Top Ten Tips for Taking the NBSTSA Surgical Technology Exam

NBSTSA Surgical Technology

The journey to becoming a certified surgical technologist is a noble one, filled with dedication, perseverance, and a commitment to excellence. At the heart of this journey lies a crucial milestone – the NBSTSA Surgical Technology Exam. This comprehensive exam contains 175 questions (150 graded) with a pass rate of just 73.7% in 2020. How can you best prepare for the CST exam

Create a Study Schedule 

To prepare effectively, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the exam’s content outline. The NBSTSA exam covers various domains, including preoperative preparation, intraoperative procedures, and postoperative care. Break down the blueprint into manageable sections and allocate study time accordingly to ensure a well-rounded understanding of the material. Plan out a schedule over several weeks to study using the outline and the reference books listed in the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) Handbook

Practice with Review Questions 

Practice exams and sample questions are invaluable assets in your preparation arsenal. These resources help you familiarize yourself with the exam format, question types, and time management. Aim to complete as many NBSTSA questions as possible, analyzing your performance to identify weak areas that need additional attention.  

Team Up with Classmates 

Many people work better in a group setting. Connect with your classmates and work together to understand complex concepts.  

Focus on Flash Cards 

Develop lists, flashcards, 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. Create your own flashcards with concepts and definitions to aid you as you study. 

Engage with Active Learning 

The benefits of active learning are clear. Employ active learning by reading all the material on the outline and references listed in the CST Handbook. The more information is repeated, the more the mind holds onto it.  

Ask Questions 

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. 

Choose Review Books 

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.” 

Complete Practice Exams 

Simulate test-day conditions and be ready by taking practice exams. The BoardVitals Surgical Technology Question Bank includes two full-length CST practice exams

Plan for Test Day 

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 restroom right before the exam). Doing this will eliminate some unnecessary stress, so you can focus on doing your best on the test. 

Take Your Time 

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. 

As you embark on your journey to conquer the NBSTSA Surgical Technology Exam, remember that preparation is the key to success. Stay committed, persevere through challenges, and utilize the strategies outlined in this guide to master the material and confidently stride into the exam room. By immersing yourself in a comprehensive study plan, utilizing reliable resources, and refining your test-taking strategies, you’re well on your way to becoming a certified surgical technologist. 

The writing staff at BoardVitals is passionate about medicine, healthcare, and education. We’ve trained over 1.5 million physicians and work with more than 300 top teaching institutions. Learn more about our board review and continuing education products at

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