About the Written COT Exam

COT Written Test Results

I passed the written portion of the COT Exam!!!!  Woooooooooooooooooooooo!!!

It’s been a week and the JCAHPO Handbook states that I should just be patient and wait for “official” results.  I sure am glad that Pearson VUE gave me a printout of the results!

Now, onto the practicals-

Then, the COMT.

That’s right.  I have 3 years before becoming eligible to take the next test.  Until then, I’ll be using the scored percentages to first review my lowest scoring categories.

I did learn something:  Study the parts you think you already know well.

Future academic posts will have the following notations of relevance:

COA, COT, COMT, BSc (for basic science).


COT: Studying Pharmacology

As complicated as pharmacology can be, learning the basics doesn’t have to be intimidating.

I began studying pharmacology by classes of systemic medications.  That knowledge in its self has given me a great head start.

ISBN-13: 978-1556427503

ISBN-13: 978-1556427503

The most helpful book to study from so far at the COA/COT level is Ophthalmic Medications and Pharmacology.

True, the knowledge within is readily available on the internet.  However, we really need to know at what level to study ophthalmic pharmacology in order to move beyond list memorization to understanding relevant material.

The complexity of pharmacology is exponential, so it is important to know when to have restraint when delving into specifics.  Free information online is available at the PhD research level.  At that point, no matter how respected the .edu or .org source, some “facts” are actually convincing theories which are still under peer review.

It is good to further research concepts to make them more clear in the context of ophthalmology, though pharmacology is still only 5% of the COT written exam.

I found Ophthalmic Medications and Pharmacology to be extremely helpful because it is written at my level.

The second resource I chose to challenge myself with is the JCAHPO/ATPO Refinement: “Update on Pharmacology II.”  A passing quiz score is worth one Group A CE credit.

It arrives in the mail as a 17-page workbook:

Refinement Worth1 Group A CEI have had success understanding this module because I have a solid foundation already from college.  Most people that have never studied pharmacology before would do best with working through the intro level module first.

To my delight, “Update on Pharmacology II” is about a notch or two more advanced than Ophthalmic Medications and Pharmacology.  A COT comfortable with the content in the book could still learn something from this more in-depth module.

The writer(s) and editor(s) did a nice job wording the material in an understandable way.  I’ve been going through that sucker with a highlighter and taking notes.

The wise thing to do would be to read the entire book first, then take the module to self-test the understanding of the material.

I’m pretty sure that once I’m ready to mail in the quiz, I’ll know enough to do well on the pharmacology portion of the COT.

I’m most definitely glad that JCAHPO lets us take our time to submit answer sheets to the modules because I will be taking advantage.

Another handy ophthalmic pharmacology reference is Pocket Companion to Clinical Ocular Pharmacology Fourth Edition, by Jimmy D. Bartlett and Siret D. Jaanus.

ISBN: 0-7506-7344-3I was lucky to find this version of the content because I believe the textbook is was made to accompany is one of those $400 optometry books from an accredited college.  Like many academic books, the publisher is Butterworth Heinemann, an imprint of Elsevier Science.  Also, it is lab coat pocket-sized, which is a dead give away.

The handbook includes typical treatments for ophthalmic diseases according to their pharmacological therapies, as well.

The level is more advanced than the COT, but would suit an ophthalmic resident, optometry student, or COMT, depending on the depth of knowledge required for them to examine patients.

It’s an interesting book and I found it for about $20 on Amazon.com.  However, I haven’t used their service in over a year because I sold a book to someone who claimed they never received it.  After that experience, I branched out to Textbooks.com, which have quicker deliveries, anyway.  The book prices on Textbooks.com are competitive with Amazon.com, so they are a better deal price-wise and for convenience.

BigWords.com is a GREAT place to start when purchasing outside JCAHPO/ATPO.  A list of books from several websites will pop up after a search.  You can search by ISBN or even key words.  I used them all through college to compare prices and have been very happy with their service.

The Ophthalmic Assistant and Eye Technician Study Notes have pharmacology sections, as well.  Even though they offer an intro-level foundation to their material, the content is still different enough from the other books to be helpful.  These two are always where  I would start before reading further.

Also, don’t forget the flash cards!

ATPO may not give away the actual exam questions, but they made the flash cards with knowledge of typical questions on the COT, so they are invaluable for self-assessment.

COT Study Materials: The Foundation

Get the flash cards.  Order them from JCAHPO/ATPO or find them online or from another tech.  Just flipping through those babies has shown me that I am about 30% prepared to take the COT Exam.  You’d be surprised what you don’t know because the COT tests across multiple specialties.

There are guaranteed to be entire subject areas not solely reviewable by clinical experience, so don’t get proud!


The Ophthalmic Assistant, ISBN-13: 9780323033305 is an incredible resource.  Each chapter is relevant in some way to ophthalmic assisting.  The book audience is the student, whom is expected to grow exponentially with each coming chapter.

Overlapping subject areas repeat information in the appropriate chapters.  This an invaluable quality to those who do well with tons of repetition and also to students who prefer to thoroughly study one subject at a time.  However, the constant review may drive more experienced students bananas if they have progressed to skimming over known material.

Lots of online reviews by techs in COMT programs have sited this as their main study resource, so I was immediately sold.  One person even complained that more JCAHPO test prep was provided by using this book than anything the teacher had provided.

This book was also great for the JCAT, the test available for purchase by JCAHPO/ATPO as an Independent Study Course.  I found this to be much more than an introduction as I continue to learn from this 871-page monster.


Eye Technician Study Notes, ISBN: 9781482570878

This is for the skimmers.  It’s suited for the student ready for a straight to the point review.    Facts are listed one by one, without conflicting information or fancy page filler.

There’s no test included, but you don’t really need it to test your knowledge here.  I’ve been using a highlighter for new information.  I advise making flash cards by hand to memorize and review what was learned from the book.

Each fact isn’t labeled to the specific exam, however the topic difficulty increases recognizably from intro to advanced levels.

Author Diane C. Farmer, COMT has passed the COA, COT, and COMT, so she most definitely knows what material is clinically relevant for every test from the COA through the COMT.

I highly recommend studying this with the JCAHPO/ATPO COT Flash Cards.

They really go hand-in-hand.

Schedule & Accountability to Study for the COT

To hold myself accountable and to my desktop PC, I wrote up a weekly outline based on the JCAHPO content areas beginning this August.

The dates count down to a COT Exam Prep Course taught by the amazing Sharon Alamalhodaei, COMT.

I’ve learned from a few of her lectures at the annual JCAHPO/FSO Masters in Ophthalmology CE meetings.  Sharon is a talented presenter and passionate teacher, so I am very excited to attend her prep course this October!

Conveniently, her prep courses actually come with a whole month of free one-on-one help via e-mail, Skype, or phone, so I know that I won’t feel too lost.

I want to be very prepared to ask lots of questions and have my subject weaknesses exposed so I can focus on the last of what needs improvement right before the test.

COT Exam Study Schedule by Topic:


I aim to sit for the COT Exam sometime in November, hopefully the week before Thanksgiving, right before things get crazy schedule-wise.  I know I’ll have to wait for the results in the mail and schedule the Skills Evaluation, so that should occur before or sometime in January if I don’t have to re-test & the timing works out.

My eligibility to take the COT begins in on July 31st, the day I return from a week long vacation.  I’ll have my sponsoring ophthalmologist sign the application right away for motivation, but hold onto it for a month before submission so that my November window of opportunity doesn’t close on me.

So far, I think I’ve gathered all the information I will need for the test.  I have books, flash cards, two JCAHPO refinements, and some free-with-membership ATPO CE classes to take.

Also, my boyfriend helped me paint my study room.  I hung up a curtain and rearranged things to be distraction-free.  I designated a study folder or two and gathered some highlighters and office supplies.

Other that that, as long as I can stay focused, I think I can do this!

A Step Toward Relevance

A Step Toward the Easel

So that I may separate my online worlds of art & ophthalmology,

I have made another blog called:  Jessica’s Portraits.

For all that are interested, click on the link or the photo above to go to the page.  Right now, it’s just a shell, begging to be filled with art.  There, I will post updates on illustrations, web design projects, charcoal drawings, paintings, and of course portraits.

Both pages will remain active, yet focused on relevance.

For OMP,

I have begun organizing my study material for the COT and will begin posting new study guides as soon as they are ready.

Right now, I am working on a PowerPoint video presentation about the eye muscles.  The script is about half-way written, which isn’t bad considering the potential of depth for the topic.  To stay within YouTube time guidelines, the total content will be divided into two parts, with CN II-VI and the Visual System as the second topic.

This project will take a while because I am avoiding copyright infringement by illustrating all of the diagrams.  The goal is to provide an OMP and undergrad.-level tutorial that really helps people learn the material.

I promise it won’t be too sophomoric, however I do have a sense of humor like Kurt Vonnegut, so be prepared for honesty.

For 2013

Here we go, a new year.  I’ll be finished with my AA degree and will test for the COT.

Also, I’ve become interested in web design this past year.  It would be great to have the skill.  Photoshop was fun to learn in 2012.

I have a beautiful new standing easel and have committed to improving my drawing skills.  Recently, I’ve started to learn digital illustration with a little WACOM tablet.

This should be a very creative year!

Thanks to the Non-Clinical Staff:

The clinical staff gets to have all of the fun. 

We meet the patients, discern the course of each work-up, and get to play with all the point-and-shoot microscopes.  On great days, we even learn something new.

I’d like to take a moment to thank the non-clinical staff for making all the magic happen!

Triage coordinators write the schedule, which at first might not sound so crucial.  However, the organized miracle workers in my office transform the most seemingly impossible patient load into a productive, laminar flow.  Without a person to reschedule the late folks and know when to squeeze in the urgent cases, every day would just be a mess.

The Receptionist/Check-In Clerk is the first person to hear the crazy, lengthy stories that are soon summarized into the obscure, vague, insurance-relieving chief complaints the techs get to narrow down.  Without that initial filtration, it would take all day to get a patient to say, “eye exam.”

The Bill Collector/Check-Out Clerk comes in each day wearing a bullet-proof vest and ensures the sanctity of our payments.  Some patients don’t want to pay for serviced rendered, but they will!  And they shall return with a smile!  Without such great customer service, patients wouldn’t know to refer a friend.

The Payment Posters carefully file through all the tedious paperwork that essentially keep the lights on.  Be it via hard copies or software, a balanced budget is a happy budget.  Without their hard work, it would be quiet around here.

The Optician excites the patients about their next pair(s) of glasses.  After all, an expert fit is not all the patients need.  They walk out the door wearing a momentum of excellent patient care.  Every time a person compliments a pair of our glasses worn by a patient, that person is prompted to tell the tale of his/her experience with the entire team!  Without that last friendly smile from our optical staff, who can say what they will remember?

Last, but certainly not least,

The Office Manager/Administrator is Human Resources, also known as the peacemaker.  He/She hand picks the personnel for each individual work station and appreciates every contribution.  The administrator wears many “hats” and skillfully balances every responsibility, including those of every team member.  Without a kind, respectable leader, the mission is not as clear.

Thanks again to all of you wonderful non-clinical team players!

There are endless reasons why without each and every one of you, we would be so lost.

Is there anything you would like to say?