If you desire to work as a pharmacy technician, then you likely have heard of the Exam for the Certification of Pharmacy Technicians (ExCPT). Some states require this examination to apply for licensure or certification that legally allows you to work in this profession.
As with any exam of this type, you need a strong knowledge base to pass it. You also need to prepare ahead of time for what to expect when taking the exam. Furthermore, you need to know if you even qualify to sit for the test.
Checking out the ExCPT before you take steps to complete the exam is a smart move. It will allow you to ensure that you have everything you need to apply to take the test and also enable you to study so you can do your best.
ExCPT: What Is It?
You may take the ExCPT through the National Healthcareer Association. The NHA began in 1989 with a goal to improve the quality of care in the medical field by ensuring the competency of medical professionals. It offers various certification options, one of them being the ExCPT, which allows you to earn the Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) designation.
The National Commission accredits the exam offered by the NHA for Certifying Agencies. To sit for the exam, you must go to a PSI testing center. NHA updates exams regularly to stay current with regulations, requirements, and changes within the industry.
Getting certification through an exam shows that you meet a nationally-recognized level of competency. You may also have to earn the CPhT designation by law as some states require it as part of their licensing process. Do note that states generally require national certification and do not specify that certification must be through the NHA.
What's on it?
The ExCPT is multiple choice and usually computer-based. There may be some testing centers offering a paper-based exam, but most are using the computer format.
There are 100 questions on the test, but 20 of them are pretest questions which do not count towards your score. You have 2 hours and 10 minutes in which to complete the exam.
You will receive a report before you leave the testing center that gives you your score. If you take a paper test, you will have to wait 48 hours for your score.
The test has three general topic areas that the questions cover. One topic area is laws and duties. This topic will go over legal regulations at the state and federal level. It also covers the general responsibilities you will have working as a pharmacy technician, such as HIPPA, what tasks you can do and what is restricted to only the pharmacist, pharmacy security, inventory management, pharmacy communication, and controlled substances.
Another topic area is pharmaceuticals. This covers drug-specific information, such as drug classifications, drug names, dosage options, generic vs. name brand, over-the-counter, and drug interactions, along with proper handling topics, such as transferring prescriptions between pharmacies, matching drugs with their common uses, and understanding side effects and adverse reactions.
The final topic area covers dispensing medication. This section makes up the majority of the test questions. It includes preparing, dispensing, calculations, health and safety requirements, prescription information, abbreviations, preventing mistakes, and answering questions from patients.
Qualifications to take the exam
You must meet specific requirements set by the NHA to sit for the ExCPT. Most of these requirements apply to every state with one exception.
You must have a high school diploma or equivalent or will earn your high school diploma within 60 days. However, the exception to this requirement is that in Arizona, you must have your high school diploma at the time you apply to take the test.
The other main requirement gives you some options on how you meet it. You need to complete a training program. It may be a program offered through a formal institution or employer-based training.
If you complete a formal program, it must be from an accredited institution, through the U.S. military or registered by the U.S. Department of Labor. Alternatively, it may be a National Pharmacy Association program recognized by the Board of Pharmacy in your state.
If you complete an employer-based program, it needs to either have your state's Board of Pharmacy recognition or have verification by your employer that it provides proper and adequate training.
If you did not obtain your education or training within the last 5 years before applying for the test, then you must also have work experience of at least 1,200 hours within a single year during the past 3 years to meet qualifications.
Sign Up to Take the Exam
To take the ExCPT, you need to begin by assessing the qualifications and make sure you are eligible to even sit for the exam. You can contact the NHA if you have concerns or questions about your education or training meeting the requirements.
You will then need to create an account with the NHA on its website. This gives you access to the exam application and allows you to be able to schedule your exam.
You should complete the exam application, which you will do entirely online. As part of the application, you must submit an attestation that you are completing the application yourself, have read the NHA handbook, have the proper education or training, agree to not cheat during the exam, and that you understand if you become certified that will be published and shared. You must also pay the application fee at the time you apply.
After applying, you will be able to schedule your exam. Note that you have to take the exam at a PSI testing site in person.
You need to have a valid, photo ID to take the test with the exact same name and address that you used to register for the ExCPT. If your name or address is different, you may need additional documentation, which you can learn about on PSI's website.
Rescheduling, retaking, and recertifying
You may reschedule your exam within six months of the original test date on the PSI website as well. You must make any changes at least 24 hours before the exam time to avoid having to repay the testing fee. Refunds are only available in the event that the NHA or PSI cancel your exam and you do not reschedule a time to take it.
If you do not pass the exam the first time you take it, you may retake the test after a 30-day waiting period. However, if you do not pass after three tries, you have to wait one year to retake it.
To keep your designation once you pass the ExCPT, you must complete continuing education and recertify every two years. Continuing education includes 20 hours with 1 hour of pharmacy law. You also must pay a recertification fee.
How to Prepare for the ExCPT
Because the ExCPT is a nationally recognized exam used for many states licensing purposes, it is extensive. It covers a lot of information that you have to know and understand fully if you wish to pass this test.
For this reason, you really need to prepare for the exam. You cannot expect to walk into the testing facility without studying and get a passing score.
The NHA does offer preparation tools and materials, but you have to buy them for an additional cost. You do not have to use these materials, though. There are plenty of free resources you can use.
You'll find practice tests and study materials all over the internet. Do make sure they are up-to-date since the NHA updates the ExCPT regularly.
It is essential to take practice tests so you can narrow down in which areas you need the most help. Focus your studying on those areas to get yourself ready for a passing score.
Flashcards are an excellent tool that works well for studying terms, codes, and drug-related information. You can use them to study things like generic and brand names or drugs and side effects.
You also want to take time to brush up on your math and calculation skills. Make sure that you know ratios and fractions as they are most often used in the pharmacy. It helps if you take math tests specifically designed for pharmacy technicians.
Finally, just a note to prepare for taking the ExCPT: You cannot take anything into the testing center, so be ready to leave it all behind, including your cell phone. Drinks are also not allowed in the testing room.
Pass That Exam
This crash course in the ExCPT should get you ready to take this important exam. Remember that the NHA offers a handbook that provides some more information that you will need to complete your application and take the exam.
Make sure that you meet all requirements and follow all the instructions. A mistake along the way could delay your exam or even mean you end up not passing.
Proper preparation through studying the exam topics is essential if you want to pass. So, take the time to immerse yourself in studying even if you feel you already know everything you could possibly need to know.
In the end, though, stay positive and focused. You can pass the ExCPT and kickstart your career as a pharmacy technician.
How are you preparing for the exam? Let us know in the comments below!
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