Top Ten Tips for Taking the NBSTSA Surgical Technology Exam

Surgical Technologists take the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) certification exam. The test contains 200 questions (with 175 used to compute passing scores) and 71.5 percent passed in 2014. Candidates must correctly answer 118 of the 175 (67%) questions to pass the exam.

The following list provides advice for preparation for the Surgical Technology Certification Exam:


  1. Plan out a schedule over several weeks to study using the outline and the reference books listed in the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) Handbook.
  2. Practice example questions. The CST Handbook lists only five examples, but other sites, like Board Vitals, offer Surgical Tech practice questions. Neuropsychologists refer to research showing the best way to study is to practice answering questions. Note that performance on the exam is correlated with the number of practice questions you take. (Statistically significant study)
  3. If a group format motivates you, convene a study group of up to four individuals to study together using the plan in #1. Groups allow the other members to explain concepts you don’t understand.
  4. Develop lists, flash cards, pictures, or diagrams of key points from the outline and the reference books. Visuals like pictures are worth a thousand words and make it easier to remember the material. Mometrix Test Preparation sells flash cards for the CST online.
  5. Employ active learning by reading all the material on the outline and references listed in the CST Handbook (as listed in #1). The more information is repeated, the more the mind holds onto it. Previous test takers advice knowing “lbs to kgs, cc’s to oz, sterilization temps and methods, positioning, infectious diseases, intricacies of general surgery and names of aneurysm clips.”
  6. Review the material again after reading the references or any notes from classes, visualize the material in your mind and write down questions from example situations.
  7. Research shows that the more you study with the material in multiple choice questions, the more you comprehend the material when taking the test. The Lange Q&A Surgical Technology Examination is a great book. A customer stated: “Without this product, I would not have passed my CST exam.” Another user of the book declared: “If you really take the time to do the chapters cover to cover you will mostly get a better score.” The entire Lange book is included in the Board Vitals Surgical Tech qbank.
  8. Take the Certified Surgical Technologist Practice Examination (only can be taken once) from Logic Extension Resources. Practice on other practice questions before taking this exam.
  9. Plan ahead for the day of your examination. Know the directions to the test-taking site. Get plenty of sleep the night before the exam, eat breakfast and drink plenty of water (plan to use the rest room right before the exam).
  10. Since the questions will be multiple choice, read the questions complete before going to the answers; then read all the answer choices and guess when the right answer escapes your mind. Misreading a question is one of the main reasons for answering incorrectly