The VTNE and Becoming a Vet Tech

The Veterinary Technician National Examination (VTNE) is the national examination that is used to evaluate a candidate’s academic and practical qualifications as a part of their licensure or certification as a veterinary technician.

Because of this, those states that require licensure and most professional vet tech certification programs demand that all candidates take and pass the VTNE.

This examination is offered and administered by American Association of Veterinary State Boards (AAVSB), rather than by the individual states and professional associations in order to ensure that it is consistently administered and scored across the United States.

Qualifying to Take the VTNE

In most cases, a candidate can only take the VTNE after completing an approved course of study. This usually involves attending a vet tech program at a college that has been accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). In most cases, these programs take approximately two years for a full-time student to complete. Most programs also offer part-time schedules for those students who cannot attend the program on a full-time basis.

Some states allow a student to take the VTNE before graduation. Usually, taking the VTNE before graduation is reserved for those students who have completed all course work. However, this policy varies from state to state and therefore students thinking about taking the VTNE before their formal graduation from a veterinary technician program should consult with their state licensing agency or their state veterinary technician association.

Foreign Trained Students

Foreign veterinary tech programs are not accredited by the AVMA. These students must generally submit their program to the state or professional licensing body for evaluation to determine if they are substantially equal to an accredited program before they can take the VTNE. Because this verification process differs from state to state and can take some time to complete, foreign students should be certain to submit their information well in advance of their planned VTNE test date. In addition, the standards for accepting a foreign program can change, so foreign students should also remain in contact with the state or professional agency that will evaluate their program in order to ensure that their program standards currently comply with the licensing body’s requirements.

Taking the VTNE

The VTNE is offered in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. There are three, month-long examination windows for those students wishing to take the VTNE. However, they must have completed all of the prerequisites for taking the VTNE before they can apply, and late applications are not accepted.

In general, the following steps are required to take the VTNE:

  • The candidate must fill out his or her application and pay a $300.00 application fee. In most cases, this fee is not refundable.
  • The candidate must then apply for eligibility, in order to demonstrate that he or she is currently qualified to take the VTNE. This will include the requirement to have the candidate’s school send official transcripts and proof of graduation (if the student has graduated) to the VTNE.

Once the student has applied to take the VTNE, he or she will receive information on how to schedule a test appointment at a Prometric Testing Center. In addition, handicapped students who need special accommodations can request those accommodations when they apply for the examination. Although the student’s detailed score will be mailed to them, they will receive a preliminary notification as to whether they have passed or failed the test upon their completion of the examination.

The Structure of the VTNE

The VTNE is a multiple-choice examination that covers all aspects of the knowledge a vet tech will require in his or her career. The VTNE is currently made up of 225 questions. Of these questions, 200 questions are operational questions, which apply to the candidate’s final score, while 25 are pilot questions.

The pilot questions do not count towards the individual’s final score and are used as part of the process of improving and updating the examination. This helps to ensure that the examination remains current with the modern practice of veterinary technology.

What Does the VTNE Cover

The VTNE covers the practical and academic knowledge needed by licensed vet techs. This includes seven general knowledge areas, in addition to a number of specific fields.

The knowledge areas covered by the VTNE include:

  • Pharmacy and pharmacology (14 percent of the exam questions).
  • Surgical preparation and assisting (16 percent)
  • Dentistry (8 percent).
  • Laboratory procedures (15 percent).
  • Animal care and nursing (24 percent).
  • Diagnostic imaging (8 percent).
  • Anesthesia and analgesia (15 percent).

In addition, the examination will include a range of questions on task areas and knowledge statements. Task area questions focus on specific tasks that a vet tech will carry out, and are related to one of the seven general knowledge areas.

Knowledge statement questions are focused on areas of knowledge that a vet tech must know and can range from direct veterinary questions to questions focusing on the correct medical record keeping techniques a vet tech will use in a clinical setting.

Scoring the VTNE

Although the candidate will receive a preliminary pass or fail notification upon completing the examination, he or she will also receive a detailed score by mail. VTNE scores are scaled scores, rather than raw scores. Depending on the state the student has taken the VTNE in, he or she will receive one of two scaled score types.

In some states, the VTNE final score will range from 200 to 800, with the minimum passing score being 425. Other states score the exam from 0 to100 with a minimum passing score of 70. This process is handled automatically by the AAVSB, which will score the test according to the local scoring requirements.

Retaking the VTNE

If a candidate fails the VTNE, he or she can retake the examination. However, the candidate should carefully review the test in order to ensure that he or she understands and can rectify the deficiencies that resulted in failing the examination the first time.

Depending on the regulations that apply in the candidate’s state, repeating the test will impose a substantial delay on the candidate’s licensure process.

In addition, there is a limit to how many times an individual can retake the VTNE. The AAVSB limits the total number of times the VTNE can be retaken to five times. After the fifth attempt, the AAVSB mandates that the candidate take the following steps:

  • Send proof that the candidate’s state or professional association permits the candidate to take the test more than three times.
  • Send proof that the student has taken steps to rectify the issues that resulted in failing the examination. This can include proof that the candidate has been receiving tutoring or has taken test preparation courses.

In addition, many states limit the total number of times an individual can retake the VTNE. In some cases, the licensing agency will require that the individual undertake extra academic work before they can retake the VTNE. Other states have a hard limit on the number of times an individual may retake the VTNE.

Individuals who cannot pass the VTNE before that limit is reached will not be allowed to obtain a vet tech’s license. In addition, most states count the total number of times an individual has attempted the VTNE, no matter the state where the test was given. Because of this, those candidates who have failed the VTNE should verify what their state’s policy is on retaking the examination.

Ultimately, while the VTNE is a comprehensive examination, an individual who has focused on his or her vet tech program should be able to pass the examination with little difficulty.

Furthermore, those individuals who are nervous about passing the VTNE can improve their readiness by taking optional test preparation courses or studying the review material provided by the AAVSB. By doing so, the candidate can ensure that he or she will pass the VTNE and become eligible for state licensure or certification as a veterinary technician.