PTCB vs. ExCPT Exam Differences – Which Is Right For You?

Certifying exams for pharmacy technicians evaluate an individual’s knowledge and skills related to performing tasks related to their position. Twenty-four states require pharmacy technicians to be certified (CPhT) in order to be licensed and legally permitted to work. In most cases, passing an exam is required to become certified. 

There are two certifying exams for pharmacy technicians, the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE) and the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT) exam. Once certified, a pharmacy technician is granted the title of Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT).

(PTCE)

Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam 

Administered by: PTCB

(ExCPT)

Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians 

Administered by: NHA

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About the ExCPT exam

The ExCPT is required to complete the Pharmacy Technician Certification Program and become certified with the National Healthcareer Association (NHA). The exam is overseen and administered by the Institute for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians, which is part of the NHA. The ExCPT exam is offered at PSI/LaserGrade Test Centers across the United States and can be scheduled online via NHA.

It should be noted that while, among states that require certification for a pharmacy technician three of them - Washington, Louisiana and North Dakota - do not recognize the ExCPT exam and its resulting certification as valid, and accept only PTCB certification.

About the PTCE exam

The PTCE is administered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB). Completion of the PTCE is required to become a certified pharmacy technician with the PTCB.

PTCB Certification is accepted in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico.

Candidates can apply for the exam online or by phone (1-866-902-0593).

Exams are offered year-round at Pearson VUE test centers across the country for general applicants. Exams can also be completed at DANTES military test centers for service men and women and their families who are interested in certification as pharmacy technicians.

As of 2020, 706,678 technicians have been PTCB certified across the US. All fifty states including DC accept PTCB certification.

Comparing PTCE vs ExCPT - Main Differences

The ExCPT and the PTCE are computer-based exams. Both certification programs and exams offered by the NHA and the PTCB are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). In order to take either exam, candidates must be at least 18 years of age.

Completion of a formal education or training program is required for the ExCPT or have at least 1200 hours of supervised pharmacy-related work experience. 

Candidates must hold a valid high school diploma or equivalent (for example, a GED) and have no felony convictions. While the PTCE costs $129, the fee for the ExCPT exam is $115.

What would you do?

Question: A customer walks into a pharmacy and asks the pharmacy technician to recommend an OTC cough syrup for her one year old son. What should the pharmacist technician do?

Answer: Given the situation, the technician should ask the customer to wait and notify the Pharmacist to speak with the customer.

Both the ExCPT and the PTCE are nationally recognized exams and are equally challenging. Although they are structured differently, questions in each assess similar competencies. The ExCPT exam features 100 questions, while the PTCB exam includes 90 questions over a two-hour period. All questions for both exams are multiple choice questions and the exams are two hours in duration. In both cases, pharmacy technicians must complete continuing education to remain certified.

The PTCB exam has usually more hospital orientated questions. Traditionally 1/3 are math questions and is made up of 90 questions plus 10 trial questions.

The PTCE is divided into three areas related to the main job functions of a pharmacy technician. Most of the questions (66%) relate to assisting pharmacists in serving patients. Questions also relate to maintaining medication and inventory control systems (22% of the questions) and pharmacy administration and management (12% of the questions). 

Pie chart PTCE questions

Note that the PTCB are bringing in 2 changes taking effect on January 1, 2020. The first being an update on the education and eligibility requirement to apply for the Pharmacy Technician Certification Exam (PTCE).

To take the exam, a PT must now have completed a PTCB-recognized education program or have a minimum of 500 hours of work experience. The second change is an update to the test content.

Like the PTCE, the ExCPT exam is divided into general areas. Exam questions focus primarily on dispensing medications (45% of the questions). Additional questions relate to pharmacy regulation and technician duties (25% of the questions),  drugs and drug therapy (15% of the questions) and medication safety and quality assurance (15% of the questions).

Pie chart ExCPT questions
The ExCPT exam is traditionally more orientated toward retail pharmacy. It is made up of 90 questions plus 10 trial questions.

Deciding which pharmacy technician certification exam is right for you?

In order to determine which exam to complete, you should confirm which organization is recognized by your local state board of pharmacy. In certain states, either the NHA or the PTCB is recognized as the certifying organization of choice for pharmacy technicians.

The PTCE is more widely recognized by states across the country as it has been in existence for longer than the ExCPT and is therefore more established.

Regardless of which exam you complete, being certified by the PTCB or NHA provides employers assurances that you are qualified to work safely and effectively with medications and prescriptions, with licensed pharmacists, and in a pharmacy setting.

Completing these exams enhances your employability and promotion opportunities by providing employers with independent verification that you meet the requirements needed to provide adequate patient care and service. In many cases, employers look for certification when employing pharmacy technicians.

Research what the certification requirements are in your state

You might also be interested in reading our post: Do you have to be certified?

Search Pharmacy Technician Programs

Get information on Pharmacy Technician programs by entering your zip code and request enrollment information.

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