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Q: What topics are covered on the CRCST certification exam?

A: Subject Matter Experts drew from several sources in order to create the Content Outline for the redesigned CRCST exam. References include IAHCSMM’s Central Service Technical Manual (7th edition), ANSI/AAMI’s ST79 and AORN’s Perioperative Standards and Recommended Practices (2013 edition). Using those guides to the industry, the SMEs were able to organize a new exam blueprint featuring seven specific knowledge domains:

  • Cleaning, Decontamination, and Disinfection
  • Preparation and Packaging
  • Sterilization Process
  • Patient Care Equipment
  • Sterile Storage and Inventory Management
  • Documentation and Record Maintenance
  • Customer Relations
Each of these domains is comprised of a series of sub-domains which further detail the type and amount of content covered in each section, as well as its weight on the certification exam. Results for the new exam will provide a Pass/Fail notice, as well as a section-by-section review detailing if the test taker is at or below the required passing level for each domain. Click to view the full Exam Content Outline.


Q: What topics are covered on the CIS certification exam?

A: The CIS exam will test your proficiency in these areas:

  • Introduction to Surgical Instruments
  • Instrument Decontamination
  • Instrument Identification, Inspection & Testing
  • Factors Influencing the Sterilization Process
  • Instrument Inspection & Assembly
  • Instrument Quality Assurance
  • Instrument Information System
  • Safety for Instrument Technicians
  • The Human Side of the Instrument System
  • The Role of the User in Instrument Care

Q: What topics are covered on the CHL certification exam?

A: The CHL exam will test your proficiency in these areas:

Human Leadership Technical Essentials
  • Introduction to Central Service Leadership
  • Managing a Complex System
  • Business Terminology
  • Critical Responsibilities
  • Communication
  • Human Resource Management
  • Facilitating & Coaching Employees
  • Staff Development
  • Financial Management
  • Central Service Leaders
    & The Joint Commission
  • Central Service Leaders
    & the Occupational Safety & Health Administration
  • Central Service Leaders
    & Legal considerations
  • Quality
  • Benchmarking
  • Central Service Leaders
    & Infection Prevention
  • Maintaining Positive Operating Room Relationships
  • Safety, Emergency Planning & Disaster Preparedness
  • Construction Projects
  • Work area & work flow
  • Decontamination
  • Instruments, Assembly
    & Packaging
  • Steam Sterilization
  • Sterile Storage & Distribution
  • Purchasing & Inventory Management
  • Central Service Leaders
    & Healthcare Information Systems


Q: Should I buy a manual or a boxed course?

A: The choice is yours, IAHCSMM boxed courses come with a study work book to further help prepare you and focus your studies.

Q: Can I order my books and sign up for the exam at the same time?

A: We recommend only applying to test when you are done studying.  Once we receive your exam application, your 90 day testing eligibility opens immediately (prior to even receiving the study materials.) We therefore recommend purchasing study materials, and then sending in your exam application only when you have finished reviewing and are ready to sit for the exam.

Q: I purchased an IAHCSMM boxed course, but there weren’t answers to all of the tests in my book.

A: IAHCMM workbooks are designed to be used with an online or local course.  While you are welcome to study on your own, if you choose to do so you will not have answers to all of the study material and we suggest you go over those tests with a manager/supervisor in your CS department.

Q: How long do I have to take the exam after I’ve completed my course/studies?

A: There is no time constraint; you may take it whenever you feel you are ready, though we recommend taking the exam sooner than later so that the information you learned is still fresh in your mind.

Q: I finished a course some time ago and was told that I was registered, is this still valid?

A: The registered title (RCST) is no longer in use because it was often confused with certification. IAHCSMM now simply refers to individuals as being certified (CRCST) or non-certified.

Q: I’ve been working in the field for years, or took a course several years ago, do I need to take a current course before applying for the exam?

A: It is entirely your choice how you prepare for a certification exam. You are welcome to purchase study material for review, take a local or online course, or challenge an exam based on your working knowledge and experience in the field.

Q: If I do not complete or pass a local or correspondence course, am I still able to take the CRCST Exam?

A: Yes, you are welcome to challenge the exam.

Q: I hold another CS certification or have years of experience in CS. Do I need to take the CRCST exam?

A: Yes, IAHCSMM certifications are only granted to those who take and pass our certification exams and complete any required hands-on/observation experience. Certifications held by other groups or associations cannot be transferred to an IAHCSMM certification, nor are we able to grandfather individuals based on their years of experience working in the field.

Q: I used to be certified and let it lapse, I now have to retake the test, do I need to resubmit my hours?

A: Yes, we need verification of your current work status in the field.

Q: Do I have to complete the 400 hours of hands-on experience for the CRCST?

A: Yes. The 400 hour hands-on experience component of the certification serves two purposes.  First, it provides an opportunity to practice what you have learned and it is a fact that people remember more when they do things themselves rather than just reading and discussing them.  The second reason for the 400 hour hands-on component is to provide technicians with a well-rounded experience in CS.  Many students that enroll in certification courses are not employed in a CS department (yet) and others may be employed, but may not be assigned to all work areas.  The hands-on component provides a technician with a broader perspective on CS. To review the specific requirements for the hands-on component, view the CRCST application in the Downloads section of the website.

Q: Can I take the CRCST exam before I’ve completed my 400 hours?

A: Yes, but you must submit documentation of completion of 400 hours, on a paid or volunteer basis, within 6 months of passing the exam. During that six month period you will be considered Provisionally Certified.

Q: What is Provisional Certification?

A: Provisional Certification is attained when applicants choose to take the CRCST exam before they have completed their 400 hours of hands-on experience.  It is NOT an exemption from the hands-on experience requirement.  Whenever possible, students should complete their hands-on requirement before taking their CRCST exam.  Doing so eliminates the risk of having to retake the exam if the hours requirement cannot be completed on time and the actual hands-on experience helps students prepare for the CRCST exam.

Applicants who attain provisional certification have 6 months to complete their hands-on experience component and submit proof of that to IAHCSMM Headquarters.  If that is not completed in 6 months, the certification will be revoked and the person will need to retake the certification exam.

A one-time, 2 month extension may be available, if and only if you have already begun working or volunteering in a department before your provisional certification expires. The Manager/Supervisor of that department would need to contact IAHCSMM to request an extension on your behalf, prior to your provisional certification expiring.

Q: Who can document my hours of experience on an exam application?

A: If hands-on (CRCST & CIS) or clinical observation (CCSVP) hours are required for your examination then documentation of those hours must be provided on the exam application as indicated. No other documentation is necessary or acceptable.

The sections of your application documenting your experience must be completed by your immediate manager or supervisor and must be accrued within the past 5 years at most. An individual in a leadership role within the department cannot document their own experience. They are still required to have their immediate manager or supervisor complete all required documentation.

Provided they are in a position above your own then experience hours can be documented by:
  • Lead Techs
  • Coordinators
  • Supervisors
  • Managers
  • Directors
  • Administrators
  • Hospital Educators, Trainers, Preceptors, or Mentors
  • Pre-Approved College Instructors

Hours cannot be documented by technicians or private instructors. In order to verify experience, all contact information provided for the manager or supervisor documenting your hours must be current or your application will be rejected.


Q: Is there a practice exam specifically for the CRCST, CHL, or CIS?

A: IAHCSMM does not have practice exams available for any of our certification tests. While various websites may offer practice exams, IAHCSMM has no hand in creating or reviewing them, and cannot in anyway guarantee their validity or usefulness.

Q: Can I test at my hospital?

A: No, IAHCSMM certification exams are available exclusively at Prometric Testing Centers worldwide.

Q: If all of the certification exams are given at Prometric Testing Centers, is there a tutorial that will teach me how to take an exam on a computer?

A: The IAHCSMM website offers an Online Tutorial which will describe the look and feel of the exam, and walk you through the process of answering questions or marking questions for later review.  This same tutorial is offered on-site at Prometric Testing Centers when you take your exam, and does not count against your allotted time window to complete the exam.

Q: When is your test offered?

A: IAHCSMM certification exams are available through Prometric Testing Centers.  Most test centers are open 6 days a week. Once your completed application and payment has been received and processed, you will have 90 days to schedule and take your exam. IAHCSMM certification exams have no set testing dates or times; availability of testing appointments depends on the site and date you select.  We recommend scheduling your exam within the first 45 days of your eligibility to ensure availability of a date and time that best fits your schedule.

Q: I have special needs, how can I get the necessary accommodations for my test?

A: Included with your exam application, you must submit a Special Accommodations form, completed by your physician/medical professional detailing your need for accommodations. 

Q: Can I make payments over the phone?

A: Due to credit card restrictions, we can only accept payments that are faxed or mailed.

Q: I live outside the United States, how can I pay for the exam?

A: Using a credit/debit card or bank draft/money order drawn on U.S. funds.

Q: My driver’s license/state ID/passport shows my middle name/initial, is that ok?

A: Yes, only your first and last names must match, middle names/initials will not be verified when checking in for your testing appointment. However, all first and last names must be listed (ie JoAnn John-Smith could not test if she only listed her name as Jo Smith.)

Q: I have signed up for an exam but am not ready to take my test, can I have an extension for my eligibility?

A: No, unfortunately, we do not offer extensions.  It is highly recommended to send in your exam application only when you are sufficiently prepared to sit for the exam.

Q: Can I contact IAHCSMM to reschedule my exam date?

A: No, all scheduling and rescheduling of appointments must be done through Prometric by phone at 800.998.1942 or online at

Q: I missed my exam appointment, do I have to pay to retake my test?

A: Yes, all exams appointments that are missed are marked as No-Shows, and requires additional payment with a retake exam application.

Q: If I fail the exam, how soon can I attempt to take the exam again?

A: We normally receive your exam scores within 1 business day of your appointment, and send out your retake information the following business day.  We cannot process another exam request until 2 business days after your scheduled exam date.

Q: If I fail (or pass) the exam, can I have a copy of my exam so I can review which questions I missed?

A: For the sake of our exams’ integrity, we cannot give out copies of exam questions or answers.