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How to Pass the NPTE in 7 Easy Steps

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You have trained to be a physical therapist for a long time!  Are you ready for the biggest exam of your life?

At the very best, you remember most things you learned in PT school.  For many students, that first class on Tests & Measures was over 2 years ago and a distant memory.  It can be discouraging to feel totally lost as you prepare for this challenging exam.

These 7 steps will give you clear guidance about how to prepare for the NPTE.  Consider these to be your baby steps (remember What About Bob?).

1: Apply for State Licensure and FSBPT Approval

In order to even sit for the exam, you must meet all of the requirements for the state in which you wish to practice physical therapy.  Generally, these guidelines are identical between states, but there are various small differences in what is required for each state.  For foreign-trained individuals, you’ll need to submit all of your credentials and “prove” your education was equivalent to a US DPT program.

At the same time, you’ll also register and apply to take the exam at  In essence, the state must tell FSBPT that you are ready to test.  FSBPT will then authorize you to schedule your exam.  You’ll pay a licensing fee (about $100) to your state and an exam fee ($400 at the time of this writing) to FSBPT.  Some states also require payment for a jurisprudence exam (about $50).

2: Schedule the Exam at a Prometric Testing Center

Once you’ve applied to the state licensing board and the FSBPT, you’ll wait for official approval to sit for the exam.  FSBPT will send you an authorization to test (ATT) form that will have a code allowing you to register for an exact test date with Prometric.  Prometric charges a fee (about $85) to sit in their testing center and take the exam.

3: Become Extremely Familiar with the NPTE Content Outline

The FSBPT is not trying to keep secrets about the topics they are testing.  They post and update a Content Outline that lists the number of questions that will be tested in each category on the exam.  This will help you study each section proportionately based on its likelihood of appearance on the NPTE.

Grab a copy of PT Final Exam’s free Study Outline to make this an easier process.  This free study outline helps flesh out all of the nitty gritty of the specific topics found in each section of the Content Outline.  Most students use this  a checklist to make sure that they have studied all of the material required for the NPTE.

If you need more help, consider joining a review class like the Mastermind Study Group that reviews the content and provides mentoring throughout the process.

4: Create a Detailed Weakness List

The more specific and honest you are about your weaknesses, the more easily you can attack them with a vengeance!  The free Study Outline can be used as a framework to create a prioritized study list.  Skip the items that you are familiar with.  Attack your weaknesses like your life depended on it.

5: Don’t Rely on Review Books!

Be sure to have an updated copy of standard PT textbooks to use for your studies.  You should be spending 90% of your time in textbooks and only 10% in review books, especially on topics that you are less familiar with.

6: Take at Least 4 Practice Exams

Take and review at least 4 practice exams in a testing environment.  This means that you will replicate the feeling that you’ll experience in the Prometric center.  Give yourself the appropriate amount of time and complete the exam in a quiet environment.  Practice reading questions slowly and thoroughly so that you don’t suffer from test-taking errors.

7: Plan Your Test Day in Detail

How far is it to the Prometric testing center?  What is your backup plan if your car is stolen the night before the exam?  What will you wear?  What will you eat the day before and morning of?

Prior preparation prevents poor performance!

Common Mistakes to Avoid

In addition to these test-taking baby steps, here are a few mistakes to avoid:

  1. Don’t procrastinate your studies! The more you need to review, the more time you need to prepare.  Don’t wait until the last minute.
  2. Review your practice exams. It is much wiser to take 4 practice exams and review them thoroughly rather than take 20 practice exams without any review.
  3. Don’t let test anxiety kill you. The more you prepare, the less anxious you will be about this exam.  Practice deep breathing and relaxation to prevent poor performance.
  4. Don’t say that you’ve studied when you’ve actually only skimmed over the chapter headings and convinced yourself that you’re the world expert on that topic when you could no more describe that topic in detail than you could do a cross-over reverse dunk over Michael Jordan. Really know your stuff!


This whole NPTE experience will set you back about $600 for just the privilege to test.  If you throw in review books, it starts to really increase.  In addition, the FSBPT has updated eligibility requirements limiting the lifetime number of NPTE attempts to 6.

Make your NPTE experience count!  It is too expensive of a test to take lightly.  Sign up for a good review program like PT Final Exam’s Mastermind Study Group to make sure that you’re successful the first time so that you can go on into the career of your dreams!