I recently took the ASCP exam in order to acquire a state license in laboratory science. I’ve written this for folks seeking advice on a passing strategy. If you’re experiencing difficulty understanding the material or are anxious about what the exam entails, i’d like to help.

Who this is for:
Different strategies work for different folks. Some can pass an exam in two weeks, while others may require more than one attempt. I wished to make this strategy comprehensive so I have written this for folks taking the exam with only a rudimentary understanding of laboratory science. You know what an antibody is, but the fella who kept interrupting the professor made it impossible for you to learn anything else. Maybe your Professor exhausted his/her own own knowledge by this point. Perhaps you crammed for every exam in school, learning nothing substantive in the process. You may even be taking the exam after being out of school for several years. Whatever your situation, I’d like you to understand that you will pass this exam, by following a few simple steps.

About the exam:
You need to score 400 points out of 1000 in order to pass. That’s all you need – 400. Easy questions are worth 10 points; moderately difficult ones are worth more; difficult ones can be worth up to 25 points. All you need is 400. How do you know if you’re ready to score 400 on the real exam? Referring to, if you can score 75% + on subject tests; 65% + on 100 question review mode; or 55% + on computer adaptive testing mode, then you have a good shot at passing the ASCP exam. I’ve heard mentioned that if you’re still getting very difficult questions around #80, the computer is essentially throwing high value questions at you, hoping you can guess correctly and bring your score up to 400. If you’re getting very easy questions repeatedly, then you’ve already passed and the computer just wants you to go away.

Survival Kit (for those who aren’t sure what to get):
This is the survival gear you need. It is essential and comprehensive. I wouldn’t take this exam without the following:
Polansky review cards (THE best resource) subscription – absolutely essential for questions and learning
Success in Clinical Laboratory Science (Ciulla) – to be used as your reference textbook
Clinical Lab Science Review (Harr) – for questions and learning

How much time do I need to study?
Very subjective. Depending on how hard you work on this, you will need more or less time to prepare. Two to three months is more than adequate if you have an extremely poor understanding of lab science.

Okay fine but what do I DO?!
Take a Labce practice test in 100 question test mode. Don’t look at any resources. Just finish it to see what score you would get. Randomly guess on everything if you need to. It’s Kewl – a blue legged squirrel would score 25% by random guessing so you’ll score around 25-35% if you learned the bare minimum in school. You may be worried about a horrendous score. Don’t be – trust me on this.

Separate your Polansky review cards by subject. Chemistry, Blood Bank, Hematology, Bacteriology and Urinalysis requires 95% of your attention because these subjects comprise 95% of your exam.

Open up the Harr Review book. Examine its organization. Each subject is subdivided further into subtopics (for example, Microbiology is divided into gram positive cocci; gram positive bacilli; anaerobes, enterobacteriaceae, etc). Your cards are organized in a similar manner. Notice that each ~50 question subtest in the review book corresponds to only a handful of review cards.

Each Harr question comes with an excellent explanation. If you don’t know a subject AT ALL, go through the entire individual set of questions for that subtopic – read each explanation – look up the pertinent facts in the few review cards you’re holding in your hands and mark it up. If it’s not there, then tell that fact to @!#*$ off because it’s not important. Do this for every question in that subtopic. By the end of that set of questions, you’ll have learned the entire subtopic and noted what you need to remember on your cards.

Do the above for every subtopic you have difficulties with. It took me 1-2 days per subtopic. Keep in mind that while there are many subtopics, only a few are important for the exam.

After you finish each subtopic (say you finish the enterobacteriacea questions in Harr), do a 50 question subject test in labce, corresponding to the subtopic you just completed (eg. do Bacteriology in labce if you finished enterobacteriacea in Harr: do Hematology in labce if you finished wbc disorders in Harr). Getting a poor score is okay. Most people score around 50%. But every question you get wrong is a new fact you’ve learned and underlined in your cards.

I attempted to do as many of the Labce questions as I could. A classmate did 100 every day – that’s phenomenal. Someone else did 300 every day – that’s wild. I did a thousand in total. Do as many as you can, and learn from every wrong answer. Highlight the facts you learn in your Polansky cards.

By the end of your study period, you’ll notice that only a certain percentage of your Polansky review cards are highlighted with facts you didn’t know. The more you know when you start studying, the less marked up your cards will be. Either way, it’s these highlighted facts that you need to review, ideally every few days.

Additional notes:
Don’t buy the BOC book. The explanations are not helpful. What’s the point of buying an inferior book with thousands of questions when you won’t even get to all the questions in the good review sources listed above (Labce and the book of questions from Harr)? The same goes for textbooks. You don’t need them for this exam.

In my opinion, class notes are utterly useless unless they’re diagrams or tables. Proper understanding requires that you create your own visual aids in between answering questions. Don’t waste time staring at monotonous text or reading the gibberish we tend to jot down in class. Those notes have a place and it rhymes with recycling bin.

Each day, try to recall all of the important information you learned that day. Some will also do this as part of a weekly group meet. I can’t stress enough how important it is to recall the information you’ve learned. If you understand something well and wait 2 weeks to think about it again, you’re liable to forget what you understood so well just a short while ago. Attempt to recall as you’re about to fall asleep every night and it will be fresh in your mind in the morning (an added bonus is that it may knock you out like a light). Therefore, review early in the morning, as well.

Picture the branches of bacteriological charts or certain key antigens in blood bank. If you can’t recall something, look it up immediately! Learning is all about layering knowledge. When you take the time to do several layers (learning, doing questions, drawing charts) your recall will be solid.

Use my high yield charts or make your own. But please know the relevant information!

Good luck!

789 Responses to PASSING STRATEGY

  1. Valeed says:

    Hi sohail,
    i want to thank you for such a great effort, i passed my MLS exam today,
    moreover, i want to share some table and charts for those who needs to memorize micro in very short form, i also require your permission to upload in micro section

  2. Valeed says:

    ok. i can’t find you on fb.
    Moreover, i share my user name URL , please send me request

  3. Michael says:

    Just wanted to post that. Super glad discovering this site, just spent a lot of time reading the comments, and observing information from people who took and passed and even failed the exam. I will be taking my MLT exam this summer in about 3 months.. I’ve started studying for it, and did my 1st run on LabCE to see where I stand initially.. to my surprise I scored 49% on the comprehensive exam, which I am pretty happy about just going based on what I remember from my classes at school, it gives me a starting foundation, where I have a road in front of me, but at least I feel, I am not swinging around in the dark either. Once I start hitting all the recommend approach into studying, and testing my self as I go along. My goal is to do both the NY licensing exam, and the ASCP. I will update in (months) to come on how it went and hopefully good!! and my progress from my current 49% on the CAT part of LabCE.

    • wordsology says:

      Thanks for allowing us a peek at your thought process and strategy Michael. This is a rational, well thought out plan. We look forward to hearing your updates.

  4. hope says:

    hello.. how will I be able to take the LABCE subject tests, review mode. computer adaptive testing mode, is there a need for me to purchase it? how and where? Hoping for your reply, I will be taking the ascp for the second time next month, and I hope this will help. Thank You so much.

  5. Alexis says:

    I take the test again in less than 3 weeks. I’ve been averaging 80% on regular 100 question MLS and 65% on Adaptive mode MLS. What do you think my chances are? This is my third time. I look forward to the day that I pass the test and don’t have to study anymore.

  6. Alexis says:

    I’m taking the exam next week for the third time. I was wondering what you think my chances are. On lab CE I’ve been averaging about 75-85% on the 100 question mode (MLS) and 65-75% on the adaptive mode (MLS). My highest so far on adaptive is 77%. I study the Polanski cards, I have your micro charts memorized, and I study this site almost daily. I am so desperate to be done studying! I’m hoping for a miracle this time.

    • Andrea says:

      I’m in the same position as you are. Taking the exam in a month for the third time and i am so nervous. i scored 364 last time and i am so tired of studying. how did your test go and do you have any tips?

  7. Vanessa says:

    Can I skip a question on the test and then come back to it?
    Can I go back to an answer and then change it?
    If so, how is it done?

    Thank you so much for your help.

  8. Kim Nguyen says:

    I took the exam twice and haven’t passed it. I learned that I did not study hard enough. I am working therefore it is hard to study but I have managed myself to study at night, before going to work, and on Saturday.
    I am taking the exam in 2 weeks and I always paranoid whenever I am thinking about that.

  9. Ricardo says:

    AMT passed on first try, more difficult than expected. 230 questions, you need 166 answered correctly aprox. A lot of urinalysis and blood bank. Thanks

    • Kristine says:

      Can you please give me an overview about the AMT exam? And what subject should I focus more? Thanks and Congratulations!!!

  10. Esmeralda Cordero says:

    Just passed the exam yesterday! Thank you so much for your guidance on how to study for this exam! Of course, the high yield notes were excellent. I also wanted to add that ignoring mycology is not a good idea! I got around 5 or 6 questions on mycology and had to guess a lot of the organisms (that was my bad, I should have studied it). Surprisingly, I barely got any bacteriology questions (maybe like 3)! Also, soooo much hematology questions!! Lots of calculations too! (Corrected WBC count, how many units of blood to pull, etc) Also, soooo many coagulation case studies. It was tough. Around the 60th question, I was feeling worn out and thought I was going to fail. Seeing the word “Pass” on that screen was the most awesome feeling in the world! Taking 100 questions a day on LabCE REALLY does help, because you will see a lot of the same questions on the real exam. Study and understand any answers you get wrong. Good luck to anyone taking the test!

  11. Ionna says:

    Where can I find your high yield notes? Thank you for this information!!

  12. Thank you so much for the information I have 4 weeks left of school and I am stressing I am failing my mock exams and I am struggling to remember all of my information. This helps so much

  13. erisshyti89 says:

    Can you share some tips with me too? I’ll take it in September.

  14. Shmeeps says:

    My first attempt at labCE put me at 53% with a difficulty of 5.7? Do you think I could be in a position to take the test in a few weeks?

  15. Decoi says:

    Hello again, Sohail. I have a question with this certain excerpt from the post above:

    “…look up the pertinent facts in the few review cards you’re holding in your hands and mark it up. If it’s not there, then tell that fact to @!#*$ off because it’s not important.”

    Does this mean that, let’s say if question #1 from Harr about creatinine has a corresponding info in Polansky, I mark it up, but when question #2 from Harr about creatinine as well doesn’t have a matching fact in Polansky, I dismiss it?

  16. ArrianeRachel says:

    Hello everyone,

    Would this strategy work for studying MLT as well? I’m currently using the CLS review (purple/gold book) 3rd edition by Jarreau. Where can I get the other resources such as the Polansky cards? Thank you guys for taking the time to put all this together.


  17. Rosie says:

    Has anyone here who has passed willing to share PDF Text books or polansky cards OR sell? I’m still months away from taking my exam but it’s never too early…

  18. Andrea Kerkman says:

    I am getting ready to study for boards Again! I have failed 2 times and have used every book possible. How much time do I need to spend on each area? Is 3-4 weeks enough? I have used labce before but never got a difficult level higher than 4.5. Need all the help possible. Please feel free to email me at

    • Wendy Parpart says:

      I would use the purple/gold medical laboratory review. The pictures and cartoons help you remember charts. I didn’t get anything from labce.

  19. Fb I’d is emmi shahzadi

  20. Krystal Hayes says:

    I’m getting prepared to take ASCP Chemistry only what advice could you possibly give me?

  21. What should I subscribe for on lab CE if I am taking the ASCP Microbioly only exam?

    • wordsology says:

      While it is true that labce contains questions for other topics as well, it will also contain a wealth of questions for microbiology. You can take separate exams with just microbiology questions through labce.

  22. KL says:

    Hi Sohail,
    I am so glad to find this website. The high yield notes help me a lot to memorize the keys points, especially in microbiology. I got the recommended book, note card and the Lab CE. I am so happy that passed the AMT MLT on first try. I think the actually test is easier than the Lab CE. Thank you again for such a great website.

  23. cornnuts says:

    I would like to thank you for this wonderful website. I passed the ASCP MLS exam on the 3rd try today.

    I used your website religiously to study for the exam. Your website is a blessing to us all.

    Thank you!

  24. I was failed in exam ASCP MLS
    When I was attempting I guess I have done lots of question I’ll pass but at the end I failed
    I done my test within 1.30 minutes. Plz guiDE me what should I doo

  25. Chinedu says:

    “Each Harr question comes with an excellent explanation. If you don’t know a subject AT ALL, go through the entire individual set of questions for that subtopic – read each explanation – look up the pertinent facts in the few review cards you’re holding in your hands and mark it up. If it’s not there, then tell that fact to @!#*$ off because it’s not important. Do this for every question in that subtopic. By the end of that set of questions, you’ll have learned the entire subtopic and noted what you need to remember on your cards.”
    Speaking of the fact to ‘@!#*$ off because its not important’, is it the fact from polansky or Harr? Which is more important in this case.

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