Preparing to Pass the Veterinary Technician National Exam
American pet owners have come to expect world-class veterinary care for their beloved companion animals. Because of this, the American veterinary care sector is experiencing robust and sustained growth.
This growth has resulted in an increasing need for skilled veterinary technicians to assist veterinarians and other caregivers.
In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) job prospects for vet techs are extremely promising, with the total number of jobs likely to increase by at least 52 percent between 2010 and 2020.
Vet techs who have successfully completed the VTNE and obtained a license or certification are likely to be heavily represented in this growing profession.
Veterinary technicians serve much the same role in veterinary medicine as registered nurses do when treating humans.
They assist veterinarians in treating pets, work with pet owners and help supervise veterinary assistants or other staff.
In addition, many vet techs work in wildlife management, research institutions and zoos, providing the specialized care those organizations require.
Licensing and Certification for Vet Techs
Many states require that all practicing vet techs be licensed by the state licensing agency.
Although specific requirements can vary, in most cases the state will require that the vet tech candidate complete the following steps before becoming eligible for licensure:
- Complete a vet tech program that has been accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
- Successfully take and pass the Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE).
- Complete other steps, such as submitting to a criminal background check.
In those states that do not require professional licenses for vet techs, there are professional vet tech organizations that offer certification for interested vet techs.
In most cases, becoming certified involves completing the same steps that are required by state licensing agencies. Those vet techs who obtain certification can enjoy better professional and salary options when compared to those who remain uncertified. In fact, some businesses and organizations prefer to only hire vet techs who have been certified.
Finally, certification or licensure can make it easier for a vet tech to move to another state. Most states that require vet techs to be licensed will allow vet techs who are certified or licensed in another state to qualify for licensure without having to attend a vet tech program or repeat the VTNE. This makes obtaining a license or certification very useful for individuals who may at some point move to another state.
What is the VTNE?
The VTNE is a comprehensive examination that is used by all state licensing agencies and professional vet tech associations as a method to ensure that individuals seeking to obtain a license or certification are fully qualified to practice as a vet tech.
The VTNE was created and is administered by the American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB). The AAVSB continually revises and updates the VTNE to ensure that it remains current with the veterinary state of the art.
Requirements for Taking the VTNE
Most states and professional certification organizations require that their candidates either have completed an AVMA accredited veterinary technology program or are due to graduate within six months. The AAVSB will defer to their standards, so any individual who is intending on taking the VTNE should be certain that they are in compliance with the relevant agencies’ requirements.
Furthermore, the AAVSB requires that school transcripts be sent directly to the AAVSB. Any candidates should make certain to ensure that their school mails their transcripts well in advance of the registration deadline in order to allow sufficient time for the transcripts to arrive and be evaluated by the AAVSB.
The Organization of The VTNE
The VTNE is made up of 200 operation questions and a further 25 pilot questions. The pilot questions are designed to help with future revisions of the VTNE and will not count against the candidate’s score. All questions are in a multiple-choice format.
The VTNE divides its questions up into seven primary areas of responsibility, with the questions being further divided between 23 task area statements and 47 knowledge area statements. These areas evaluate the following abilities on the part of the candidate:
- The primary areas of responsibility represent the seven major areas of responsibility that all vet techs much understand. These areas are: pharmacology, surgical procedures, dentistry, laboratory procedures, animal nursing, diagnostic imaging and anesthesia.
- The task area statements represent specific tasks that a vet tech must be prepared to undertake in order to carry out his or her duties. A task area statement would include being able to effectively answer questions relating to preparing a surgical area and assisting the veterinarian during the surgical procedure.
- Knowledge area statements represent information that the vet tech must know in order to effectively work in a veterinary clinic. Examples of knowledge area statements would be questions regarding the candidate’s understanding the anatomy of a particular animal breed.
Ultimately, the VTNE evaluates the candidate’s practical and academic skills as they relate to the veterinary technician’s duties.
Because of this, any student taking the VTNE must have an in depth understanding of veterinary medicine.
Passing the VTNE
The VTNE is scored on a scaled basis. Depending on the state or professional organization, VTNE scores can range from 200-800 or 0-100. In most areas, a passing score for the VTNE is either 75 or 425, depending on the scoring method used.
Preparing for the VTNE
In order to effectively prepare for the VTNE, the candidate should take the following steps:
- Focus on successfully completing the vet tech program.
- Maintain organized review materials.
- Attend pre-exam study sessions.
- Take the practice exam offered by the AAVSB.
- Make certain that the test center knows about any special accommodations the candidate may require.
- Rest before the test.
- Allow plenty of time to arrive at the test center.
Successfully Completing the Vet Tech Program
The veterinary technology program is the cornerstone on which the student’s ability to pass the VTNE will rest. The student should focus on obtaining an in-depth knowledge of all subjects that the VTNE may touch upon while completing the vet tech program.
It is important to avoid the temptation to slack off or ignore some parts of the program, as it is impossible to know what questions will be on the VTNE.
Finally, the student should schedule his or her VTNE session as soon as possible after graduation.
Not only will this avoid delays in licensure or certification, but it will also help ensure that the knowledge obtained over the course of the program remains fresh in the student’s memory.
Maintain Organized Review Materials
It is also important that the student maintain organized review materials, including class notes and books that are related to the VTNE. This is especially important if a student’s instructors have discussed test taking strategies with their classes, as that information can help the student effectively prepare for the VTNE.
Furthermore, detailed notes are often more effective then simply rereading textbooks when it comes time for the student to refresh his or her knowledge.
Finally, the AAVSB offers a PDF covering those reference materials used in creating the VTNE. This is a free download and all test candidates should take advantage of this information when preparing their review materials.
Pre-Examination Study Sessions
Attending a pre-examination study session with other individuals preparing to take the VTNE can be extremely useful. Not only does it allow the student to review their information before the examination, working with other vet tech candidates can often help ensure that the student is fully prepared in a way that studying alone will not.
These review sessions can be especially useful when the candidates quiz each other on information without access to their study materials, which can quickly identify weak areas in an examination candidate’s knowledge.
The AAVSB Practice Examination
The AAVSB offers a practice exam for those students who are interested in it.
This practice exam has 75 questions in the same format used for the VTNE. It costs $45.00 (subject to change) to apply for a practice exam and the examination is scored and returned to the student along with diagnostic information about their performance on the test.
The time given to take the test is limited to 90 minutes, which effectively reflects the pressures the student will experience in taking the actual VTNE.
Ensure that the Testing Center is Aware of any Required Special Accommodations
Students with recognized disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act may request and receive special accommodations from the testing center. In order to ensure that he or she can receive proper accommodations, the candidate should provide information on the needed measures well before the examination date.
Resting Before the Examination and Arriving Early
One thing many candidates forget is the importance of arriving at the test center on time and in a rested condition.
All candidates should make certain to receive adequate rest before the examination. In addition, it is important to allow sufficient time to arrive at the examination location, making allowances for traffic and other factors.
Finally, examination candidates should eat properly before the examination and avoid energy drinks or caffeine tablets, which often produce a nervous energy that is not conducive to improving the candidate’s performance.
Retaking the VTNE
Despite working to prepare for the VTNE, not all candidates will pass the examination the first time. When a student fails the VTNE, it is important to evaluate any impact the test failure might have on the licensure or credentialing process. In addition, the student should immediately consult with the AAVSB on how to effectively retake the VTNE.
Limitations on Retaking the VTNE
Both the AAVSB and many state licensing agencies have placed limitations on how many times a student may retake the VTNE. The AAVSB will generally not allow a student to retake the VTNE more than five times.
If the AAVSB does allow the student to retake the examination more than five times, it will generally require the student to take remedial courses and other measures designed to rectify his or her test deficiencies.
The AAVSB is not required to allow a student to retake the test more than five times and may in fact permanently bar a student from retaking the VTNE without the possibility of further appeal.
In addition to the AAVSB, a number of states have placed limitations on how many times a student may retake the VTNE and remain eligible for state licensure.
In some cases, a state may permanently bar a candidate from licensure after a certain number of failed examinations, while other states will allow the student to retake the examination if the candidate has proven that he or she has made progress preparing for subsequent tests.
Finally, the AAVSB does not allow a candidate to repeat the VTNE within 90 days of a failed exam. Additionally, the candidate can take the VTNE no more than three times in any given year. Some states may impose additional restrictions on how many times a candidate can retake the VTNE in a year.
It is extremely important that a candidate immediately contact the AAVSB and any relevant state licensing agencies if he or she has failed the VTNE in order to determine how best to proceed.
A candidate should never retake the VTNE without fully understanding the reasons the initial failure, in order to ensure that he or she can successfully retake the VTNE.
By passing the VTNE, the candidate will become known as highly qualified veterinary professional. Not only is this a necessary step to obtaining a license or certification, it is also a way to demonstrate the vet tech’s competency even in states that do not vet techs to be licensed.
This has made the VTNE an increasingly important examination for those vet techs who which to ensure that they have the best possible career options.
By taking measures to prepare for the VTNE, a vet tech candidate can ensure that he or she is ready to pass the VTNE, eliminating the delays and professional consequences of failing the VTNE. This is especially important for those individuals who are seeking employment immediately after graduating from a vet tech program or who have been offered employment that is contingent on them obtaining a license or certification as a veterinary technician.
For these reasons, vet tech candidates, whether they are preparing to graduate or have just entered a program should make certain to prepare for the day when they will take the VTNE.