Everything You Need to Be Prepared For the NPTE
The National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) is a standardized exam that is used to assess the knowledge and skills of physical therapy students and graduates who are seeking to become licensed physical therapists in the United States. The exam is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) and is required for licensure. It is a multiple-choice exam taken at a designated testing center, covering a wide range of topics related to the practice of physical therapy.
You’ll need to know what these topics are and understand the exam itself to adequately prepare for the NPTE.
What Topics Are on the NPTE?
The NPTE covers a wide range of topics related to the practice of physical therapy. Three subject areas comprise more than 60% of the questions:
- Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Systems
- Musculoskeletal System
- Neuromuscular and Nervous Systems
The rest of the content is derived from these categories:
- Integumentary System
- Metabolic and Endocrine Systems
- Gastrointestinal System
- Genitourinary System
- Lymphatic System
- System Interactions
- Nonsystem, which includes equipment, devices and technologies; therapeutic modalities; safety and protection; professional responsibilities; and research and evidence based practice.
Each of the content areas except for the Nonsystem question is divided into topics related to:
- Physical Therapy Examination
- Foundations for Evaluation, Differential Diagnosis and Prognosis
How Many Questions Are On The NPTE Exam?
The NPTE consists of approximately 250 questions, some of these questions could contain an image or a video. (Only 200 of these are scored with the other 50 being tested for inclusion in future exams.) Test-takers are given 5 hours to complete the exam, which means they have an average of a little more than a minute to answer each question. The exam is multiple-choice where test-takers must select the best answer from a list of four options.
The exam is administered in 5 blocks of 50 items each. Once a block is completed you can’t go back to any questions in that block. A 15 minute break is scheduled after the second block. You can take additional breaks as needed but they will deduct from the total amount of time available for the exam.
There’s no penalty for guessing on the exam so it makes sense to answer each question, even if you don’t know the correct answer.
Changes Coming in 2024
Beginning in January 2024, the exam will have 225 items and some questions will be scenario-based. The blueprint is also slightly different, so make sure you check out the 2024 blueprint if your exam date is after January 2024. To learn more, download our guide by submitting this form.
How Long Do I Need to Study for NPTE Exam
The amount of time you will need to study for the NPTE will depend on your individual learning style and background. Some physical therapy students may be able to study for the exam in a few weeks, while others may need several months to feel prepared. We have found that most students start studying at least 4-6 months in advance of the exam to allow enough time to thoroughly review all of the necessary material.
How to Prepare for Your Exam
First, you should start preparing for the NPTE by reviewing the content areas that are covered on the exam. Familiarizing yourself with the exam content outline can help you identify the areas where you may need to focus your studies.
One helpful study strategy is to take physical therapy practice questions. These can help you get a sense of what the NPTE will be like and identify any weaker areas where you may need to spend more time studying. Practicing with items similar to the NPTE can help you get comfortable with the format and timing of the exam.
Once you’ve identified these areas, use physical therapy mnemonic videos to approach the material in a new way to make it stick. Plus, this memorization tactic can help you recall the subject matter for faster recall during the exam.
Finally, it’s important to set aside dedicated time for studying and to create a study schedule that works for you. Break your study sessions into manageable chunks of time, and be sure to take breaks to rest and recharge. Staying organized and consistent in your studies will help you feel more prepared for the NPTE exam.
How hard is the PT Board Exam?
The NPTE is designed to be a rigorous exam that tests the knowledge and skills of aspiring physical therapists. The actual difficulty will depend on a number of factors, including your level of knowledge and understanding of the material, your test-taking skills, and your ability to manage your time effectively during the exam. In 2021, the first-time pass rate for the NPTE was 87%.
Some people may find the exam to be challenging, while others may find it to be more straightforward. Regardless, it may be stressful as so much rides on the outcome. In order to pass the exam, you’ll need a scaled score of 600 or higher. You will need to have a strong foundation in the principles and practices of physical therapy to achieve this. You can increase your chances of success by studying consistently and thoroughly in the months leading up to the exam. This may include reviewing course materials, taking practice exams, and working with a study group or tutor.
Top 3 Things You Need to Know If You’re Taking The NPTE Exam
- The NPTE is a timed exam, so it’s important to be able to manage your time effectively and make quick decisions on test day. Practicing test-taking skills, such as pacing and interpreting multiple-choice questions, can help you perform your best on the NPTE.
- In order to pass the NPTE, you will need to have a strong foundation in the principles and practices of physical therapy. To increase your chances of success on the exam, it’s important to study consistently and thoroughly in the months leading up to the exam.
- Roughly 2/3 of the exam focuses on the musculoskeletal system, neuromuscular and nervous systems, and cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, so make sure you know these areas well.
Ready to Start Preparing for the NPTE?
Check out TrueLearn + Picmonic Physical Therapy bundle to begin taking practice questions, studying with mnemonics, and tracking performance so you’ll know how you’ll do before test day.