidate who fails the exam in May cannot take the exam again in August, but must wait until November.[2]

Candidates who require special accommodations for a disability must submit a report to the ABO-NCLE prepared on their healthcare professional' professional letterhead which details the specific diagnosis and date of diagnosis, recent specific medical evaluations or tests which support that diagnosis, a description of the candidate's functional limitations, and the specific accommodations requested for the examination. Because these requests take time to process, and because the ABO-NCLE may request additional information before granting the request, candidates are encouraged to submit accommodation requests as early as possible.[3]

Test Format

Sections of the NOCE Test
NOCE Test Subject Areas  % of Exam
Ophthalmic Optics 34%
Ocular Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology 7%
Ophthalmic Products 23%
Instrumentation 16%
Dispensing Procedures 15%
Laws, Regulations and Standards 5%
Total 100%

Test Environment

The computer-based NOCE is offered at many testing centers. For admission, candidates must bring either a passport, military ID, State ID, or a Driver's license. To ensure each test-taker is well informed on the computer-based testing process, there will be an on-screen tutorial before the test begins. Personal items such as electronics, pens and paper, bags, and books are not allowed into the testing room. Once the exam is completed, test-takers will receive a pass or fail notification immediately.[5]

Test Content

The NOCE is made out of six major domains: Ophthalmic Optics; Ocular Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology; Ophthalmic Products; Instrumentation; Dispensing Procedures; and Laws, Regulations and Standards. There will be 125 multiple choice questions, a portion of which are pretest questions that will not be scored. The NOCE takes place on a computer format, and allows two hours to complete.[6]


The NOCE comprises 125 multiple-choice questions, approximately 85 to 100 of which are counted toward the candidate's score. The remaining items are pretest items which are being assessed for inclusion on future versions of the exam.[3]

There is no single established "passing score" for the NOCE. Rather, the examination is criterion-referenced, meaning that the passing score changes depending on the specific questions asked on the exam. The difficulty of each individual question of the NOCE is analyzed by a panel of experts to determine what the passing score should be for that version of the exam. A slightly easier version of the exam will have a higher, stricter passing score than a slightly more difficult version of the exam.[3] In 2013, 62.5% of candidates passed the NOCE.[2]

Guessing is not penalized on the NOCE. Incorrect answers are counted the same way as answers left blank.[3]

Recent Developments

The ABO-NCLE began offering the NOCE examination four times per year in August 2014.[2]


  1. ^ a b c ABO-NCLE: Who is ABO-NCLE? October 16 2014
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h ABO-NCLE: Basic Certification Exams October 16 2014
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i ABO-NCLE Examination Handbook October 16 2014
  4. ^ ABO-NCLE: Why Be Certified? October 16 2014
  5. ^ NOCE Exam Handbook 17 October 2014
  6. ^ About the Exam 17 October 2014