How to Pass the CST Exam: The Ultimate Guide


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Passing the Certified Surgical Technologist (CST) exam is a pivotal step for anyone looking to establish a successful career in surgical technology. This article provides a detailed guide to help you understand how to pass the CST exam, with practical tips, insights, and important data.

Key Facts About the CST Exam

The CST exam is designed to test your knowledge and skills in a surgical setting. Here’s what you need to know about the exam:

  • Number of Questions: 175 multiple-choice questions
  • Required Passing Score: 70%
  • Time Allowed: 4 hours

Effective Study Strategies

Structured Study Plan

Develop a personalized study schedule that covers all topics over several months. Allocate time based on the complexity and your proficiency in each subject area.

Practice Tests

Regularly taking practice tests helps simulate the exam environment, which is especially crucial for time management and understanding the question formats. You can try our free CST practice test and see if you’re well prepared.

Exam Content Breakdown

Here is a breakdown of the main content areas on the CST exam and recommended study time allocation:

Content AreaPercentage of ExamSuggested Study Time
Perioperative Care30%50 hours
Surgical Procedures20%35 hours
Sterilization & Safety20%35 hours
Equipment & Technology15%25 hours
Administrative & Ethics15%25 hours

Tips for Exam Day

  • Preparation: Ensure a good night’s sleep and eat a balanced meal before the exam.
  • Strategy: Carefully read each question and plan your time wisely, leaving no question unanswered.

Job Outlook and Salaries

The demand for skilled surgical technologists is indeed expected to grow by 7% from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is driven by advances in medical technology and the aging population. Here are the average salaries:

  • Entry-Level: $38,000
  • Mid-Career: $47,000
  • Experienced: $60,000+

The average salary for surgical technologists varies significantly depending on location, experience, and workplace setting.

Generally, surgical technologists in the United States can expect to earn between $34,120 and $73,110 annually, with the average annual salary being around $51,510.

This range reflects differing levels of experience and the specific workplace settings, with some high-paying states like Alaska and California offering salaries at the higher end of this spectrum​ (​​ (​.


1. How long should my study period be for the CST exam?

A minimum of three to six months of dedicated study time is recommended.

2. What resources are best for preparing for the CST exam?

Comprehensive study guides, official practice tests, and peer study groups are highly effective.

3. What happens if I fail the CST exam?

If you fail the CST exam, you can retake it. Typically, you must wait at least six weeks before attempting the exam again, and you can take it a maximum of four times in a calendar year. It’s important to verify these details with the NBSTSA because they can vary.

4. Are there online study resources I can use?

Yes, various online platforms offer practice questions, mock exams, and study materials tailored for the CST exam. You can try our free practice test below and see how you do.

CST Quiz