You’ve worked hard. You’ve done what you needed to get yourself to this point. Now, you’re set to take our Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam. As you prepare for this new milestone, we’ve assembled some key details to make your exam experience successful. As you read on, you’ll discover information on a variety of topics, including how to register for the exam, reminders for the day of the test, including what you should and shouldn’t bring with you. You’ll also see a preview of the content that will be assessed during the exam and more.
CST Purpose and Background
The CST exam is part of the certification track for the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting and is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). This standardized examination process ensures a high standard of competency and patient care across the industry.
As part of the registration process, you need to ensure eligibility by submitting your application form with your exam fee. See www.nbstsa.org for complete eligibility and registration requirements and steps.
CST Costs/Payment Options
The fee to take the CST exam is $190 if you’re an AST member. The non-member fee is $290. You can pay the fee using a credit or debit card branded with MasterCard®, Visa® or Discover®.
You can find available testing times and location online at www.goAMP.com, or by calling 888-519-9901.
CST Test Length:
You’ll have a total of four hours to take the exam.
What to Bring:
- You’ll need to bring two forms of original identification with you on test day. One form will be your primary ID, which is a government-issued document showing your name, photo and signature. Your second form of ID only requires your name be shown. Acceptable primary ID examples include driver’s license, state ID card with photo, passport, military ID card with photo. Examples of secondary IDs that are accepted include your Social Security card, employment ID and student ID. Note: Your name as it appears on your forms of ID must match your name on your Authorization to Test letter.
What Not to Bring:
- Electronic devices of any kind, including phones
- Personal items, including coats and bags
- Writing instruments
- Paper, notes or books
- Any kind of food or drink
- Any weapons
Format/Number of Questions:
This is a computer-based test consisting of 200 questions.
CST Exam Content
Here’s the content you can expect to see, including the approximate number of questions that each area represents as part of the overall test.
Section 1: Peri-Operative Care (105 Questions)
- Subsection A: Pre-Operative Preparation (29 Questions)
- Includes reviewing the surgeon’s preference card, ensuring surgical equipment availability, operating room preparation, pre-operative documentation, securing and applying any additional equipment needed, personal protective equipment, surgical readiness, sterile supplies, opening sterile instruments while using aseptic technique, surgical scrub, instrument set-up, gowning and gloving team members, “Time Out” participation, patient draping, patient transportation, patient transfer to operating room table, patient safety measures, connecting monitoring instruments, patient positioning, surgical site prep, glove and gown completion, medical handwashing, securing tubes and cords and specialty equipment draping.
- Subsection B: Intra-Operative Preparation (66 Questions)
- Looks at several processes and procedures during the operation itself, including assisting the surgeon, conducting counts with circulator, instrument identification, bone and tissue graft preparation, surgical step anticipation, hemostasis differentiation, operative exposure, retractor placement, working with the surgeon to verify correct implantable device type/size, passing instruments during the procedure, specialty equipment use, verifying, mixing and labeling medications/solutions, reducing cross contamination, following both universal and standard precautionary steps, monitoring solution and medication usage, preparing drains, tubing and catheters for insertion, specimens, patient monitoring, thermal techniques and precautions, suture materials, cutting suture materials as directed, sutures/needles/stapling identification, stapling assistance, emergency actions, beginning preventive steps during hazardous procedures, drain connection and activation with suction device, sterile dressing preparation and application, and assisting with casts, braces, splints, etc.
- Subsection C: Post-Operative Preparation (10 Questions)
- Reviews items such as abnormal findings, patient transfer, drape and equipment removal, operating room clean-up, disposal of contaminated materials, local anesthetic reporting, terminal cleaning procedures, lab specimen transportation and case debriefing.
Section 2: Additional Duties (20 Questions)
- Subsection A: Administrative and Personnel (10 Questions)
- This section looks at revising a surgeon’s preference card as needed, use of computer technology, disaster plan protocols, handling hazards, containment processes, legal and ethical practices, interpersonal skills, cultural diversity, acting as perioperative preceptor, understanding death and dying, organ and tissue procurement and electrical safety.
- Subsection B: Equipment Sterilization and Maintenance (10 Questions)
- Covers elements such as device sterilization, equipment malfunction troubleshooting, instrument disinfection, instrument inspection, assembly and testing, instrument packaging and sterilization, quality assurance, equipment record maintenance and instrument sterilization.
Section 3: Basic Science (50 Questions)
- Subsection A: Anatomy and Physiology (30 Questions)
- This section reviews medical abbreviations and terminology, anatomy knowledge, human physiology, and identifying surgical pathologies.
- Subsection B: Microbiology (10 Questions)
- Looks at micro-organism classification and pathogenesis, infection control, tissue handling concepts, wound healing principles, factors enhancing wound healing, as well as the elements that influence infections, and how to address them when they begin.
- Subsection C: Surgical Pharmacology (10 Questions)
- Assesses knowledge of anesthesia, blood and fluid replacement, drug interactions and their complications, administering anesthesia, drug interactions, and methods for enhancing dosage awareness.
Required Score Needed to Pass: To pass, you’ll need to answer 67% of the test questions correctly.
How Can I Prepare for the CST Test?
That’s a great question. We’ve broken down the answer into three parts.
- Do yourself a favor and study. Do not walk in unprepared. We have recommended prep materials below, but that only helps if you actually try. Plus, studying is actually proven to be the best antidote to test anxiety.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you’re eating well, exercising, and sleeping. All of these things are scientifically linked to brain performance. If you take care of your body, you’ll be helping your grades.
- Get a study guide or set of flashcards. Some people study better a certain way. Find your study strengths and make the most of them. We’ve tried to make it easy for you by tracking down the best study guide and flashcard set for your exam. Below you’ll see links to both!