Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam

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The Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) is administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, an organization founded in 1995 by delegates from several pharmaceutical organizations such as the American Pharmacists Association and the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists.[1]

Function of the Test

PTCE Study Guide

Candidates who take the PTCE are typically working as—or wish to work as—pharmacy technicians (PhTs).

In the United States, each state is free to set its own guidelines for the licensure of PhTs, and there are often several possible routes to qualify for licensure. One function of the PTCE is to help prospective PhTs obtain such licensure from their states. Due to its national scope, the PTCB is widely recognized in the pharmaceutical field, making the PTCE exam a straightforward method for PhTs to prove that they have the skills and knowledge necessary to perform their job. For example, in California, candidates may qualify for PhT licensure by graduating from an approved training course, passing the PTCE, or by having pharmaceutical training from the military.[2]

Candidates who have already received PhT licensure from their state through other means may wish to take the PTCE in order to advance their careers or to make it easier to obtain licensure to be a PhT in another state. The PTCB reports that Certified Pharmacy Technicians (CPhTs) have enhanced career opportunities, improved job satisfaction, and increased knowledge.[3]

In 2013, 54,245 candidates took the PTCE, of whom 76% (41,343) passed. The overall pass rate since 1995 has been 75% (518,695 of 687,339 candidates).[4]

Test Administration

PTCE Flashcards

The PTCE is offered year-round. Before scheduling a test session, candidates must submit an application to the PTCB. The application and examination fee is $129.[5] Once the application is approved, candidates schedule the examination directly through Pearson VUE.[6] The exam is only offered at Pearson VUE testing centers.[3]

The PTCE takes two hours to complete.[6] Score reports are provided immediately following the examination.[6] Official score reports are available online within three weeks of the test date, and certificates and a wallet card are mailed to successful candidates approximately four to six weeks after the exam.[6]

Candidates who fail the PTCE may retake it up to three times. Candidates must submit a new application and payment for each attempt. Candidates must wait 60 days before the second test attempt, another 60 days before the third test attempt, and six months before the fourth attempt. To attempt the test a fifth time, candidates must petition the PTCB in writing.[6]

Candidates who require special accommodations due to disabilities must complete a Special Accommodations Form and submit it by mail or fax within 30 days of submitting a certification application.[6] The candidate's physician (or other qualified treatment professional) must complete a portion of and sign the Special Accommodations Form.[7]


Sections of the PTCE Test
PTCE Test Subject Areas Percentage
Pharmacology for Technicians 13.75%
Pharmacy Law and Regulations 12.5%
Sterile and Non-sterile Compounding 8.75%
Medication Safety 12.5%
Pharmacy Quality Assurance 7.5%
Medication Order Entry and Fill Process 17.5%
Pharmacy Inventory Management 8.75%
Pharmacy Billing and Reimbursement 8.75%
Pharmacy Information Systems Usage and Application 10%
Total 100%

Test Environment

Candidates for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam are expected to arrive at their designated testing center at least half an hour before the beginning time. For admission, test-takers are required to bring an acceptable identification. Personal items are not allowed in the testing area, but a locker will be provided to store things while the test is being taken. Personal calculators are not allowed, but a built in one will be provided on this computer based exam, and staff will provide a physical one upon request.[8]

Test Content

The Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam is a multiple choice, computer-based exam, consisting of 90 questions. Of these 90 questions, 10 are uncored, pretest questions. All 90 items consist of at least one of nine main domains: Pharmacology for Technicians; Pharmacy Law and Regulations; Sterile and Non-sterile Compounding; Medication Safety; Pharmacy Quality Assurance; Medication Order Entry and Fill Process; Pharmacy Inventory Management; Pharmacy Billing and Reimbursement; Pharmacy Information Systems Usage and Application. Time allotted to complete all 90 questions is 110 minutes.[9]

Sample Questions

More free PTCE practice test questions.


The PTCE contains 90 questions, of which 80 are scored and 10 are pretest questions being assessed for inclusion on future versions of the exam.[6] The candidate's score is based on their correct responses. This means that guessing is not penalized: incorrect answers and omitted answers are treated the same way.[6]

The PTCE uses the modifed-Angoff method of scoring, meaning that a panel of experts evaluates every individual test item to decide what percentage of qualified PhTs would answer that question correctly.[6] Under this system, answering an easy question incorrectly harms your score more than answering a difficult question incorrectly.

Raw scores are converted to a scaled score between 1,000 and 1,600. The passing score is 1,400.[6] These scaled and equated scores exist to control for slightly different levels of difficulty in different versions of the examination and thus make it easy to compare all candidates' performance on an equal playing field.[6]

Recent Developments

The PTCE was most recently overhauled on November 1st, 2013.[10] A Job Analysis Study of 25,712 PhTs helped to determine the most important skills and knowledge PhTs need in order to be successful. The examination was revised to reflect the results of this study.[11]


  1. ^ About PTCB June 17 2014
  2. ^ California State Board of Pharmacy: Application instructions for pharmacy technician license June 17 2014
  3. ^ a b PTCB: FAQs June 17 2014
  4. ^ PTCB: CPhT Statistics June 17 2014
  5. ^ PTCB: Current Fees June 17 2014
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k PTCB Certification Guidelines and Requirements: A Candidate Guidebook June 17 2014
  7. ^ PTCB: Request for Special Testing Accommodations June 17 2014
  8. ^ PTCE Test Information 14 July 2014
  9. ^ Preparing for the PTCE 14 July 2014
  10. ^ Updated Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (TPCE) Blueprint June 17 2014
  11. ^ PTCB To Introduce Updated Certification Exam on November 1 June 17 2014

External Links