If you are an optician studying for certification, taking practice tests can give you an edge.

Optician trainees Often Take Their Certification Exams Multiple Times

This is, no doubt, the reason why the ABO/NCLE now offers their National Boards four times a year instead of the twice yearly it’s been for decades. Aspiring opticians now have more flexibility in deciding when to sit for their exams. They can take more time to prepare instead of testing a bit early to avoid a six months wait for the next testing date. It’s a great opportunity to better plan their career progression. Unfortunately, for many candidates, it doesn’t seem to be helping.

Pass Rates for the NOCE and CLRE Remain Low

According to the ABO/NCLE the pass rate for the NOCE opticianry exam is 63%. The rate for passing the CLRE contact lens exam is a dismal 53%.

In case you don’t find those numbers sufficiently alarming, just remember that a passing grade for the NCLE test is only a 72, and for the ABO exam a mere 70. That means that 37% of NOCE candidates couldn’t even make a C- grade. A shocking 47% of those taking the CLRE failed with a D+ or lower. That’s a lot of disappointed test takers!

And of those that DID pass… well, no statistics are available as to the total spread of test scores, but considering just how many trainees are repeating the exams, we can reasonably conclude that a large proportion of those that pass are doing so only by a small margin. There are probably more candidates that are passing with a C+than with a B or an A. Since the CLRE pass rate is an ultra low 53% , where barely over 1/2 of test candidates can achieve a low C, the vast bulk of the successful candidates are probably just passing by the skin of their teeth!

But what do all these numbers really mean? Once you pass, your score doesn’t matter, so what’s the big deal? Over half the people pass these tests. Why should we be concerned?

Well… 63% does sound somewhat positive– at least better than 53%! But consider these statistics in a completely different light.

Suppose there was a disease which only had a 63% survival rate, with the majority of survivors sustaining mild, but lifelong complications. Would that seem like favorable odds?


Most people today would be VERY worried about a survival rate of 80%, let alone 63%! A disease with a mortality of 37% or 47% would be considered deadly, and if highly communicable, an epidemic. No one would take those statistics lightly!

Failing the Opticianry Exams is Costly

Thankfully, unlike the disease we just postulated, failing the National Opticianry Boards won’t cost you your life. But it will cost you money. Perhaps a lot of money. Each ABO/NCLE exam is a $275.00 charge, and if you end up taking it over and over the charges add up.

What if it takes a candidate three tries to pass each exam? That would mean he or she would have had to lay out a whopping $1,650.00 to become an optician! And that’s not counting the continued costs of actually getting to the testing sites and possibly missing work to do it! Even if it is spread out over a period of several years, that is a serious lot of money. (You could go on a nice vacation for that!)

If you really were facing a deadly disease, and there were preventative measures available (immune boosting cocktails, vaccinations, or preventative diets) you would take them, wouldn’t you? Of course you would! So, if you are facing an outlay of $1,650.00 or more, chances are a smaller outlay of study hours, books and training manuals, seminars, and practice exams would be an obvious bargain.

You’d study. You’d study HARD. And it IS truly possible to pass your exams on one try each. You just have to optimize yours study resources.

Practice Tests Can Maximize Your ABO/NCLE Score

There is a wide range of educational products for the aspiring optician and I recommend you obtain more than one. While most opticians rely on System for Ophthalmic Dispensing, by Brooks and Borish for NOCE prep, there is no ONE BOOK for the CLRE. Instead there are multiple texts and manuals on contact lens fitting, which often use different terminology and may even contradict each other! My advice is to use more than one resource to form a consensus of information, learn all the terminology, and take practice tests. Lots of practice tests!

Sometimes just reading the material, or even taking notes won’t prepare you for the BIG EXAM. There is just so much material that could conceivably be on your National Boards, and the exams change with each testing period. There is really no way to know just what will be on YOUR exam. Therefore, the more prep you do, the better off you’ll be.

That’s why several optical education sites are offering various types of practice exams. Even the ABO/NCLE offers practice exams on their official site. Of course my recommendation is our own www.passyouropticalboards.com. Not only are our practice tests more affordable, but they provide the most overall value. One of our single deluxe tests costs half of what the ABO/NCLE is charging for theirs, and our tests do MORE than just allow you to take a “dry run” on the real thing.

Each of our deluxe tests lets you take every failed question as a “teachable moment.” We’ll give you not only the right answers to the questions you missed, but we’ll explain WHY the correct answer was right and why each other answer was wrong. Even the math is done out for you step by step! And the tests are UNLIMITED. You can take them over and over and never get the same question twice. Unless, of course you want to. That option is open to you too! It’s an ongoing, ever changing resource.

So, opticians. Study all you can. As much as you can. Take practice tests, and not just pass your Optical Boards, ACE them!