How to Study for the ASCP Exam

The ASCP Exams

The American Society for Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) regulates careers relating to medical laboratory, assistant, and technician professions. One way it does this is through professional certifications, as overseen by the ASCP's Board of Certification (BOC).

The BOC offers over 20 examinations for professional ASCP certifications, many of which are required for career advancement in these fields. As a result, passing the exam is crucial to many people. This means knowing how to study for the exam.

Determining the Correct Exam

Since the ASCP BOC offers over 20 examinations, the first step in knowing how to study is knowing which exam you're studying for. This may sound trite, but some of these exams can seem pretty similar, at least during the registration phase. Consult the BOC website to learn about each exam and ensure that you fully understand which is the one you need for your desired certification. Remember throughout this entire process that each exam may have its own unique structure and guidelines.

Understanding the Test

For many people, studying for a test is much easier if they understand what the test looks like and what the test is looking for. In this case, most ASCP BOC exams utilize Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT).

This means that exam, which generally contains 100 multiple choice questions, will adapt to the examinee as the test is occurring. All possible questions are stored in a bank, sorted by difficulty level and subject. If the candidate gets a question correct, the next one will be a bit harder. This continues until the candidate answers a question incorrectly, in which case the next question selected from the bank will be a little easier. As a result, the test is never quite the same for any two examinees.

This method is used to help the BOC evaluate a candidate on multiple points. Not only is a candidate evaluated on the number of correct/incorrect answers, but also the difficulty of those answers. This lets the evaluators test candidates on knowledge, skills, judgment, and familiarity in different content areas.


At some point, of course, candidates will have to actually study for the exam. ASCP BOC exams are difficult, so it may be wise to consider purchasing test prep resources and/or workbooks. These not only guide the candidate through the specific knowledge and skills that are the focus of their specific exam, but also often provide sample questions and tests that are invaluable practice. The BOC offers these, as do many private companies. These resources can be expensive, but may be a worthwhile investment. offers several ASCP exam prep courses, which include engaging lessons taught by qualified and experienced instructors, flashcards, quizzes and comprehensive practice exams. Candidates can consider these options:

Beyond that, there are many basic study tips that candidates should keep in mind:

  • Talk to people who have taken the exam or are familiar with the profession. They won't be able to give you the exact answers, but may help you focus your studying on topics and skills most essential to the field.
  • Look online for free resources and practice questions, and consult online forums to talk to people about their experiences with the exam.
  • Consider getting a tutor to help you study.
  • Consider joining a study group. These help some people since they feel accountable to the other members of the group.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. A calmer mind tends to do better at memorization and recall, and you can use these techniques to stay relaxed during the exam.
  • Take care of yourself. An exhausted body and mind tend to be less reliable for memorizing and learning information, and are more susceptible to illness.

Additional Resources

For more on this and related topics, check out these resources available through

What is the ASCP Exam?

ASCP Certification Requirements and Inforamtion

ASCP Prep Product Comparison

The American Society for Clinical Pathology provides credentials for medical laboratory professionals in many fields and specialties. Read on to learn more about ASCP credentialing exams and how an ASCP credential can enrich your laboratory career.

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