You’ve passed your COA. You’ve passed your COT. But maybe you want to learn more, or you’re still looking for another way to progress in your career. So you’re considering becoming certified as a COMT, or a Certified Ophthalmic Medical Technologist. This post covers the ins-and-outs of the COMT exam, including information about the exam changes that came into effect on August 1, 2018.
You’re probably reading this article because you want more information about the exams. I wrote this article because, in my experience, most people are completely overwhelmed and intimidated by the process. And because there are so few COMTs, most people don’t know anyone they can ask for advice! Well, that’s where I come in. Let me introduce myself: my name is Sharon Alamalhodaei and I am the Principal Trainer & Consultant for Eye Tech Training. I’ve worked in ophthalmology for nearly thirty years as an Ophthalmic Technologist, Clinical Supervisor, Practice Administrator, and now trainer. I’ve gone through the full examination gambit, most recently passing my COMT exam almost ten years ago.
Eye Tech Training is preparing to debut it’s COMT certification exam prep course. When that goes live, I’ll put a link here. So many people have asked me to create a COMT prep course over the years, and it’s nearly here! Keep a look out here, or on Eye Tech Training’s Facebook page.
First: CONGRATULATIONS! Most people don’t even consider progressing this far - remember that, just as there are far fewer COTs than COAs, only a small percentage of COTs go on to become COMTs. It’s the most elite category of certification there is, and you should feel proud for wanting to take the certification exams.
Now let’s get into the nitty gritty: to be eligible to take the exam, you must have been working as a COT for 6,000 hours - or three years. You must also submit 12 JCAHPO Group A credits, which have been earned in the 12 months prior to your examination. Also, your ophthalmologist must sign your exam application. Like the COA and COT, there are other pathways to eligibility for examination. The most common alternate pathway is by graduating from an accredited college at the Technologist level - but remember that you’ll still need the Group A credits even with this route. Find more specific information, including the application for examination, from JCAHPO here. You can also contact them at 800-284-3937.
There are two portions to the exam: a written portion and a performance test. So long as you are already COT certified (which, unless you take a very unconventional route, most of you will be), you will not have to take the COT skills test again. So 95% of you can put that out of your mind and just focus on the written exam and the performance test. The cost for taking the written exam is $340.00. If you fail the written exam, it costs $290.00 for your first retake, and $150.00 for your second retake attempt. For the performance exam, the cost is $110.00 for your first attempt, and then $85.00 to retake.
Timing, Timing, Timing
Success at the COMT exam is all about timing. When I was preparing for the exam, I gave myself two years to study. Now, I know that seems like a lot... because it is. I was walking in blind. But keep in mind, I didn't have a prep course to help me. With the assistance of my prep course, I estimate that you should plan 100-150 hours of studying time spread out over 6-12 months. When I posted the question, “How long did you study for the COMT exam?” on Eye Tech Training’s Facebook page and Eye Tech Training’s COMT Study Group Facebook page, I got lots of answers, but most reported between six months and a year.
This might seem overwhelming, but it’s all about planning ahead, creating a schedule, and then sticking to it. I found it really useful to buy a planner and schedule out which sections I would focus on and in which order. By breaking the exam content down into little chunks, it suddenly seemed much more manageable of a goal.
When I think about studying tips, I think about the idea of eating an elephant. The phrase goes: "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!" This is a metaphor for undertaking any large task or project. So long as you break it down into manageable chunks, even the most ambitious goal is yours to achieve... just like eating an elephant!
The Written Exam
The written portion of the exam has 160 questions, spread over three hours. The 19 content areas of the written exam are mostly the same - the only thing that’s changed is the proportion of questions given to each content area. For example, while “Ocular Motility” is only 5% of questions on the COT exam, it’s 7% of questions on the COMT exam.
Alternatively, the subsections “Contact Lenses” and “Spectacle Skills” previously took up 0% of questions on the COMT exam, but the new exam DOES have questions on each topic. Familiarize yourself with what percentage of questions are given to each content area in order to get a better sense of how to study.
The 2018 exam includes two new sub-content sections: Communications Skills and Administrative Duties. You can find a full description of the changes as well as a comparison to the old test on their PDF document “Certification and Recertification,” which is published by JCAHPO and is fully up-to-date.
The COMT Skills Evaluation
I know what you’re thinking…. Is it something along the lines of, “*gulp*”? Like the COT Skills Test, this section of the exam is administered on a computer using computer simulation technology. The good news is, you have up to 36 months after taking the written portion to take the performance test. You’ll receive 60 minutes to complete the skills examination. Here are the five areas in which you’ll be asked to demonstrate your skills:
Measure patient’s ocular motility using prism and cover tests at a distance.
Perform manual lensometry: Identify and measure prism.
Perform fundus photography and identify fluorescein angiography phases.
Measure, compare, and evaluate pupil function at a distance.
Evaluate versions and ductions, identifying any abnormalities.
This is the section of the test that has most people shaking in their boots, and that’s why Eye Tech Training offers tutoring for the COMT Skills test only. This is a great option if you feel you have a handle on the written content, and just need some extra help in the practical portion.
But keep in mind: the skills test tutoring is included in the tuition for the COMT prep course. The skills test tutoring is only for those who are not students of my COMT prep course.
Right now, the COMT Skills test tutoring is being sold at an introductory rate of only $75.00. This is great value, as you’re getting one-on-one time with me, Sharon, over the phone, email, or Skype… whatever works best for you! Don’t need any more convincing?
Eye Tech Training's COMT Exam Prep Course
Very soon, Eye Tech Training will offer an online COMT exam prep course. Here's what's included:
Detailed instruction in ALL content areas
A practice exam
Access to Eye Tech Training's online COMT study group
Individual tutoring with me, Sharon, through successful completion of the written and performance exams
JCAHPO CE credit
Additional practice exams for a nominal fee
Two printed course books for a nominal fee
You'll join thousands (yes, thousands) of other techs who have taken the Eye Tech Training prep courses... and passed.
I hope this guide was helpful and enlightening. Although the COMT exam can seem quite daunting, anyone with enough grit and determination can pass it. Including you. Now get out there and get after it!