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Insight into the PTCE Exam from the PTCB

One of the primary roles of pharmacy technicians is to assist licensed pharmacists in dispensing prescription medication. They are found working in pharmacies and hospitals, and their tasks including counting or measuring amounts of medication in order to fill prescriptions and compound or mix medications. Although many pharmacy technicians receive on-the-job training or attend postsecondary education programs, they are also required to become certified and licensed in many states. Among the certifying exams for pharmacy technicians is the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE), which is offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).

About the PTCE Exam 

The PTCE evaluates an individual’s knowledge and ability in the duties related to being a pharmacy technician in the United States. The PTCB exam and certification program is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. The PTCE assists technicians who are interested in becoming licensed in their state. It is administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board and the exam is recognized nationally.

Being certified by the PTCB and completing the PTCE demonstrates that a pharmacy technician is qualified to work effectively with licensed pharmacists. It also provides employers evidence that a technician meets requirements to provide adequate patient care and service. By being tested in their knowledge, skills and abilities, PTCB-certified technicians show employers that they have met predetermined qualifications to work safely and successfully as a pharmacy technician. In addition to enhance employability, PTCB certification also assists in promotion opportunities.

Requirements and Fees

Completing the PTCE is required to become certified as a pharmacy technician with the PTCB. In order to be eligible for the exam, you must hold a valid high school diploma or equivalent (for example, GED). You must also comply with all applicable PTCB certification policies. Candidates must not have a criminal history (for example, past felony conviction and drug or pharmacy-related violations), face registration and licensure action from a state board of pharmacy, or violate the PTCB Code of Conduct. As of 2014, the cost of completing the PTCE is $129. Once certified, pharmacy technicians must re-certify every two years by completing 20 hours of Continuing Education in pharmacy-related subject matter. A fee of $90 is required when applying for recertification.

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Sample PTCE Questions

The duration of the PTCE is 2 hours, of which one hour and 50 minutes are allotted for test questions and 10 minutes are allotted for the tutorial and survey questions. There are a total of 90 questions, including 80 scored questions and 10 un-scored pre-test questions. Un-scored questions are not identified and are found at random in the test. There are four possible answers for each question.

The PTCE includes questions on the three main job functions of a pharmacy technician. Most questions (66%) are related to assisting pharmacists in serving patients. Questions test your knowledge of receiving and processing prescription or medication orders, monitoring and recording orders, compounding a prescription or medication order, relevant federal rules and regulations, obtaining patient information and medical records, and collecting and communication patient-specific data (for example, blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol levels, immunizations), restricted drug distribution programs and investigational drugs. Questions will also assess your knowledge of prescription or medication order completeness, including accuracy, authenticity, legality and reimbursement eligibility).

PTCB Multiple Choice Questions

Remaining questions focus on maintaining medication and inventory control systems (22% of the questions) and participating in the administration and management of a pharmacy (12% of the questions). Questions will check knowledge related to identifying pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, devises, and supplies to be ordered, as well as placing and receiving routine and emergency orders for these materials and storing these items. The exam will also test knowledge related to maintaining records and performing quality assurance tests on compounded medications.

Questions are also included on maintaining patient information for insurance and treatment purposes, coordinating communications in a pharmacy (for example, routing phone calls and communicating refill authorizations), generating quality assurance reports, equipment care and maintenance, implementing and monitoring pharmacy policies (for example, procedures related to infection control and dispensing, destroying, and handling pharmaceuticals and supplies), and maintaining electronic information systems.

Preparing for the PTCE Exam

In order to prepare for the PTCE, candidates should be familiar with material found in basic pharmacy technician training manuals or books. Candidates should consult with their supervising pharmacist in order to design a study plan. The PTCB has developed practice exams to help candidates familiarize themselves with question formats, including the Official PTCB Practice Exam, the Official PTCB Practice Calculations Exam, and the Official PTCB Medication Usage and Administration Practice Exam. Practice exams are $29 each and are available online directly from the PTCB (

Scheduling the PTCE Exam

In order to apply for the PTCE, candidates must apply online with the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board ( or by phone (1-866-902-0593). Exams are offered throughout the year at Pearson VUE test centers for general applicants and DANTES military test centers for service men and women (and their families). You are responsible for scheduling your own exam appointment directly with the PTCB. More information about the PTCE can be found online at

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