What to Study for the CPhT Certification Exam


by Hannah McSweeney, CPhT 

Are you trying to advance your career as a pharmacy technician by becoming a CPhT?

There are two ways to go about it... taking the ExCPT or the PTCE. The ExCPT and the PTCE both require lots of training and studying. Here are the basic requirements for both exams as well as the topics covered and some great resources for studying available:

Exam Requirements

There are two exams nationwide that can make you a CPhT. There is the ExCPT (exam for the certification of pharmacy technicians) through the National Healthcareer Association (NHA) and PTCE (pharmacy technician certification exam) through the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB).

Each of these tests also has different requirements you must meet before being able to take the exam. PTCB requires the examinee to be a high school graduate and either complete a PTCB recognized training program or have at least 500 working hours under their belt and attest to knowing specific requirements and passing the PTCE to obtain the CPhT title. The NHA requires its exam participants to be 18 years of age, have a high school diploma, have completed an accredited training program, or have one year of work experience and a passing score on the ExCPT.

If you’re wondering about the difference between the exams/accreditors, NHA’s exam is fairly new (2002) compared to PTCB’s (1995), but it also has a lower passing rate. As of 2021, the PTCE had a passing rate of 71%, and the ExCPT had a passing rate of 63.24%. The PTCE is also more widely accepted and/or required in most states.



Fortunately, many free or affordable resources are available to those wishing to take the exam to become a CPhT, including textbooks, practice exams, online quizzes, flashcards, apps, etc. The exam mirrors the PTCE study material from 2020 that PTCB released and is available for purchase. However, it is known that there are multiple versions of the exam, so it is recommended to be proficient in all areas of the recommended knowledge.

Key subjects that the PTCE focuses on are:

  • Medications
  • Patient Safety and Quality Assurance
  • Order Entry and Processing
  • Federal Requirements



The ExCPT has a very similar outline for what to study. However, it does take a slightly different focus.

On the ExCPT, you will need to know three basic areas:

  • The first section: Overview and laws include the role, scope of practice, general duties of a pharmacy technician, laws and regulations, and information on controlled substances.
  • The second area of knowledge for the ExCPT is drugs and drug therapy, including knowledge of drug classifications and frequently prescribed medication.
  • The last area of focus for the exam is the dispensing process, which includes everything from order intake to billing, filling, compounding, and more. The same tools and resources available for the PTCE are available for this exam, including a study app that the NHA has created.


Recently, during NPTA’s Pharmacy Technician Student Summit, CEO and Founder Mike Johnston sat down with Jessica Langely, Executive Director of Education and Advocacy at NHA, as well as Jeremy Sasser, Pharmacy Content Strategist at NHA, to discuss the inner working of NHA and what they offer for their certification exam! For more insight on the NHA Certification Exam and as well as everything else NHA offers, click here.

Whichever exam you decide to take, there are a multitude of free and affordable study resources like Quizlet, top 200 drug lists (most common meds prescribed per year), which help in pharmacology, free practice exams, and many more.

If you want something a little more concrete, there are also study books available made by Mosby’s Review for both exams that come highly recommended.

Best of luck on the exam!



https://www.nhanow.com/docs/default-source/annual-pass-rates/nha-annual-pass-rates.pdf?sfvr sn=115b208b_8