Optician Tests Guide
Opticians, or those who work with the fitting and dispensation of eye glasses, and ophthalmic dispensers, or those who work with contact lenses, can earn voluntary professional certification. Professional certification is earned through an exam, and such a professional designation can help an optician demonstrate their knowledge, skills and dedication to the career field. While certification is voluntary, many employers require their opticians and ophthalmic dispensers to be certified prior to being hired.
Certification exams for opticians are offered by the American Board of Opticianry (ABO), while certification exams for ophthalmic dispensers are offered by the National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE). Both organizations are non-profit certifying bodies whose programs are certified by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. Each organization has developed a set of standards that opticians and ophthalmic dispensers must meet in order to earn initial certification. In addition, both organizations have requirements for continuing education as part of the recertification process. The ABO exam is called the National Opticianry Competency Exam (NOCE). The NCLE exam is called the Contact Lens Registry Examination (CLRE).
Each exam includes 125 multiple-choice questions, and two-and-a-half hours are given for exam completion.
The NOCE exam is broken down as follows:
- Fitting and dispensing glasses and other devices, patient history, taking measurements and evaluation of previous or current eyewear (53%)
- Analyzing and interpreting prescriptions to understand patient needs and ensure the prescription is correct (31%)
- Use of standard ophthalmic equipment, instruments and tools, including operation and routine maintenance (16%)
The CLRE exam is broken down as follows:
- Lens dispensing, patient education and delivery (29%)
- Diagnostic fit and evaluation through assessment of fit and comfort (25%)
- Follow-up visits, including assessing fit, visual acuity and patient response (21%)
- Prefit, preparation and evaluation through measurement, patient interview and history (16%)
- Administration, including lens inventory, hygiene control and ethical and legal guidelines (9%)
Exam eligibility requirements include having a high school diploma or GED and being at least 18 years old. Though not required, having at least two years of professional experience in optometry is recommended, as test candidates with experience generally earn higher scores.
The registration fee for each exam is $150. Exams are offered twice yearly, both in May and in November. Testing sites are located throughout the country; during registration, candidates are asked to locate a city with a testing center on a provided list, and subsequently will be registered at that location. Registration packets are available online.
Certification must be renewed every three years. To renew certification, one must earn 12-21 continuing education credits and pay a renewal fee. Additionally, following initial certification and several years of professional experience, candidates may be eligible for advanced certification. The ABOC-AC and NCLE-AC exams each bear a fee of $150 and are offered four times yearly at select locations in the United States.
Both advanced exams include content areas similar to the initial ABO and NCLE exams, along with questions that cover human resources, marketing, business management, customer service and professional development.
Once a candidate has passed a certification exam, the ABO or NCLE will mail the candidate a certificate announcing their new credential.
To learn more about certification exams for opticians and ophthalmic dispensers, or to find exam study materials, please visit the Optician Test Directory.