All You Should Know About CST Exam

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The Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam is a crucial step for individuals aspiring to enter the field of surgical technology. This exam serves as a benchmark for assessing the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to excel in this profession.

What Is the CST Exam

The CST test, also known as the certification exam, for Certified Surgical Technologists (CSTs) is conducted by the National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA). Below are some points to note about the CST exam:

  • The CST Exam comprises 175 multiple-choice questions.
  • Test takers are allotted a 4-hour duration to finish the computer-based examination.
  • The subjects covered include Perioperative Care, Ancillary Duties, and Basic Science.

Importance of CST Exam

The CST exam holds significant importance as it validates the competency of surgical technologists. It ensures that professionals entering the field possess the necessary expertise to assist surgeons effectively during surgical procedures, thereby contributing to patient safety and positive surgical outcomes.

Eligibility Criteria for the CST Exam

To be eligible candidates must meet certain criteria:

Educational Qualifications: Applicants should have completed an accredited surgical technology program or acquired equivalent education through military training or work experience.

Experience Requirements: Additionally, candidates must fulfill specific hands-on experience requirements, which may vary depending on the accrediting body.

Registration Process for CST Exam

The registration process for the CST exam involves submitting an application form along with the required documentation and examination fees. Upon verification of eligibility, candidates are scheduled for the exam at designated testing centers.

The prices listed below are for first time applicants only.  The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) does not refund processing fees for ineligible candidates.

$190 for AST members
$290 for non members.

Eligibility Requirements For Graduates of a Surgical Technology Program


Program must have been Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) or Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) accredited during your enrollment.

Provide ONE of the following documents:

  • A notarized letter (on institutional letterhead) from the Program Director which states your name, date of graduation, and type of degree awarded.
  • A copy of your graduation certificate
  • Transcript (Transcripts do not have to be official; however, NBSTSA reserves the right to request an official transcript.)

Eligibility Requirements

For Graduates of a Military Training Program in Surgical Technology

Program could have been before, during or after having Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) accreditation.

Provide ONE of the following documents:

  • A copy of your DD214 (must state location of the base where program was completed)
  • A copy of your graduation certificate from the surgical technology training program
  • A smart transcript

*Source: National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA)

CST Exam Structure

The CST exam comprises multiple-choice questions covering various aspects of surgical technology practice. It typically consists of sections such as anatomy and physiology, surgical procedures, sterile techniques, and patient care.

DetailsCST Exam Structure
Sections CoveredAnatomy and Physiology, Surgical Procedures, Sterile Techniques, Patient Care, Professional Responsibilities
Number of Questions175 but 150 of which are scored and 25 of which are being tested for future examinations, and do not count for or against the individual taking the test.
Question FormatMultiple-choice questions
Exam Duration4 hours
Passing ScoreDetermined by the NBSTSA, scaled score of 98 of the 150 scored questions.
Passing CriteriaAchieve the minimum passing scaled score
Exam Delivery MethodComputer-based test (CBT) administered at designated centers
Scoring MethodComputerized scoring system

Preparation Tips for CST Exam

Effective preparation is essential to succeed in the exam. Candidates can enhance their chances of success by:

Study Resources: Utilizing reputable study materials, including textbooks, practice exams, and online resources, to cover the exam content comprehensively.

Time Management Strategies: Creating a study schedule and allocating sufficient time to review each exam topic thoroughly while practicing time management during mock exams.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

During the exam, candidates should avoid common pitfalls such as:

Overlooking Key Concepts: Neglecting to review fundamental principles and concepts essential for the exam.

Lack of Practice: Failing to practice under exam conditions. This can lead to poor time management and increased stress during the actual exam.

Benefits of Passing CST Exam

Achieving certification through the CST exam offers numerous benefits, including:

Validation of Competency: Certification demonstrates proficiency in surgical technology, enhancing credibility and career opportunities.

Career Advancement: CST certification opens doors to advanced roles and higher salaries within the healthcare industry.

Renewal Process

To maintain CST certification, professionals must fulfill continuing education requirements and adhere to renewal guidelines set forth by the certifying body. Renewal ensures that certified individuals stay updated with the latest advancements in surgical technology.

Comparison with Other Certifications in the Field

While there are other certifications available in the field of surgical technology, the CST exam stands out for its comprehensive assessment of core competencies and widespread recognition among employers.

In conclusion, the CST exam is a vital milestone for individuals pursuing a career in surgical technology. By obtaining CST certification, professionals demonstrate their expertise and commitment to delivering quality patient care in operating room settings.

FAQs about CST Exam

1. What is the passing score for the CST exam?

The passing score for the exam may vary, but typically falls within a predetermined range set by the certifying body.

2. How often is the CST exam offered?

The exam is typically offered multiple times throughout the year, with candidates having the flexibility to choose a suitable exam date.

3. How many times can you retake the CST exam?

Applicants are permitted to take the exam a maximum of three times within one year. They must pay the complete examination fee for each attempt. This gives individuals several opportunities to succeed all the while guaranteeing that a new set of questions is presented for every try. 

4. Can I apply for the CST exam if I have international surgical technology credentials?

Candidates with international credentials may be eligible to apply for the exam, subject to verification and equivalency assessment by the certifying body.

5. How long is CST certification valid?

Certification is typically valid for a specified period, after which certified professionals must undergo renewal to maintain their credentials.