CST Exam Prep

Exam Preparation

The national certifying examination for surgical technologists covers the knowledge and skills common to competent entry-level Surgical Technologists in varied settings and geographical locations. NBSTSA committee members designed the examinations to assess the skills that comprise the core body of knowledge for all surgical technologists and surgical first assistants. The Certified Surgical Technologist (CST®) examination examines practical knowledge, and one night of studying will not lead to passing grades.

Each person is different, and preparation for the examination is individual - NBSTSA does not recommend or endorse any particular study class, seminar, published material, or practice examination or app, including our own. The information below is intended to help you prepare. 

The following steps can help you prepare:

  1. Read through the Examination Content Area Outline (effective January 1, 2019). All the areas listed may appear on the examination. Candidates must correctly answer 102 questions to pass the CST examination. There are 175 questions on the test, 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. We suggest that you mark those areas with which you are not familiar or comfortable. Study those areas, or possibly attend a class or seminar. Remember the CSFA and CST examination is a broad knowledge based examination that does not test in one specific subject area or surgical specialty.
  2. Read through the reference list (found in the candidate handbook). These references are the primary sources of information used when the examination questions were developed. Use these references to review and refresh your knowledge, particularly in the areas you identified as unfamiliar when you reviewed the Examination Content Area Outline.
  3. Call and schedule an appointment as soon as you are ready to test to increase the chances of getting the time and date you want. Saturday appointments fill quickly.
  4. Know the location of the test center, including parking areas, as well as the actual location of the test room. If necessary, call the test center facility to get directions.
  5. You will need your identification for admission to the test. Prepare them the night before so there are no surprises the day of the examination.

Study Aids

Study Evaluation

The CST Study Evaluation will help give you an idea of what topics to focus your study time on. Click here to fill it out. This is a self evaluation to help you determine areas of focus. 

Reference Materials

Review the current Certified Surgical Technologist reference textbook list.

Practice Exam

Take the CST Practice Examination, available through the NBSTSA. These examinations are computer-based simulations of the examination. Candidates will receive an analysis of individual questions and performance. There are two different versions (Form A and Form B) so that if you have already taken one, there is another one available. The cost to take the practice exam is $40. Actual questions from the live examination are not included in these practice examinations, they are intended to help you practice taking the test in the format that you will see on test day, and to show you the types of questions you will see on test day.  

Prep App

Our former PocketPrep app was removed from the app stores by Apple and Google due to circumstances beyond our control.

NBSTSA is currently redeveloping all of our test preparation products and will soon be bringing you a new mobile app, along with a new desktop experience that we are very confident will exceed anything we've offered for test preparation in the past. In the meantime, there are many other study guides and test preparation products available from other vendors online.