Many PTCB students ask the question, “what topics to focus on for the PTCB exam?”.
Though it is understandable why the question is asked, many of the answers can be misleading. Remember, the PTCB exam is a random allotment of questions. One student may get asked 3-4 pharmacy calculations questions whereas another student on the same day may get asked more than 10 questions.
It varies, and so too should your study.
After taking the exam, some students may recommend to others, “study drug interactions and laws”. The list goes on.
And this can have the unfortunate and unintended consequence of misleading students.
Unfortunately, there have been many cases where students over-focus on what other students have been tested on to the detriment of other topics that ended up appearing on the exam.
Our advice, then, is not to focus on topics that other students were examined on.
Instead, you need to focus on the examination structure set out by the PTCB.
Many of you will be aware by now that the PTCB syllabus changed in 2020. Previously, there were ten knowledge domains. Now, there are just four.
|Knowledge Domain||% of PTCB Exam Questions|
|Patient Safety and Quality Assurance||26.25 percent|
|Order Entry and Processing||21.25 percent|
|Federal Requirements||12.5 percent|
There are 90 questions on the PTCB exam.
Therefore, the focus of your study should be proportionate to these percentages.
If 40 percent of the exam tests your knowledge of Medications, then 40 percent of your study should go toward that entire topic – and not just part of it.
Similarly, try to avoid studying a few major topics under Medications. Yes, the top 200 brand and generic drugs are important, but you should also focus on smaller topics that do not take much time to study – such as bioequivalence and ADME, among many others.
You should aim to cover as wide a base as possible – preferably, all topics.
By leaving out more subjects, you risk over-focusing on subjects which, in the end, may not get asked in the way that you had hoped and thereby leading to a fail result. There are many cases of students focusing on a few major areas, only to find that more peripheral questions were asked – topics they left out. Remember, the questions allotted to you are random. Focusing your study as if the questions are not random is an enormous risk. Focusing your study on what other students were tested on is an even greater mistake. There is no reason at all to assume you will get the same proportion of questions. In fact, it could be the precise opposite.
Why take the risk of having to take the PTCB exam a second time, when you can put in a little more effort to cover a wider base of topics?
The same principle applies to the other three knowledge domains. If you leave out topics across all four knowledge domains, you could be leaving out perhaps 20-30% of examinable topics.
That is an enormous risk – one not worth taking.
If you’re not sure what topics to focus on for the PTCB exam, the answer is simple – everything. But that doesn’t mean exam preparation has to be harder, either.
Studying more topics does not mean you need to invest more time studying.
Rather, it means studying smarter – covering a wider base of subjects in a way that saves time rather than expends it.
The next time you see or hear the question, “what topics to focus on for the PTCB exam?” – ignore it.
The best advice is to study all topics proportionately:
Not only will this improve your chances of passing the 2020 PTCB exam, but it also makes you a more qualified pharmacy technician. It means you have the best possible, all-rounded knowledge to embark on a career you are about to enter.
To study as few topics as possible in the hope that you have struck gold is the maximum risk. Studying the subjects that another student focussed on and struck gold is an even greater risk.
Study all subjects proportionately. Study smarter, not harder. Assume that anything could appear on the exam at any time. Know that, by making this extra effort, you are building your knowledge to become the best possible, most qualified pharmacy technician in your community.
Do this and you will not only succeed at the exam, but also in your future career as a pharmacy technician, too.
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