Establishing Eligibility to Test
The National Board of Surgical Technology and Surgical Assisting (NBSTSA) retains the sole authority to establish eligibility requirements and make all final decisions regarding eligibility.
Before testing, individuals must first establish eligibility by submitting the appropriate examination application form along with the correct fees. NBSTSA does not refund processing fees for ineligible candidates.
NBSTSA accepts all properly completed applications from qualified applicants regardless of the applicant’s age, sex, race, religion, marital status, disability or national origin.
For a list of Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) approved surgical technology programs go to www.caahep.org or call 727-210-2350. For a list of Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) approved surgical technology programs go to www.abhes.org or call 703-917-9503.
For Graduates of a Surgical Technology Program
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.)
For Graduates of a Military Training Program in Surgical Technology
Program could have been before, during or after having 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
*The websites only list currently accredited programs. Call us at 800-707-0057 to find out about previously accredited programs or programs currently undergoing the process to become accredited.
Retesting - Test Fails
Candidates may not test more than three times during any calendar year. Candidates are required to pay the total testing fee (processing and examination) each time to test.
Rationale: Individuals who have otherwise met the eligibility requirements should be allowed multiple opportunities to attempt to pass the examination, but limitations on the number of test attempts per year are necessary in order that the candidate will receive a different set of examination questions each time.
Application Process & Fees
The prices listed below are for first time applicants only. NBSTSA does not refund processing fees for ineligible candidates.
- $190 for AST members
- $290 for non members.
Examination Format and Passing Score
The CST examination content is based on tasks performed by CSTs nationwide. Job analysis surveys are conducted to identify specific tasks related to the frequency and importance of Surgical Technologists nationwide. The results of the job analysis are used to develop the content outline for the examination, which is evaluated on a prescribed schedule to ensure that the overall examination content reflects current surgical technology practices.
The CST examination consists of 175 questions, 150 of which are scored. The 25 pretest items (unscored) are randomly distributed throughout the examination for the purpose of analysis and statistical evaluation.
The passing score is the minimum number of questions that must be answered correctly. The current passing score on the CST examination is 102 of the 150 scored questions. Score reports are provided to all candidates who take the examination.
Military applicants stationed overseas may request to test through their base education officer, rather than at one of the NBSTSA’s established testing centers.
The base education center can administer a web based examination if the military post is more than 100 miles from a testing center. The NBSTSA will mail the test results directly to the testing candidate within six weeks of the examination.
To utilize a military base education center, applicants must submit a letter with the examination application requesting administration through their base education center. The letter must include the base name, geographic location (base, city, state and country), the testing officer’s name and e-mail, the mailing address and phone number.
Accelerated Alternate Delivery (AAD) Pathway
If you have on-the-job training in surgical technology or are a graduate from a surgical technology program that did not hold CAAHEP accreditation during your enrollment, the Accelerated Alternate Delivery (AAD) Pathway will take into account the previous education and experience you have to determine which classes you must take to meet the requirements of a CAAHEP accredited program.
Distance learning options are available. Upon graduation from an AAD Program, you will have a degree that makes you eligible for the CST Examination. Click here and choose "AAD Approved Programs List" to find a list of the schools that offer the Accelerated Alternate Delivery Pathway. Program details may vary. NBSTSA recommends contacting multiple schools to see which one will work best for you.
Special Accommodations - ADA
NBSTSA provides reasonable accommodations in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act as amended (ADAAA) for individuals with documented disabilities who demonstrated a need for accommodation(s). In accordance with the ADAAA, NBSTSA does not discriminate against individuals with disabilities in providing access to its examination program.
The ADAAA and accompanying regulations define a person with a disability as someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities such as walking, seeing, hearing or learning.
The purpose of accommodations is to provide equal access to NBSTSA examinations for all individuals. Accommodations “match up” with the identified functional limitation so that the area of impairment is relieved with an auxiliary aid or an adjustment to the testing procedure. Functional limitation refers to the aspects of a disability that interfere with an individual’s ability to function; that is, what someone cannot do on a regular and continuing basis as a result of the disability.
The purpose of documentation is to validate that an applicant for test accommodations is covered under the ADAAA as a disabled individual. Comprehensive information by a qualified professional is necessary to allow NBSTSA to understand the nature and extent of the applicant’s disability and the resulting functional impairment that limits access to its examinations. Documentation also allows NBSTSA to provide appropriate accommodations for such a disability.
NBSTSA will provide, without cost to the candidate, reasonable accommodations designed to facilitate equal access to its certifying examination for those candidates whose documentation supports such a determination. In no case will accommodations be provided which would compromise the examination’s ability to test accurately the skills and knowledge it professes to measure. Similarly, no auxiliary aid or service will be provided that would fundamentally alter the examination.
Confidentiality: NBSTSA strictly adheres to a policy of confidentiality and does not disclose names of applicants with disabilities or information concerning the application or accompanying documentation. Examinations administered with accommodations are not identified to third party score recipients and are scored no differently than examinations of other certification candidates.