Thursday, July 19, 2012

Prepping for the NPTE aka Boards

If you're not headed toward or in PT school you probably just want to skip over this post and return to your normal programming.

Let me preface this post by saying that you have to sign your life away a billion times swearing on your life that you won't share any information about the exam with any person ever, even if you're life depends on it.  I wouldn't be surprised if you lose your license just for thinking about exam questions too much.  (Kidding, sort of)  You are also photographed and electronically fingerprinted on site when testing.  They mean business.  So on that note, I only plan to share what I did to prepare for the exam, period.

Timing: I had thought I would have liked an earlier exam date, but ~9 weeks after graduation seemed to be good timing in the end.  I enjoyed a lazy/fun month after graduation, and I think it was a good mental break.  I pretended to start studying early on, but I didn't get serious until about 5 weeks before the exam.  Had I scheduled the next available date, a few weeks later, I probably would have just started studying a few weeks later, but wouldn't have studied any longer.

Materials: The only book I used was O'Sullivan.  I borrowed an old version from a PT friend that tested last year.  I suspect it made no difference that the book wasn't the most current.  The upside was that it was free; the downside was that she couldn't find the CD with the practice exams.  They probably would have been a nice supplement, but the questions are all printed in the book too.  I also purchased the PEAT exams from FSBPT.  I figured this was the closest I could get to simulating the real deal.  I briefly referenced some other texts, but it was minimal.

(ETA 7/27:  Oops, I left something out!  I also purchased the Scorebuilders Content Master app.  It sells for $29.99 for the Ipad.  It comes with categorized content as well as 750 test questions.  I purchased it specifically for the questions and did not use the content at all.  These are my thoughts while I was using it.  The pro was that it was portable; I was studying on long car rides, at my parents house, by the pool, in the dentist waiting room, anywhere.  I could do 25 questions here or there when I had a little time.  The questions also provided explanations when you reviewed your answers.  The only downside I found was that some of the terminology was unfamiliar.  It wasn't incorrect by any means, just a different approach than my own education and O'Sullivan.  I also felt there were questions that were either poorly worded or focused on non-critical material.  For example, there were questions asking how many items were on a given standardized assessment.  Totally unnecessary knowledge.  I don't think it was a wasted purchase, but there is so much potential for it to be a much better resource than it is.)

Study Plan: Before I began my studying, I took the first PEAT exam and scored a 71%.  I then read every page of O'Sullivan, though not necessarily in order.  I skipped around depending on what I felt like reading about, but hit every page once.  Some days I spent 5 hours with my book, some days none at all.  I didn't center my life around studying every day, and that worked for me.  Three days before the exam, I took the second PEAT.  I scored a 67% and freaked out a little.  In the last two days I took time to review basics such as cranial nerves, wound dressings, and other things I would kick myself for forgetting.

The Last Minute: I attempted to get to sleep a little early the night before.  I slept a little but woke up frequently during the night.  Each wake-up was preceded by a nightmare about something going wrong.  Most involved my car breaking down on the way to the test center or me sitting down at the computer and forgetting absolutely everything I've ever learned.  Thankfully I had been getting plenty of sleep in the preceding days, despite having a nasty case of bronchitis (Yeah, that really happened like 5 days before the exam, and I freaked out that I would need my inhaler during the exam and wouldn't be able to have it because I hadn't requested the accommodation ahead of time.  Not an issue thankfully.)

The Morning of: I was lucky to have a Prometric center within minutes of my house.  I was only given an 8am start option, and was thankful for that time.  They did open afternoon time slots, but I prefer morning.  After nightmares of my car breaking down, I left really early even though it was only a 10 minute drive.  (My car battery actually did die the day after the exam; I thanked it for waiting 24 hours!)   I took a few minutes to relax in my car when I got there and was still the first person in the waiting room.  You are signed in and able to start testing in the order that you arrive- so I was even more thankful that I arrived early.  The sooner that 5 hours begins, the sooner it is over!

... and the rest is history.


  1. Good luck on your results!!! I found your blog via the student doctor forums and I am (attempting to) documenting my trip through PT school as well. :) Glad to hear that eventually you make it out the other end. My fingers are crossed for good news!

    1. Thanks! I did find out I passed a couple weeks ago. I know it's hard to see the light at the end when you are in PT school, but you will eventually make it to the other side!