Preparing for the National Physical Therapy Examination
You have just finished four years of college plus three years of physical therapy school. However, you still have one more task before you’re a licensed PT — you must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). The NPTE has 250 questions that you must answer within five hours. That means you’ll have to answer a question every 72 seconds to complete the exam.
The NPTE is a tough and detailed exam, so you won’t have a lot of time to think through your answers. You’ll need to analyze each question in an instant and produce the correct answer with a complete cognitive understanding. Our tips will help you design a plan that works for your unique learning style so you can be at peak performance on the day of the exam.
Once you’ve gone through the administrative steps on scheduling the NPTE, studying, and passing the exam with flying colors, then comes the fun part!! Starting your travel physical therapy career!
Common Questions Physical Therapists Ask About the NPTE
What Is the NPTE?
It’s an extremely tough exam that every prospective physical therapist in the nation must pass to become a licensed PT. The exam is designed to assess your competence after graduation from an accredited program or from an equivalent non-accredited program. The NPTE is only one factor your state board considers when deciding whether to grant your PT license, so be sure to check your state’s additional requirements.
Where Can I Take the NPTE?
The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) requires that you take the exam at a Prometric testing center. You’ll need to select which test you are taking, the test date, and the zip code that’s best for you.
Prometric will offer a choice of the nearest locations. If that location is in another state from where you want your license, you can still take the exam there and they will send the scores to the state board of your choice. For example, if you’re in Alaska on testing day but want to qualify in Georgia, that’s fine. Take the exam in Alaska and Prometric will send the results to the Georgia Board of Physical Therapy.
How Often Is It Offered?
The FSBPT offers the NPTE four times a year. In 2023, FSBPT offers the exam on:
- January 25-26
- April 26-27
- July 25-26
- October 25-26
To help you select your test date, the first test dates in 2023, you will need to register by December 21, 2022. The FSBPT will send you an authorization to test (ATT). It can’t send this until your state board has determined you’re eligible to take the NPTE. Your state board must approve you by December 28, 2022. Then, you have until January 11, 2023, to register with Prometric.
How Do I Register?
First, the FSBPT will need to send you an authorization to test (ATT) letter by email, containing instructions on how to schedule an appointment with Prometric. You may also access your ATT letter on the FSBPT website under “Status of My Request”. Then, the next step in the registration process is to determine what’s required in your state. You may have to take the jurisprudence exam before taking the NPTE. If you determine that you’re now eligible to take the NPTE, your next step is to file your application with your state board. Next, you’ll be ready to register for the exam with Prometric. That’s when you’ll pay the exam fee.
How Much Does It Cost to Take It?
Your NPTE exam registration fee is $485. There’s a 1.6% processing fee for registration, which is rounded up to the nearest dollar. You also have to pay a fee to Prometric when you reserve your seat for the exam, of $100.30. So, your total cost of taking the exam is around $600. That doesn’t include the cost of preparing for the exam — such as purchasing study materials and taking practice exams.
What’s the Minimum Passing Score?
The minimum score to pass the NPTE is 600 out of 800. If your scaled score is 599, you have failed the NPTE. The good news is, you’re able to take it again on the next test date.
How Many Chances Do I Get to Pass It?
If you have already taken the NPTE and failed it six times, you’re barred from ever taking the NPTE again. This lifetime ban isn’t the only thing to worry about if you fail. If you score below 401 twice, you’re also no longer eligible to take the exam again.
Though there are four test dates per year, you can take it only three times in a 12-month period. So, three failures and you will have to sit out one exam before you can retake it. The best way to avoid these bans is not to be one of the 10% to 15% of applicants who fail the exam the first time they take it.
How Is It Scored?
The NPTE is a multiple-choice test where you’re scored based on the number of questions answered correctly. It doesn’t penalize you for the questions you miss. For this reason, it’s a good idea to make sure you answer all 250 questions, even if it’s just a guess.
The score will be between 200 and 800, with 200 being the worst score and 800 being the best score. Your final grade is actually your scaled score. If you score an 800, it doesn’t mean you were right on all 250 questions. You could have still missed a couple of questions and the scale brought you to 800.
Tips When Preparing for the NPTE
Now you’re registered, you have reserved your seat, and paid all the fees. All that’s left is to take the exam. Well, you have three other things to do: study, study, and study. That’s what this section is about — the best ways to prepare for the exam.
Don’t Just Memorize
Attempting to memorize everything never works. Memorization only builds the foundation for a successful NPTE exam. You will need to drill yourself with test questions to strengthen your analytical skills and true understanding of the material. These are the skills that will make the difference between a passing and failing grade.
The NPTE questions require that you have an excellent understanding of real-world situations, such as:
- Physical therapy skills to use when treating conditions
- Understanding of the important bodily systems
Make sure you have a thorough understanding of physical therapy treatment methods, best practices, and ways to measure results.
Invest in Study Materials
For the past seven years, you’ve been in school preparing to be a PT. By now, you should know what study methods work best for you. Flashcards are great for visual learners, and you can even do digital flashcards now. You can carry these digital flashcards in a phone app, or you can study on your computer. Anywhere you are, you can use these flashcards, even if you only have a few minutes.
For visual learners, interactive online drilling is great, too. While flashcards are great for memorization, online questions are great to strengthen your analytical skills. You’ll need both to pass the NPTE.
Apps like Scorebuilder’s Content Master allow you to practice answering NPTE on your phone. Again, this is something you can do anywhere you are.
NPTE prep courses are also great resources. It’s especially important if you learn best from a class environment. You have a limited amount of time, and you want to focus on study aids that give you the biggest boost.
Plan out your studying material and set timetables. When you have your strategy ready, you’ll know which study aides are best for you. It’s a good idea to take some practice tests. After you take practice tests, they may show your need to tweak a study strategy.
Focus on the Big Three
A complete understanding of “the big three” lays a strong foundation for success on the NPTE. The big three are part of 75% of the questions in the exam. The big three includes
- Cardiovascular & Pulmonary Systems
- Musculoskeletal System
- Neuromuscular & Nervous Systems
Take Multiple Practice Exams
You need to take practice exams to gauge where you are at any point in your study plan. These exams expose your weaknesses, so you’ll know which areas to spend additional time on. If you’re consistently failing the practice exams, it may be a good idea to change your study aids.
Don’t Stress Yourself Out — Find Ways to Relax
If you want to keep stress from negatively affecting your studies, you must take breaks. You take breaks between sets at the gym, the same rule applies to building that giant mental muscle — your brain! A healthy sleep schedule will help you retain all the information you are absorbing, and a healthy diet provides cognitive clarity. Stay away from stressful situations and ensure you are putting your mental health first.
Don’t Worry About How or What Others Are Studying
Do what has always worked for you. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. If the practice tests show you need to change your study methods, try something else. Everyone learns and retains information differently, so it only makes sense that your fellow physical therapists may do things differently than you.
What To Do After You Have Passed the NPTE
Now that you have passed the NPTE, you’re a licensed physical therapist. You just have one more step to take. You need a job in physical therapy.
You’re a certified expert in physical therapy. Since PTs are in great demand, finding a job isn’t hard, but you need an expert team to help you find the best job At Marvel Medical Staffing, we look forward to helping you find your first job as a travel physical therapist.
A lot of young physical therapists love to travel. Did you know there are endless exciting opportunities in travel therapy? Healthcare professionals are in high demand everywhere. Which means the travel healthcare industry is becoming more and more lucrative.
With such high demand, you can work anywhere with travel therapy. When working in travel healthcare, you’ll stay in one city for the term of your contract, which can be anywhere from 4 to 13 weeks. Then, move to another city for your next contract. Talk about being well traveled!
Are you ready for an exciting career in travel physical therapy? Take a look at the jobs we have waiting for you. Don’t wait for another day to begin your exciting new career.