Strategies for Preparing for the COA Exam

                                   Sharon teaches subjective refraction in Texas

                                   Sharon teaches subjective refraction in Texas

Edit 7/17/18: Still looking for tips? Find an updated version of this article, with everything you need to know about the COA exam here

I am preparing for the COA exam - my first JCAHPO exam,  the most difficult part of the process for me is not knowing the depth or breadth to study in each content area. I constantly wonder "Am I over-studying? Am I understudying?  Am I studying the right things?".  - Sharon Alamalhodaei, 1993

Once you have taken your first JCAHPO exam, you have a better idea of how the questions and answers are phrased and the testing process as a whole.  Knowledge is power. Unfortunately, when it's your first JCAHPO exam you don't have this knowledge.   This, my friends is the real challenge of test preparation.

Strategy #1 Study Material & Prep Courses

Review the suggested reading material for the exam. Click on the link "Study Resources" here

Due to the cost, most people cannot purchase all of the study resources listed, so you must either select a few broad texts or be creative by leveraging as a group and buying and sharing books with colleagues. Even better, ask your practice to build a library of resources which you can 'check out'.  If you can only choose a few books here are my recommendations: 

1. Ophthalmic Medical Assisting: An Independent Study Course (Newmark, O'Hara) Any edition newer than a 4th edition will do and they are readily available used on Amazon. Unless you have attended a formal accredited Ophthalmic Training Program, this book and the test you can purchases separately is a prerequisite for the COA exam - so you need it regardless. 

2. The Ophthalmic Assistant (Stein, Slatt, Stein) Again, any recent edition will do and they are also readily available used on Amazon. The trick with this book is there is a TON of information in it that you don't need to know for the COA exam. So, refer to the test content areas and study just that content in this book.  Think "Basic Level Proficiency" and read to that depth and breadth

3. The COA Study Guide, available from JCAHPO is terrific. It's practice exam questions and is only $15. The depth and breadth of questions closely resembles what you'll see on the actual exam.

4. I teach in person COA Exam Prep Courses throughout the country.  Check here for more information and to see if I'm coming to your area soon.  I also teach an online COA Exam Prep Course which allows you access for 6 months. You can pause and re-review any part of it.  It includes a 200 Question practice exam plus individual tutoring with me. A free sneak peak is available here. You can click through a link below the sneak peek to purchase it.

4. Some people like using flash cards to study.  ATPO has a set for the COA exam which you can find here:  Flash Cards

Strategy #2 Find a new COA

Talk with colleagues who have recently taken the exam. JCAHPO does not permit one to share actual questions on the exam, but these colleagues can help guide you as to whether you're studying the right material and depth and breadth of material. 

Strategy #3 Study Buddies

Get a study buddy.  It' s much more fun joining forces with someone who is facing the same challenge you are.  It holds you accountable for progressing with your studying and you can quiz one another.  

Strategy #4 Break it Down

"How do you eat an elephant? "One bite at a time!"  

Set a  goal date to take the exam. For example, 6 months from now.  Then, divide up your study material accordingly.  For instance, if you're taking the exam in 6 months (26 weeks) divide up the study material into 20 sections. This leaves a little wiggle room in case something comes up in your life that precludes you from studying that week and leaves a week or two right before your exam for last minute review and memorizations. Then, stick with your study schedule.  

Strategy #5 Phone a Friend

Do you have physicians or senior techs who like to teach? Take advantage of their knowledge. Be inquisitive and ask questions about anything you study but don't understand.

Strategy #6 Join In

Join Ophthalmic Tech Facebook groups. One of my favorites is "Ophthalmic Techs on Facebook".  Like and Follow me on Facebook and Twitter at "Eye Tech Training". Subscribe to this blog where I post a wealth of information about technician skills and technique. 

You CAN do it if you put your mind to it! Please feel free to reach out to me if I can help you. My email is or message me on Twitter @EyeTechTraining or Facebook at "Eye Tech Training"