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The NPTE: 15 tips for Success; Stephanie Palacios, SPT

The NPTE exam. It’s the exam that we all must take someday to be licensed and on our way to becoming the official DPTs we were all meant to be. Surely, everyone wants to know the best study methods, guides, and tips for preparing for your big exam day. As an attempt to make this easier for you, I visited various websites and forums, and then compiled a list of the top 15 tips that I found to be the most useful and largely universal. Enjoy!

  1. Complete your registration paperwork early

    • If you do the paperwork early, it will make your authorization to test letter arrive sooner. What this means is that you have a better chance at requesting the test at a facility nearby.

  2. Take the time to understand which questions you got incorrect and correct on your practice exams

    • Identify where you’re “guessing” and what areas are weaknesses

    • A lot of people recommended this and it seems to be a big reason why people don’t pass the first time. They just weren’t going back to strenghten those areas.

  3. Practice tests: What are the differences?

    • Scorebuilders seems to be an easier, enjoyable, and more colorful read. This is great for people who are visual learners and want a brief review of what you learned in school. The practice questions tend to be a bit more basic, so it may be a good option if you want something to start building up your confidence. You get about three 200 question sample exams that you access online once you’ve purchased the book.

    • O’Sullivans tends to be dense. There are far fewer pictures and diagrams in this one. Sometimes their questions are harder than the actual exam, but it will prepare you for the level of difficulty on the exam more so than Scorebuilders. Some people have said that you might want to shoot for at least 60-70% on their practice tests. However, don’t feel bad if you aren’t scoring very high on their practice exams because that seems to happen to a lot of people. Additionally, there have been students that scored lower than this on O’Sullivans and still passed the NPTE. Take these general score guidelines with a grain of salt because everyone is different.

    • Make sure you buy and take the PEAT. A lot of people across message boards and websites have recommended this. Why? Scorebuilders and O’Sullivans were not written by the committees that write the NPTE. The PEAT is the most accurate representation of the exam you can find. The FSBPT has reported that over 99% of the people who passed the PEAT retired exam then went on to pass the NPTE exam. Therefore, the results will line up pretty nicely for most people if you use this as a final resource in your studies. For 60 days, you will have access to two timed exams. And if you need more time you can pay to get an extension.

  4. Extra Resources

    • If you’re looking for a course to take some people find TherapyEd’s courses helpful. It won’t teach you everything you need to know, but it will teach you a lot. They also offer a study guide that provides you with 600 questions that you can access from a USB.

    • PT Final Exam offers certain resources like Home Study Bundles, Webinar sessions, and Mastermind class. Their material will be like retired NPTE exams, it’s pretty well organized and it has a good break down of the material. Some people who failed the NPTE exam the first time found that they were more prepared the second time when they added Will Crane’s Mastermind class. The class covers practice questions in details and he gives good insight.

  5. Make sure you study in the right ENVIRONMENT

    • Reducing distractions is something that people have recommended repeatedly. When you take a practice exam, simulate that exam as close to the real exam setting as you can. Lock yourself up, sit down for a 4-5 hour practice exam, and add in the 15 minute study breaks that the exam allows. Don’t stop to check your answers. Just go straight through. Do this every time you take a practice exam. You will want to build up that exam endurance and can focus for 5 hours at a time.

  6. Use multiple resources for success. Don’t rely on one guide or one text.

    • There are plenty of flash cards, phone apps, and study guides that you can use to help you prepare. The PT Content Master App costs about $30 and has 750 multiple choice questions, which help refresh you on basic information. The PT Online Advantage Student Version will give you 1-2 practice exams that are full length exams. Also, consider including your textbooks. The FSBPT (the board) says that their questions are taken from the most recent textbooks.

  7. Organize Yourself!

    • There is a lot of information on this exam and it can be overwhelming. Create a plan that will work for you and stick to it. Hold yourself accountable with benchmarks or deadlines. Tell other people about your plan to make it real. Write your plan down and keep track of your progress. Whatever works! Anything that will help you follow a clear plan that will work for you.

  8. If you need to focus on anything at all, focus on the Big 3

    • Musculoskeletal, Neuromuscular, and Cardiopulmonary material will take up about 70% of the exam. Therefore, if you have a weakness in either one of these areas be sure to work that out. So if you are a few days away from the exam try to avoid going into the remaining material that constitutes 30% of the exam and really hone in on your bread and butter.

  9. Figure out ways to manage your exam stress

    • It’s going to be a lot of pressure, but do whatever helps you minimize this stress. I took an online course on memory before PT school and it stated that an important part of successfully engraining material is to allow your mind to rest. Your mind needs to process everything you feed it, which is not easy to do if you don’t take healthy study breaks. Learning doesn’t just happen when you are studying, but also when you step away from your work.

  10. Prepare for exam day

    • Make sure that you have all of your things ready the night before. Pack a snack, some water, your clothes, and make sure your car is ready to go. Give yourself lots of time to get there. There have been cases where the prometric center will tell people to show up about 30 minutes early, and then changed their recommendation to an hour before the exam. Therefore, build in time before the exam in case that this happens to you so that if you sign up for an 8am exam you will be ok with showing up at 7am.

  11. There will be exam questions you won’t know how to answer and that’s ok

    • Try to prepare enough that you are not using the flagging option to come back to questions too much. But it’s ok if this happens to you because you won’t know everything on the test. The NPTE has 5 sections of 50 questions, and of those questions, 50 of them do not actually count towards your final score depending on which ones were harder and scored poorly amongst test takers. Just keep in mind that you will have about 72 seconds to answer each question, so try to practice for this level of timing.

  12. Consider taking a test drive before the exam

    • if you wanted to take a test drive of the prometric center where you will be taking the test you can essentially do everything that you would normally do for exam day except take the actual exam. If you don’t feel like this is something you need, don’t worry about it. However, if you tend to get anxious about taking exams, you can get an idea of what the place will be like and your entire process by signing up to do this.

  13. Get plenty of sleep beforehand

    • Try to start sleeping well as a habit. Don’t push through nights trying to study and sacrifice sleep because the exam is long, and in some cases, available at 8am. You will want to be well rested prior to taking the real thing. However, if you don’t get good sleep because you’re feeling anxious, don’t sweat it. This seems to be a common occurrence among test takers a few days before the exam.

  14. Don’t talk about the exam questions afterwards

    • If word gets around that you discussed the exam questions, you could get your license revoked. Not only that but you will feel like crap if you find out later that you got some questions wrong. This will only stress you out more while you wait to hear back about your results.

  15. The burning question of the century: How long before the exam should I start studying?

    • Quite a few people have voiced their opinions on this topic in student forums, and there seems to be a common resonating suggestion of “no more than 6-8 weeks before the exam.” People believe that if you study longer than this it might be too stressful and more trouble than it’s worth. On the other hand, there are people that are studying only a month in advance because they have chosen to put aside everything else and devote themselves to about 5-8 hours of studying a day. The best suggestion I can make is that you should try to take a practice exam a few months before you even plan to start studying and see how well you do. This might be a better indicator of how far in advance you should start studying than any other recommendation you will hear. Take into consideration that you can choose to take the exam early by studying during your last year of school or take about 2-3 months off to focus solely on studying. So, once you have asked yourself about which will provide you with the best results, you may opt to either study 2-3 months in advance during your last year of school or about 2 months after you have finished school.