The January 29, 2014 NPTE is practically upon us, and I sincerely hope that everyone is enjoying their final sessions of cramming. It can be extremely daunting to consider the sheer quantity of information that you must know for the exam. When you combine that with critical thinking and time constraints, it creates a perfect storm that can cause real anxiety. Lately, I’ve had a number of emails asking me how to effectively answer questions in the time that is given. It is so vital to make sure that you are staying within the time allotted for the exam. When you’re in the middle of the exam, it can be very challenging to keep track of the time without having a nervous breakdown from the stress. Here are a few recommendations that may help you in your preparations:
- Take your time—each question deserves careful consideration before submitting your answer. You are allowed to revisit questions in the same section or batch, but you are unable to return to previous sections to answer or review questions. Avoid the temptation to speed-read through a question and jump to the first answer that looks good. Take your time…
- Pace yourself—you are given 5 hours for 250 questions. That comes out to 72 seconds per question. You should definitely take your time, but make sure that “taking your time” does not exceed an average 72 seconds. It can be devastating to spend all of your time on a few hard questions only to rush through the last 20 questions in the section. For all of the points you may get on the challenging question, you will fall short on the questions you have to rush through.
- 5 Sections—there are 5 sections on the exam, and you are allowed to take a scheduled 15-minute break. I highly recommend taking the break and take a short walk while you practice your breathing exercises. Use this moment to recharge, get some water or a snack, use the restroom, and take a few deep breaths.
- Consider carefully your Prometric appointment time—the seats for the test fill up quickly, thus it is important to schedule your seat as soon as you receive the Authorization to Test (ATT) form. If you’re a morning person, get a spot bright and early. If you’re not a morning person, don’t try to become one just for the test. Schedule the time that will be most conducive to your success by allowing your brain to be awake.
- Pay attention to your progress—I had a student email me to say that he lost track of how many sections there were on the exam. He was working on the last section and convinced himself that there would be one more after section 5. Taking a look at the time, he discovered he would be rushed if he didn’t hurry, so he quickly skimmed through section 5 and submitted the exam with approximately 30 minutes left. To his utter dismay, he had submitted the entire exam and had inadequately answered most of the last section. In the stress of the moment, he had lost track of his progress. Take home message: pay close attention to your time and section.
- Practice, practice, practice—one of the best things you can do to prepare for the testing environment is to take 5 hours and practice. Get used to the feeling of pacing yourself through questions at a rate of 72 seconds/question. Take a 15 minute break after section 2 and get back to work. Many students make the error of taking a practice exam with the answers readily available. Rather than reason through them all and commit to their selection, they make a quick guess and then read the answer, giving them a false sense of test aptitude. I highly recommend taking the PEAT exams from the FSBPT as a part of your test practice. When taking them, make sure that you are in a testing environment with no distractions. As much as possible, simulate the testing environment so that you will be less nervous during the exam.
There is so much to consider when you’re taking the exam. Time management is critical to your success on the exam. If you have any advice or suggestions regarding time, please either send me an email or leave a comment below. As always, I wish you all the best in your test preparations. Let me know how I can best help you.