Testing is an important part of preparing to enter most professions, including becoming a pharmacy technician.

Getting into College

Before you can enroll in a pharmacy technician training program at a community college or vocational school, you may be expected to complete the SAT or ACT. These tests measure your knowledge in English, math, science, reading, and writing. The goal of the questions is to determine whether you are able to handle the challenges of college-level coursework. Tests are typically taken after your junior year of high school, although you are allowed to retest if you're not happy with your initial scores.

Skipping Courses

Most academic programs realize that students enter class with a variety of skill sets. Some students may be advanced in certain areas, while others may require remedial assistance. If you want to be able to skip some of the required classes, you will need to complete a College Level Examination Program (CLEP) test. Qualifying score requirements for skipping classes via the CLEP test vary by school, so contact an admissions offer or academic advisor from the program you wish to attend for more information.

Becoming a Pharmacy Technician

After you've earned your diploma, certificate, or associate's degree, you'll need to obtain pharmacy technician certification before seeking employment. The most common test for this is the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam. It consists of 90 multiple-choice questions and you are given two hours to complete the exam. Unlike the ACT and SAT, the PTCB is offered on demand throughout the year.

Preparing for Tests


Testing anxiety is a very common problem. Nobody enjoys taking standardized tests, especially when the results can influence admission to college programs or professional certification. However, if you remember a few simple test preparation tips, all the tests you must take on the way to pharmacy technician certification will be easier.

The key to doing well on any standardized test is to become familiar with the format of the exam in advance. Review study guides and complete practice test questions that you find online. Time yourself so you will know if you're working at the appropriate pace to finish all of the questions in the time that is allotted. Take notes regarding the areas you are having trouble with so you can search for supplemental materials to help you master the needed content.

The night before your test, go to bed early. Do not stay up late and attempt to "cram" for the exam. Even if this is the study strategy you used in high school, it's not appropriate for a high-stakes test. The benefits of last-minute study sessions are minimal compared to the importance of being well rested on testing day. You can't expect to do well on the pharmacy technician certification test if you're exhausted.

Remember to eat a good breakfast the morning of your test. Standardized tests can be between two and four hours in length, so you don't want to be distracted by hunger pangs. Ideally, you want to have something that provides a combination of protein and carbohydrates. Scrambled eggs and toast are a much better choice than a donut and coffee to provide lasting energy for the day ahead.


The SAT Reasoning Test (formerly known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test and Scholastic Assessment Test) is a standardized college admissions test developed by the College Board, a nonprofit educational organization. Depending upon the type of pharmacy technician certification program you select, you may be required to complete the SAT before beginning your coursework.

In the United States, the SAT is offered nine times per year. The test is generally taken on a Saturday, but students can request a Sunday testing date if a Saturday test interferes with their religious beliefs. Accommodations are available for students who can provide documentation of physical or learning disabilities.

The SAT can be taken by high school sophomores, juniors, or seniors. Most students choose to take the test during the second half of their junior year of high school to allow time for retesting if they are not pleased with their first score.

The SAT has three separate sections.

  • Mathematics: Also known as the quantitative section or the calculation section, this portion of the SAT covers algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Students are allowed to use graphing calculators when completing this portion of the test.
  • Critical reading: Formerly referred to as the verbal section, this portion of the SAT covers vocabulary and reading comprehension. Students are asked to read passages covering topics in areas such as the humanities and physical sciences, and then answer a series of multiple-choice questions.
  • Writing: The writing section of the SAT has multiple-choice questions covering topics such as sentence improvement, paragraph improvement, and error identification. There is also an essay component to this section that measures writing ability by having a student prepare a short sample in response to a specific writing prompt.

Students are given three hours and 45 minutes to complete the SAT. Scores range from 600 to 2400, with 800 points being the perfect score for each section. Scores are always calculated using multiples of 10. Every school has the ability to set its own minimum score requirements for admission, so you will need to contact the admissions office of the program you wish to attend for details.

SAT Subject Tests

When you register to take the SAT, you will be asked if you want to complete any SAT subject tests. These are specialized tests covering knowledge of areas such as literature, world history, physics, and foreign languages. Some students take these tests to improve their college admissions credentials, but the exams are seldom necessary for those who are interested in pharmacy technician certification.

ACT Comparison

Students interested in pharmacy technician training opportunities often find themselves wondering about the differences between the SAT and the ACT. Both tests are considered an important part of the college admissions process in the United States. However, the SAT is more commonly required by colleges on the coasts while the ACT is generally the preferred test in the Midwest and the South. ACT scores range from 11 to 36.


When investigating pharmacy technician certification opportunities, you may find that certain training programs require ACT scores for admission. The ACT (originally an acronym for American College Testing) is a standardized test that measures a student's readiness for college-level coursework. It is commonly used in the college admissions process, although some states require all students to complete the ACT regardless of whether they plan to attend college. For example, the ACT is mandatory for all high school students in Colorado, Michigan, Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee as part of efforts to monitor the success of the state educational system.

The ACT is administered six times per year in September, October, December, February, April, and June. The test is always given on a Saturday, unless a student requires a Sunday testing date for religious reasons. Accommodations are available for students with physical impairments or learning disabilities, but documentation of the condition that falls under the Americans with Disabilities Act must be submitted in advance of the testing date.

There are four sections on the ACT.

  • English: This section covers the mechanics of the English language, including word usage, grammar, punctuation, and rhetorical skills.
  • Mathematics: Algebra, geometry, and trigonometry are covered in this section. Calculators are allowed when completing this portion of the test, but there are strict requirements as to what type of calculator is acceptable.
  • Reading: Reading comprehension is measured by having students answer questions about passages covering material in the prose fiction, social science, natural science, and humanities areas.
  • Science reasoning: This section of the ACT covers the analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of scientific data.

There is an optional writing section that is administered at the end of the ACT. This portion of the exam involves preparing a short essay in response to a given writing prompt. The results of this test have no effect on your composite score as they result in the creation of a separate writing score that is submitted with your test results. You will need to contact the school you wish to attend in order to determine if the writing section is a required part of their admissions process.

Scores on the ACT range from 11 to 36. Most public colleges require a minimum score of 18 for admission and the average score of students taking the test is a 21. To earn the most prestigious academic scholarships, a student will need to earn a score of 30 or higher.

SAT Comparison

If you are interested in pharmacy technician training opportunities, you may be wondering about the differences between the SAT and the ACT. Although both tests measure similar academic skills, the ACT is the preferred test option in the Midwest and the South. Schools on the US coasts more commonly require SAT scores for admission.


Once you've earned your diploma, certificate, or associate's degree, you'll need to complete a pharmacy technician certification exam. The most common exam for people interested in pharmacy technician careers is the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB or PTCE) exam. Once you pass the PTCB, you are allowed to use the designation of Certified Pharmacy Technician (CPhT) in your employment documents. This designation is valid throughout the United States, although some states have additional requirements that you must meet before you can obtain employment as a pharmacy technician.

About the PTCB

The PTCB is offered on demand throughout the year and you are given two hours to complete the exam.

The pharmacy technician certification test has 90 multiple-choice questions, although 10 randomly selected questions are used to create future versions of the test and are not used to calculate your final score. Questions on the PTCB test cover three content areas:

  • Assisting the pharmacist in serving patients
  • Maintaining medication and inventory control systems
  • Participating in the administration and management of a pharmacy practice

In order to prevent cheating, the PTCB exam will be different every time it is administered. However, the content covered will be the same. While the questions will be worded differently and involve different calculations, the level of difficulty remains consistent.

Entering the Testing Site

On testing day, you will be required to present a photo ID from the following list with a name that matches what is printed on your Authorization to Test (ATT) letter:

  • Passport
  • Driver's license or learner's permit
  • US Armed Forces identification

Your personal belongings must be placed in a locker for the duration of the test. No documents or study materials can be taken into the testing area, including smart phones. However, you will be provided with an erasable board and a handheld calculator in order to answer the questions that involve mathematical calculations.


You will receive notification of your test results immediately after completing the PTCB test. Certificates and scaled scores, if required, will be mailed to you within a few weeks of completing your test.

Since you will typically need to obtain certification before seeking employment, failing the PTCB exam can seriously alter your career plans. However, you are allowed to retake the exam if you wait at least 90 days after your initial testing date. If you do not pass the PTCB test on the second attempt, you will need to wait six months before trying again. Use the time between testing dates to review practice test questions and online study guides, focusing on the content areas you've identified as your weaknesses.

You are allowed to complete the pharmacy technician certification exam up to three times. If you are unable to pass the test on the third attempt, you will need to submit a formal appeal to request permission for another retesting date.

Practice Tests

One of the best ways to prepare for the standardized tests you'll encounter on your way to earning your pharmacy technician certification is to spend time reviewing practice test questions. The more familiar you are with the general format of the exam you need to take, the easier it will be to obtain the high scores you desire. If you suffer from test anxiety, completing practice test questions is also a good way to get your fears under control.

There are several different ways to obtain practice tests for standardized exams such as the ACT, SAT, College Level Examination Program (CLEP) test, and Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) exam.

  • Pay to attend a formal review course that will include practice tests as well as instruction in specific content areas.
  • Purchase a study guide or check out books from your public library with practice test questions.
  • Take advantage of online websites offering free practice test questions.

Regardless of how you choose to obtain your practice test questions, it's a good idea to time yourself when you're taking a practice test. Since standardized tests allot a certain amount of time for each section, you need to make sure you are working fast enough to complete all the questions within the time allotted. However, you don't want to work so fast that you end up rushing through the questions and making careless errors.

When scoring your practice tests, pay attention to the types of questions you are answering incorrectly. This will help you decide which areas you need to focus on during your study sessions. For example, if you are a whiz at math and have a weak vocabulary, your study time will be best spent reviewing flashcards with word definitions instead of practicing algebra calculations.

Last Updated: 05/12/2014