In March 2011, I was faced with the challenge of taking the PTCB or the PTCE. If you were like me, you’re probably stressing out about what to study for the test, what to bring, and how the test is going to be like. Here are tips and suggestions, from the year 2011, about the PTCB process and what to expect from it.
1. Learning Pharmaceuticals
Before you register to take the PTCB/PTCE, you need to learn all you can about Pharmaceuticals. You can do this by either taking an online course or by buying books and learning on your own
A. Taking Online Courses
Taking an online course about the pharmacy technician will broaden your knowledge on pharmaceuticals two times over. I decided to take the Pharmacy course through Allied Schools. Allied Schools is a school that I only recommend to people who need someone to push them. Allied Schools didn’t have any deadlines for the course, but they made all their lessons look manageable. I never felt as if their course was too hard or too easy to do. Plus, they even provided me with 24/7 tutors who were trained in those specific courses. For the most part, you wouldn’t need a tutor because the books are very detailed on how to things and they always show their work. In the long run, I didn’t really need the course, I just needed the books in the course. The books were the only things teaching me, because there was no instructor for the course. The price for this course was $900. When I think back, Allied Schools is only necessary if you need to schooling and PTCB for your state license. I only recommend taking this course if you have some saving you can spend and/or if you like to be tested on your knowledge.
B. Learning from Books
Reading pharmaceutical books is another way you can learn about the Pharmacy Technician. If you are self motivated, this is the best and least expensive way of learning Pharmacy. Your only problem is which books to buy. You have to make sure that the books you buy are books that will help you on the PTCB/PTCE. In order to do this, here is a list of books that I used to study for the PTCB.
The Pharmacy Technician 4th Edition by The American Pharmacists Association
I found this book to be the best book out of all four books. This book provided information about all aspects of pharmacy including hospital pharmacy as well. This book has my highest recommendation.
The Pharmacy Technician Workbook and Certification Review 4th Edition by The American Pharmacists Association
This book was a review of the first book I listed. This book tested you on all your basic knowledge on pharmacy. It is only useful when purchased with The Pharmacy Technician 4th Edition.
Pharmacy Calculations 3rd Edition by Mary F. Powers and Janet B. Wakelin
This book significantly helped the Math Calculations on the PTCE. It had all the math you needed to know for the PTCE. The book is very detailed and shows you step by step how to do a problem. Anyone can learn from it.
Secrets of the PTCB Exam Study Guide by Mometrix Media
I used this book more as a test taking guide. I showed you what to look for in tests and how tests always have their own kinds of flaws. I basically showed you how to cheat at a test without really cheating. It’s more like a strategy guide. It also had all the drugs names, side effects, and categories summed into all their pages. It was a quick drug reference guide for me.
2. Registering to Take the Test
Registering to take the test is fairly simple. All you have to do is go to PTCB dot org and click “Apply to take PTCE.” During the Registration you will go through multiple amounts of general questions. At the end, you will have to pay a $129 dollar fee for the test. After you pay the fee online, they will send you an email that says”Authorization to Test” letter or an ATT. Make sure you don’t delete this letter from your email. This contains your PTCB ID number and you will need it to test with. Make sure you print this letter out. PTCB will also send you a username and password so you can set up an account with Pearsonvue. They are going to be the PTCB proctors of your test. They are the only proctors the PTCB is allows. Once you set up an account with Pearsonvue, you will have to set a time and date for your test. You are allowed to test within 90 days within registering with the PTCB, so your date and time has to comply with this. I would recommend taking it at the time of the day where you are most vigilant. I also recommend you register to take the test three weeks from the date you register with Pearsonvue. This will allow you plenty of time to do extra studying and reviewing before the test.
3. Things to Study
Though you should still be studying for the test, there are some areas you need to study more on. These areas include:
Conversions (Such as 1 tsp=5 ml. I used that a lot).
Drug laws and Acts
Popular Name Brand and Generic Drugs
Drug Side Effects
Matching Drugs with Auxiliary Labels (ex. Drug: Hydrocodone Label: Do Not Take With Alcohol)
Here are my own percentage categories that I believed the test contained:
50% Math Calculations
20% Pharmacy Law, Acts, and Organizations
10% Technicians Role in the Workplace
5% Drug Side Effects
5% Cardiovascular Drug Effects
5% Matching Drugs with Auxiliary Labels
3% Hospital Pharmacy
2% Matching Name Brand with Generic
4. Things to Bring and Do Before You Go to the Center
Here is a list of things to do before you to the Pearsonvue Center:
Bring 2 Forms of ID and Your ATT Letter
The testing center will not admit you if you do not bring a valid form of ID. I suggest bringing 2 forms of ID just in case one of them is not valid. You have to bring your ATT letter from the email. This shows that you are allowed to test there.
Go to the Bathroom.
You may go to the restroom during your test, but it takes away from your time.
Eat an hour before you test.
You need to eat before you take your test. Eating gives your body and mind strength to function. Make sure this is done about an hour before the test, so you don’t have to go to the restroom during the test.
As horrible as this may sound, if certain drugs help you concentrate better, I say take them. I took Excedrin before my test. Though Excedrin contains mostly caffeine and Acetaminophen, it’s one of those drugs that truly makes me focus on what I am doing.
Wear Your Lucky Items.
Though luck is just a superstition, I recommend wearing all the lucky items you own. (Except bracelets, the testing center does not allow you to wear them). Even though your items probably aren’t really lucky, the belief that they are lucky will give you confidence. Plus, if you fail the test, then your items aren’t lucky anymore, so now you have another incentive to pass.
Call Your Support Group.
Before you take your test, call someone who always supports you. This will help your confidence. Before my test, I actually called a lady from Allied Schools, who had taken the PTCB before. She calmed my nerves down and just told me what to expect in the test. This helped me a lot!
Before the test, I would definitely suggest praying to God. Trust me, you need all the help you can get.
5. Arriving at the Testing Center
Before you walk through the doors of the testing center, remember to leave your personal items, bracelets, and any friends in your car or outside. They are not allowed in the Center. When you are walking in the doors, BE QUIET. The front desk will get angry at you if you are loud and obnoxious when walking in.
After you walk in, check in at the front desk. They will ask for ID, your ATT letter, and fingerprint and palm check you. They Fingerprint and palm you before and after the test. They will also take a photo of you, to make sure it was you who took the test and your smart friend. Then they give you a key to a locker for any items you may have.
After they have taken the fingerprints and photo shots of you, you will be given a yellow, 6 page, back to back, dry erase scratch booklet and a calculator. Then they will go over all the rules in the testing center.
After the rules are done, you proceed to walk into the controlled testing room and sit at a numbered computer. They then log you in, ask if you have any questions, and leave.
6. Taking the Test
When taking the test, there is a tutorial at the beginning. SKIP IT. If you skip the test you will give yourself 5 more, extra minutes for your test. I was given 120 minutes for the test, 5 minutes for the tutorial, and 5 minutes for the survey. In all I was given 130 minutes for the test because I skipped the tutorial and I didn’t have enough time to take the survey.
Also remember while taking the test to stay calm. Go at your own pace, but just remember the test is still timed. Don’t go too slow. If there are any questions you are unsure of, flag them for review on the computer, but remember to still answer them, even if they are wrong, just in case you don’t have enough time at the end of the test. If you have time at the end, you can review these questions again.
7. After the Test
When the clock on the computer turns to all zeros, your test will end instantly. A survey page will come up on the computer. After you complete the survey, your “Pass” or “Fail” results will appear.
When the results appear, review them and then raise your hand so the attendant can escort you out of the room. They will fingerprint and palm you and then look at your photo once more. Then, they will then print you out your results and tell you that your official and detailed scores will not come in your mail until 1 to 3 weeks. You then will be allowed to grab your items out of your locker, and leave.
8. Receiving Your Results
Weeks after your test, you will be sent an official letter and certificate, if passed, of your results. The certificate consists of two detachable sheets of paper. The first sheet is just your certificate stating that you are a certified pharmacy technician. I will have your certification number, date of completion, and date of renewal. The other sheet of paper has a detachable card that has your certification number, your full name, and your PTCB renewal date. It also contains your test scores. There are three different scores contained within the total score. They include: Assisting the Pharmacist in Serving Patients, Maintaining Medication and Inventory Control Systems, and Participating in the Administration and Management of Pharmacy Practice. There will be a score for each category.
For example, I received a 658 in Assisting the Pharmacist…, a 703 in Maintaining Medication…, and a 677 in Participating in the Administration… I had a final score of 670. I hope you all receive higher scores than what I received, but simply passing is really all you need and should want. 99% of employers will not look at your scores. They will just make sure you passed.
9. After completing the PTCB, whether you passed or failed, remember one thing. THE PTCB IS ONLY A SMALL PORTION OF WHAT A PHARMACY IS ‘REALLY’ LIKE. Unfortunately, the PTCB focuses more on math than it does on drug brand names and generics. The PTCB is geared more towards people who are already pharmacy technicians. The PTCB is supposed to help them out with the math portion of pharmacy and help them learn more about drug side effects. Don’t feel bad if you have never been a technician and passed this course and now find yourself be dumbfounded at your recently hired pharmacy. I found this out the hard way.
I started at my pharmacy just as a cashier. When I finally got sick and tired of being ‘just a cashier’ I decided that it was time I become a CPhT. I took the courses through Allied schools and took the PTCB. I felt confident of my knowledge of pharmacy after passing the courses and the PTCB. The problem was I had, and still have, trouble remembering the drugs and their generics. I know plenty of drug names, but I haven’t worked long enough in a pharmacy to remember as many as the other technicians who have been techs for over 5 years. I also felt completely idiotic when I didn’t know the computers. There are many components to the pharmacy Rx computer.
I would to not to all of you that the schooling and the tests really don’t teach you as much as what your learn just from working at a pharmacy. Don’t be hurt or feel completely stupid if you get hired and don’t know everything. It takes years to learn what all those technicians know how to do. So, don’t let them intimidate you. Just remember to always ask questions and always ask why something is the way it is and why it is done like it is. Remember to ask the right technician meaning one that has been there a long time and/or one that has no intimidation of your presence.
In Conclusion, I hope that these tips and suggestions of advise help anyone who is taking the PTCE soon. I noticed before I took my test, there were no recent forums of the PTCE. Most were from 2007 and were not of relevancy. So, I decided if I passed the PTCE I would write an article about the current PTCB process. Hope this information helps and good luck at taking the test.