“I NEED HELP! My ABO (or NCLE) is coming up and I’m freaking out! Can anyone offer any secrets on what to expect, or how to pass?” You hear this cry for help on any given day on social media. I am going to clarify a few things about the exams and their purpose. While the following organizations offer a variety of different exams, I will be discussing the basic certifications. Please visit www.ABO-NCLE.org for a comprehensive overview of the basic and advanced certifications.
The American Board of Opticianry (ABO) administers the National Opticianry Competency Exam (NOCE), and upon successful completion, you would then be designated ABO certified (ABOC). The National Contact Lens Examiners (NCLE) administer the Contact Lens Registry Exam (CLRE), which upon successful completion you are NCLE certified (NCLEC). Earning your basic certifications, whether as a requirement for working in a particular role or as a prerequisite to licensure, is at minimum a great personal achievement for the professional optician.
When I was studying for the basic certifications, I had normal test anxieties and curiosities. I was obsessively studying the same thing over and over, pulling my hair out, diving deep and getting lost. I asked many questions and had gotten a variety of different answers that only gave me more anxiety. I hope that I can ease some of that anxiety for you with the following.
First let's change our thinking to “What areas do I need to focus on to develop my professional skill-set?” The NOCE and the CLRE are multiple choice question exams which are strategically put together by fellow opticians and contact lens fitters based on the industry approved job analysis for each role. The following is a passage directly from the ABO-NCLE website:
“Both the NOCE and the CLRE exams are psychometrically developed by impartial Subject Matter Experts within the field of Opticianry and Contact Lens Fitting. After test specifications are created (based on the Job Analysis), the exams are written by groups of impartial Certified Opticians and Contact Lens Fitters. The questions are then reviewed by the testing service specialists for proper testing principles and rules of grammar and style. Questions are created to test a candidate's ability to recall knowledge and to apply that knowledge to specific dispensing functions.”
The ABO-NCLE website lists an outline for each exam and the areas to focus on. By following these outlines, you can feel confident that you are gaining the knowledge you need while preparing for the certification exams. This information then directly corresponded to my role within the industry, and I was pleasantly surprised when I realized earning both certifications allowed me to feel much more confident at both fitting and dispensing.
For example, when I see a prescription with sudden anisometropia- when two eyes have unequal refractive power- it prompts me to ask questions and consult with the doctor before ordering lenses to verify the prescription and whether to avoid certain lens treatments or materials that may affect the patient’s experience or acuity. When I dispense contact lenses, I understand the importance of dispensing as written. For example, if a contact lens prescription requests an 8.8BC, and an 8.4BC is dispensed, the contact lens will fit tighter than the prescriber/fitter intended, and the patient may be at risk for corneal edema or other ocular health issues.
A few resources I would recommend for study material would be Carrie Wilson’s “Introduction to Basic Optical Principles National Opticianry Certification Exam Preparation Basic Certification” (also available in Spanish) and “Optigal’s Introduction to Contact Lens Fitting”. Phernell Walker’s “Pure Optics”, and if you haven’t already, please follow Sam Winnegrad’s page on Facebook and/or YouTube “NCLE Contact Lens Training”. He delivers wonderful content and helps you easily conceptualize techniques.
There are many other study materials out there; those I have mentioned have greatly helped me. You can also visit www.NAO.org, or www.CLSA.info. Their mission is to deliver quality educational materials to opticians as well.