CPO, CPOA, and CPOT Certification

The Commission on Paraoptometric Certification (CPC) is a branch of the American Optometric Association (AOA) that is entrusted with the task of establishing standards for the certification of professionals in the field of optometry.  The AOA is comprised of more than 44,000 optometrists and is recognized as national renowned organization. The CPC has established certifications for those working in the eye care industry. Three of the most popular certifications are the CPO, CPOA and CPOT.

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Certification Exam Requirements

There are different certifications for those at different skill levels of optometric care. These certifications are designed by standards developed by the Commission on

Paraoptometric Certification (CPC). Each level of certification indicates that an individual has met the minimum requirements required for those respective distinctions. Here is a look at the eligibility requirements for each of those certification exams.

Certified Paraoptometric (CPO)

This is the first level of certification and to be eligible for this exam, individuals must have a high school diploma or GEWD equivalency. There is also a work requirement which states that eligibility requires six months of employment in the eye care field.

Certified Paraoptometric Assistant (CPOA)

In order to qualify for this exam, individuals must have a valid CPO for a minimum of six months. Individuals must also be a graduate or student currently enrolled in an optometric assistant program that has been proved by the CPC. There is also a work experience requirement of three years in the eye care field.

Certified Paraoptometric Technician (CPOT)

In order to qualify for this certification exam, applicants must hold a valid CPOA certificate. Applicants must also be either a graduate or student in their final semester of an optometric technician program that has been approved by the ACOE (Accreditation Council on Optometric Education).

Exam Structure

Each individual exam consists of multiple-choice questions and there are different time allotments for each exam. Individuals are allotted 90 minutes to complete the CPO exam and are given 2.5 hours to complete the CPOA exam. There are two parts to the CPOT exam, which is divided into a written section and a clinical section. There is a 2.5-hour time limit for the written portion and 2 hours is provided for the clinical portion. There are 20 pretest questions for the CPO and CPOA exams and 25 for the CPOT. However, these pretest questions do not count toward the final score. Here is a look at the number of questions that are scored on each exam:

  • CPO: 100 questions
  • CPOA: 200 questions
  • CPOT: 225 questions (written)
  • CPOT: 200 questions (clinical)

There is a $280 fee to take the CPO certification exam while the other exams carry a fee of $300. There is also a $95 administrative fee applied to all certification exams. The exams are given on a quarterly basis during a two-week period in the months of February, May, August and November.

CPO, CPOA, and CPOT Certification Exam Topics

Each certification exam tests individuals on their overall body of knowledge. With each new certification exam, individuals can expect to grow their skill level as evidenced by the higher level of difficulty within each test. Here is a look at the topics for each certification exam.

CPO Exam Topics

  • Basic Science – This takes up 27% of the exam and focuses on areas such as terminology, anatomy, common eye disorders and basic pharmacology.
  • Clinical Procedures and Principles – This portion of the exam comprises eye examination, refractive status, and contact lenses.
  • Ophthalmic Optics and Dispensing – This section accounts for 20% of the exam and hones in on lenses, dispensing and prescriptions.
  • Professional Issues – The final section of this exam consists of 18% of the questions and deals with practice management, business skills, eye care specialists and ancillary personnel. 

CPOA Exam Topics

  • Office Operations – This portion is responsible for 15% of the exam and covers the areas of practice management, records management, telephone techniques, office finances, health information technology and other professional issues.
  • Ophthalmic Optics and Dispensing – This covers 20% of the exam and concentrates fon prescriptions, lenses, exams, dispensing and frame selection.
  • Testing and Procedures – This portion takes up 18% of the overall exam and features questions that deal with preliminary testing, pupillary response, vision acuity, case history, stereo acuity, color vision and examination instrumentation.
  • Special Procedures – This section (17%) has a lot of detailed areas that includes a focus on contact lenses, tonometry, Sphygmomanometry, visual fields, first aid, vision rehabilitation, and surgery.
  • Refractive Status of the Eye and Binocularity – This section accounts for 13% of the exam and is highlighted by refractive errors and conditions, as well as eye movements.
  • Basic Ocular Anatomy and Physiology – The final section is responsible for 17% of the exam and includes general physiology of the eye, the basic functions of anatomical structures and some of the pathological Disorders, as well as basic ocular pharmacology.

CPOT Exam Topics

  • Pre-Testing procedures – This is covered in both the written (20%) and clinical (30%) portions of the exam. This deals with case history, vision acuity, stereo acuity among other topics. The clinical section also includes Stereopsis and some other advanced areas.
  • Clinical and Special Procedures – This is covered in depth (28%) in the written portion while special procedures comprise 30% of the clinical exam. This touches on various techniques, removal of gas permeable lenses, tenotomy techniques and imaging.
  • Optical Dispensing Techniques – This accounts for 30% of the clinical exam, which tests areas such as pupillary distance, base curve measurement, prism measurements, neutralization techniques and manual lensometry.
  • Ophthalmic Optics and Dispensing _ This is responsible for 18 % of the written exam and features questions on optical principles of light, refractive v effective power, and frame adjustment.
  • Refractive Status of the Eye and Binocularity – This section includes a significant portion on refractive errors and conditions, binocularity fusion and disorders as well as AC/A ratio.

Certification Renewal

Each of these certifications remain in good standing for a period of three years. Recertification is required to keep the certification valid. There is an 18-hour education requirement for all three distinctions. Half of those required credit hours must be approved by the CPC. Only 9 credits will be approved from other accredited organizations. All renewals come with a $95 fee.