How to approach questions on the NPTE
I have read some articles and posts recently about the “secrets” behind the NPTE. Honestly, there are a few things that are covered by trade secret laws, such as content of questions and scoring algorithm. With the recent changes to the NPTE, the scoring method is a little more nebulous and the FSBPT doesn’t provide much detail as to the exact methods for grading the NPTE. Frankly, it’s still a mystery how the scores can range from 200-800, meaning that no one can really score a 0%. That’s a topic for another day. Your job right now should be to focus on your studies and trying to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination.
So here are a few important study reminders that may help guide your focus.
1- The FSBPT content outline uses the words “across the lifespan” at the end of each subsection starting on page 4. This is something I glazed over while I was studying for the exam, and I wish that I had paid more attention to this “minor” detail. For me, across the lifespan indicates that your studies of tests, measures, interventions, etc. should be applied to patients that don’t fit into the academic world. For example: you have probably already studied gait abnormalities that are common to adults after certain surgeries. But what if you had to describe the significance of gait abnormalities in a child that broke his foot at the age of 2? How would your intervention differ? Why does age have a significant importance? Also consider how a chronic condition will change as a person ages.
2- So you think you know about the Musculoskeletal and Neuromuscular systems? But do you really understand the anatomy and physiology behind the injuries/illnesses? This is probably the most common stumbling block I find among students. You know what impingement is, but do you really understand what is happening? If you do, then you will know what it will take to treat that patient. And if you know how to treat them, you will have a pretty good idea of how their progress will be. For instance, if you are treating a 66 year old woman with primary impingement that occurred from a specific injury 3 months ago, what will be the best course of treatment? Injection first? Rotator cuff activities? Modalities?
3- How will you know if you are successful? This was a question that my professors always asked after our advanced interventions class. I ask you the same question: what will indicate that your treatment was successful. “They get better” doesn’t cut it. Will they demonstrate decreased use of pain medication? Will the patient tolerate more time walking without needing a rest? Will the patient be able to function at home alone at the top of a 4 story building without an elevator? How will you know if you are successful? One trick is to determine what the patient needs most, test it, and then train the test. For example: if a patient needs to be home alone and must do bed transfers independently, what intervention would you do? You would probably incorporate practicing bed transfers (or at least parts of the transfer).
These are just a few thoughts about studying for the NPTE. These are also several of the topics that I will address in my Mastermind Study Group that will begin on August 28. (It’s not too late to register—there are still some slots open). As always, I am happy to help in any way that I can. I really do wish you all the best!