If you want to become a Surgical Tech, you should plan it the right way. Besides acquiring formal training, you should also try to get some real-world clinical experience so that you feel confident about the job.

But that’s not it! Apart from that, you should be preparing for the certification exams as well. For that, you should develop a proper plan on what, when, and how to prepare for the certification exam. 

To help you plan the preparation part, we have this article, where we will discuss the crucial steps that you should take and explore what happens if you face a setback. 

Let’s start –  

Surgical Tech Study Guide

Surgical Tech Step-by-Step Study Guide

Surgical Techs play a vital role in the operating room, assisting surgeons and nurses during surgical procedures. Their responsibilities encompass everything from preparing the operating room and sterilizing equipment to ensuring the safety and well-being of patients.

To succeed in this role, aspiring Surgical Techs need a strong understanding of surgical techniques, instruments, and procedures. This is where a study guide comes into play.

A well-structured study guide doesn’t only help you organize your learning and efficiently acquire the knowledge and skills required for the profession. It actually helps you plan your career from the moment you think of pursuing it. 


-> What is a Surgical Tech?

-> What Does a Surgical Tech Do?

-> How to Become a Surgical Tech?

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you plan your career as a Surgical Tech –  

Step #1 – Find the Right Online & Self-Pace Training Program

To become a Surgical Tech, you need to enroll in a Surgical Tech program because to become a Surgical Tech on your own is very difficult. There are both on-campus and online programs but we recommend you to choose online programs. 

The online programs are flexible, affordable, and better accessible so that you can study from the comfort of your home even without quitting your side hustle. Unlike traditional programs, online programs are free of any strict schedules, this flexibility is unmatchable.

The self-paced feature of online programs is very beneficial as it allows you to learn at a pace that suits your learning style. The on-demand feature allows you to learn when you want to learn and study the same lesson repeatedly till you fully grasp it.

While choosing the program, you need to ensure the program aligns with the certification requirements and covers all the essential topics in surgical technology like surgical procedures, instrumentation, medical terminology, and infection control.

The reason we have been stressing the fact to enroll in the right training is mainly to help you avoid unnecessary hiccups you would otherwise face. Because enrolling in a structured program makes the process significantly smoother. 

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-> Online Surgical Tech Programs

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-> Surgical Tech Program & Training

Step #2 – Set the date for your Certification Exam

What is a Surgical Tech

The next significant milestone after formal training is acquiring certification. For that, you need proper planning so that after you meet all the eligibility criteria and complete any prerequisites, you are ready for the exam.

For instance, what we mean by planning is – if your Surgical Tech program is set to finish on X date after 3 months, you should schedule the certification exam date now so that you don’t need to wait. This way you can properly plan your certification process.

You must know by now, which certification we recommend, NCST by AAH. For newcomers in the field of Surgical Technology, the NCST (Nationally Certified Surgical Technologist) certification program offered by AAH (American Allied Health) is comparatively better.

One of the standout advantages of the NCST program is that it permits unlimited retests without any waiting period. This is especially valuable for those who may need another attempt and a bit more time to fully grasp the topics. 

As you accumulate more experience and grow in your role, you can explore additional certifications such as those offered by NBSTSA or NCCT. These certifications, while more advanced, are well worth pursuing once you’ve honed your surgical tech skills. 

In addition to national certification, it’s a great idea to consider other fundamental certifications like BLS (Basic Life Support) and CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation).

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Step #3 – Revise Concepts & Prepare

After you have finished your training and set an exam date, it’s time to prepare in full swing. You should dive deep into your study materials, and revise and consolidate your knowledge of surgical instruments, procedures, and terminology. 

Another exceptional way to gauge your readiness for the certification exam is to undertake online mock tests. These practice assessments will mimic the real exam and help you familiarize yourself with the format and types of questions you can expect. The mock tests will also pinpoint any weak areas that need further review.

Besides these, on the AST website, you will find a treasure trove of resources. It provides study guide references, and practice exams complete with answers, serving as an indispensable tool for comprehensive preparation. 

All of these study materials, mock tests, and practice exams will serve you as the guiding star in the final stages of preparing for the certification exam. 

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Step #4 – Sit for Your Exam & Get Certified

This is the moment you’ve been working towards. Take a deep breath, walk into that exam room, and give it your all.

The NCST exam contains 150 scored questions and you have 120 mins to answer them all, and to pass the exam you need to secure 75%. 

After completing the exam, it’s time to await your results. Once you receive that passing score, you’ll officially join the ranks of Nationally Certified Surgical Technologists.

Also Read:

-> AST Surgical Tech 

-> NCCT Surgical Tech

What Happens If You Fail?

How to Become a Surgical Tech?

If your initial attempt at the certification exam falls short of a passing score, in the unfortunate event, there’s no need for discouragement. Instead, focus on identifying the specific areas where you can strengthen your understanding, and utilize additional study resources to sharpen your knowledge.

The beauty of the NCST exam is there is no limit to the number of retests you can take. The absence of a mandatory cool-off period means you can reattempt the exam at your pace, without unnecessary waiting periods.

Moreover, for your first retest attempt, there’s no additional cost. Also, you have a 30-day window after the examination to appeal your test results, enabling you to gain insights into areas that require further focus.

Bonus – Gain Clinical Experience Through Externship

If you wanna start your career right away, there’s one more thing that you need – acquire clinical experience through externships.

The externship is where you cultivate skills that make you job-ready. You’ll gain proficiency in maintaining a sterile environment, expertly handling surgical instruments, anticipating the needs of the surgical team, and providing comprehensive patient care within the dynamic OR setting.

As you navigate your way through various duties during the externship, you’ll grow in confidence. Knowing that you’ve already executed these responsibilities under real conditions instills a sense of assurance that you’re well-prepared for the job.


To embark on your journey to become a Surgical Technologist requires the right foundation and proper planning from the time you choose a training program till you pass the certification exam.

So, by embracing and putting into practice this step-by-step study guide with dedication and persistence, you’re on track to secure your place as a Certified Surgical Technologist.

If you plan accordingly, you are less likely to face any unnecessary hiccups that you would face otherwise. So, you can refer to our study guide and adjust it according to your learning style.

Best Wishes!


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About the Author
Grant founded OnlineDegree.com with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.