To prepare for any exam, you must know what to expect. That means knowing
what the exam format is like, and granular detail about what topics and subjects
you are expected to master.

Number of Questions: 90

Only 80 questions are scored.

Scaled Score used:

Between 1,000 and 1,600

Pass Score Required: 1,400

1 Fail policy

Candidates can re-take exam 60 days after, for first 2 re-take attempts. Third retake attempt must be taken 6 months later. After that, appeal to PTCB board required.

2 Exam appointment

Pearson VUE is responsible for administering the Pharmacy Technician exam. To schedule and exam appointment, candidates can go to www.pearsonvue.com/ptcb or call 1-866-902-0593.

3 Test centers

Pearson VUE operates over 250 test centers nationwide. In addition, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, online testing has also been introduced.

4 Qualification

Passing the PTCB exam allows pharmacy techs to use the CPhT (Certified Pharmacy Technician) designation. In order to continue using the CPhT designation, however, pharmacy tech's must successfully complete 20 hours of continuing education every two years.

What to Study

An updated syllabus was introduced from 1 January 2020. There are four knowledge
domains that aspiring pharmacy technicians are expected to study and prepare for
in the coming weeks and months.

  • Generic names, brand names, and drug classes.
  • Therapeutic equivalence.
  • Common and severe drug interactions and contraindications (drug-disease,
    drug-drug, drug-dietary supplement, drug-laboratory, drug-nutrient).
  • Strengths/dose, dosage forms, routes of administration, special handling and
    administration instructions, and duration of drug therapy.
  • Common and severe side effects, adverse effects, and allergic reactions
  • Indications of medications and dietary supplements.
  • Drug stability (oral suspensions, insulin, reconstitutables, injectables, vaccinations).
  • Narrow therapeutic index (NTI) medications.
  • Physical and chemical incompatibilities related to non-sterile compounding
    and reconstitution.
  • Proper storage of medications (e.g., temperature ranges, light sensitivity,
    restricted access).
  • Handling and disposal of non-hazardous, hazardous, and pharmaceutical substances and waste.
  • Controlled substance prescriptions (new, refill, transfer) and DEA controlled drugs.
  • Federal requirements (e.g., DEA, FDA) for controlled substances (i.e., receiving, storing, ordering, labeling, dispensing, reverse distribution, take-back programs, and loss or theft of).
  • Federal requirements for restricted drug programs and related medication processing (e.g., pseudoephedrine, Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategies [REMS]).
  • FDA recall requirements (medications, devices, supplies, supplements, classifications).
  • High-alert/risk drugs and look-alike/sound-alike [LASA] drugs.
  • Error prevention techniques such as prescription or medication order to correct patient, Tall Man lettering, separating inventory, correct use of leading and trailing zeros, bar code usage, limit use of error-prone abbreviations.
  • Issues that require pharmacist intervention (e.g., drug utilization review [DUR], adverse drug event [ADE], OTC recommendation, therapeutic substitution, misuse, adherence, post-immunization follow-up, allergies, drug interactions.
  • Event reporting procedures (medication errors, adverse effects, and product integrity, MedWatch, near miss, root-cause analysis [RCA]).
  • Types of prescription errors (e.g., abnormal doses, early refill, incorrect quantity, incorrect patient, incorrect drug).
  • Hygiene and cleaning standards (e.g., handwashing, personal protective equipment [PPE], cleaning counting trays, countertop, and equipment).
  • Procedures to compound non-sterile products (ointments, mixtures, liquids, emulsions, suppositories, enemas).
  • Formulas, calculations, ratios, proportions, alligations, conversions, Sig codes (e.g., b.i.d., t.i.d., Roman numerals), abbreviations, medical terms, and symbols for days supply, quantity, dose, concentration, dilutions.
  • Equipment/supplies required for drug administration (e.g., package size, unit dose, diabetic supplies, spacers, oral and injectable syringes).
  • Lot numbers, expiration dates, and National Drug Code (NDC) numbers.
  • Procedures for identifying and returning dispensable, non-dispensable, and expired medications and supplies (e.g., credit return, return to stock, reverse distribution).

PTCB Pharmacy Math

PTCB also state in their official syllabus that pharmacy calculations form part of the syllabus of some of the topics in each of these four knowledge domains.

How many PTCB pharmacy calculations get asked?

it depends Some candidates are asked a couple of questions whereas other candidates are asked many more – as many as 8-10. Therefore, calculations can form a very important part of any PTCB study guide. Aside from the PTCB exam, pharmacy technicians must have a rounded knowledge of pharmacy math to operate in their professional capacity.

PTCB Pharmacy Math Topics include:

  • Dosing / Quantity
  • Formulas
  • Alligations
  • Concentrations
  • Dilutions
  • Conversions
  • Roman numerals
  • Prescription interpretation
  • Compounding Non-Sterile Medicines
  • Parenteral Solutions IV Flow Rates / Infusions
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Surface Area
  • Pediatric Dose Calculations
  • Retail Pharmacy

Candidates taking the PTCB exam should assume they will be asked many math questions.

This is necessary from a professional perspective, to ensure that you are prepared to work as an effective pharmacy technician but also because there are many math calculation topics to cover and only preparing for half will land you in trouble on the day of your exam!

Top 200 Drugs and Medicines!

No PTCB study guide is complete without a thorough understanding of the Top 200
drugs and medicines!

Many candidates struggle learning the top 200 medicines. There’s no doubt about it, it can seem
overwhelming at first. But there are ways and means of maximizing your study performance.

Step One: Realize that many medicines sound like the active ingredient. Examples include:

  • Medicine

    Active Ingredient

    Drug Class

  • Cipro



  • Synthroid


    Thyroid hormone

  • Clozaril


    Antipsychotic drug

  • Risperdal


    Antipsychotic drug

  • Luvox



  • Sumycin



  • Aldactone



Step Two: Understand that many drugs are named in relation to how they work / what they are used to treat. Examples include:

  • Medicine

    Active Ingredient


  • Glucophage


    Metformin is used to treat type 2 diabetes and Glucophage translates to mean “Glucose eater”, which makes perfect sense given the indication.

  • ProAir Ventolin


    Albuterol is used to treat asthma/COPD, hence the reference to “air / ventilation” in the medicine name.

  • Prevacid


    Pantoprazole is a PPI used to suppress gastric acid, hence the medicine name to “prevent acid” build-up!

  • Neurontin


    A drug used to treat seizures and neuropathic pain. It also ends in -ntin, just like the drug itself.

  • Ambien


    Zolpidem is used to treat insomnia. Ambien takes its name from AM (morning) and “-bien”, which is Spanish for good.

  • Tamiflu


    An antiviral drug used in the treatment of influenza, hence the suffix ‘-flu’ in the medicine name.

Step THREE: Make brand/drug flashcards that explain more about each drug/medicine.

  • Flashcards should be more than just information.

The more interesting and relevant the information, the better and more memorable it becomes. Note how we presented the data above, and how it is more accessible to learn compared to information just flatly listed – without explanation.

Flashcards should be more meat than bone.

The more effective your flashcards, the better and faster you can memorize the top 200 drugs and medicines.

Step Four: Apply what you have learned strategically in the exam. Note the techniques we discussed above.

  • These strategies are highly effective tools when you are sat during the PTCB exam.

These strategies are highly effective tools when you are sat during the PTCB exam. For example, if you are asked to identify the active ingredient of a medicine and you know what the active ingredient is used to treat – you can now dismiss other answers if they appear to be used to treat other conditions. In the case of Prevacid above, for example, if you know the active ingredient is not used to treat gastric acid build-up and dyspepsia, you can eliminate this answer and move onto the next. This increases your chance of selecting the correct answer.


In other words, even if you do not remember all top 200 drugs and medicines, you can still harness what you do know in the exam – even if you do not know the answer initially.

Preparing a
Study Plan!

Now that you know what to study, you must put together a long-term study plan that works!

The PTCB study guide you create must account for all the above topics discussed in the syllabus. It must also be flexible enough to ensure that you have enough time to study each topic – and that you build enough time into your schedule to create effective notes.

  • Avoid creating notes based on memorization alone.

    You must understand the topics first, even if it takes much longer.

  • Maximize learning opportunities with clear word association.

    As we learned about in the section above, creating innovative and creative word associations offer a great way to increase memorization. In fact, the crazier the word association, the easier it becomes to memorize.

  • Do not get overwhelmed by the amount of study involved.

    Remember, you are not taking the PTCB exam for the sake of it. What you learn now matters, a lot! It will determine how effective you are as a pharmacy technician in the months and years to come. Stay motivated to study be realizing how relevant this information is to your future career. Avoid seeing study material as alien and irrelevant - as this is never the case and it only serves to demotivate you and stifle study progress.

  • Build effective and routine revision into your strategy.

    The more revision you do, the better. Make effective notes and always write these notes in your own words, facilitating greater understanding. Make flashcards, too, and be creative!

  • Take as many PTCB practice questions as possible.

    The more questions you practice, the more gaps you plug in your knowledge. Questions also help to identify strengths from weaknesses, redirecting your study as you adjust accordingly.

  • Break down pharmacy questions as much as possible.

    If you do not understand why a formula is used or are using it for the sake of it without knowing what’s really going on, then you need to adjust your approach. Try to think about the question from a conceptual perspective – line-by-line – and figuring out what’s going on. Then, you can use equations/formulae alongside this to ensure you have two methods of working out any problem.

Study and Pass the
2021 PTCB Exam

If you have found this PTCB study guide helpful, you can access even more exclusive features and content, which covers the entire syllabus above, alongside 1000s of PTCB practice questions; calculations; the Top 200 drugs, and much more – maximizing your performance and building success into your study.

Access PTCB Test Prep Study Guide