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Prioritize the NPTEOne of the most common questions I receive as the author of this blog is, “How do I study and prepare for the NPTE?”  Unfortunately, many students ask this question too late.  My goal is to help you prioritize your studies so that you can pass the NPTE on the first attempt.

The National Physical Therapy Examination is the measuring stick by which all would-be physical therapists are measured.  Without a doubt, this is the most comprehensive and difficult test you will have faced to this point in your life.  The FSBPT is essentially testing you on 3-years’ worth of clinical and academic knowledge in a 5-hour exam.  This can be daunting for even the most seasoned veteran.

Because there is so much material to cover, it is essential that you attack it in an organized fashion.  Too many students go with the “shot-gun” approach that my basketball coach used to criticize.  As in basketball, if you lob the ball up in the general direction of the hoop, the chance of scoring a basket is very slim.  Rather, your shots should be laser-focused on a specific point of the hoop.  Similarly, you should have a laser-focused game plan for approaching the NPTE.

Key Steps to Refining your Studies

If you study for this with only a loose or disorganized study plan, your likelihood of succeeding is dramatically reduced.  Several key steps to help you focus your studies include:

  1. Make a list of the material that is covered on the NPTE.  I highly recommend you check out the FSBPT.org Content Outlines to know what is on the exam.
  2. Organize the list according to your strengths.  Place weaker subjects at the top and stronger subjects farther down the list.  WRITE THIS DOWN and put it on the wall where you can see it.
  3. If you’ve already taken the exam, use the FSBPT score report to further help you prioritize and list your weaknesses and strengths.
  4. Attack the weakest subject with a vengeance!  Create a study-guide that includes your in-depth notes about the material.   Once that weakness is eliminated, proceed down the list.  You could potentially attack 2-3 at a time, but make sure you don’t lose focus.
  5. Stay laser-focused through all of the weak material.  No study system or book will compensate for a lack of understanding of the material.
  6. Evaluate your performance on practice exams.  If you’re not getting 100% on practice questions about that subject, there is still work to do!
  7. Repeat for every subject until you are comfortable and familiar with ALL of the content on the NPTE.

Increase Your Odds!

As listed in step 5, no book, study system, or instructor can make up for a lack of knowledge and application of the test material.  You really must know everything!  I get asked all the time what my tips are for passing the NPTE.  Many students have tried a number of study books and systems, but they often continue to lack a deep understanding of the material.

In my Mastermind Study Group, we focus on the material that you must know for the exam.  I do not and cannot teach you everything about the exam in only a few short weeks.  Rather, I require students to do just as I have outlined—I make them know the material.  We discuss challenging topics and practice questions together, but the bulk of the course is designed to guide students through the material in an organized fashion.  If there is a subject that a student is particularly confident in, I recommend placing that further down the prioritized list and focusing instead on a more difficult subject.

Whatever study system or book you decide to use, keep in mind that you must be organized in your approach.  I highly recommend tracking down a mentor or study partner to bounce ideas off of.

As always, I am here to help.  Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or if you want to participate in the next Mastermind Study Group.

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