This is the 6th year for Therapy Exam Prep to attend the APTA Combined Section Meeting. This year’s conference was in New Orleans and had record numbers of over 17,000 attendees (5,900 PT Students). At the conference, we exhibited and gave a chance for PT students to win a free NPTE practice exam. What I found intriguing was the range of responses on the NPTE from the physical therapist students, practicing clinicians, and professors. The following is a summary of the views I observed from the various attendees this year:

First Years

I would say the students early on in their program can be eager to soak up the experience and information they can while at the conference.

  • Some PT students were overwhelmed at the conference, many felt they didn’t want to think about the exam.
  • Some were unaware of having to take a board license exam at the end of the PT program
  • Some didn’t want to even address or look at the information
  • Some literally walked by and ignored us (however, would go straight to the recruiters – if it’s too early to think about the NPTE, isn’t it also too early to inquire about jobs?)

There are some views that were combined and can fit either the second or third years especially when in the accelerated PT programs.

Second Years

  • Didn’t want to think about the exam or that they have time to look next year (it’s almost like in a denial state)
  • Proactive and wanted to know more about the exam (kudos to those to take the time to ask questions and walked away with more insight and tips on preparing)
  • Unaware of the exam format (I got 400 to 800 on the number of questions on the exam and from 4 hours to all day on the amount of time)

Third Years

  • Some mention their class having something and don’t need anything (not paying attention to what they have or more up to date options)
  • Some were actively looking to know what resources we provided (Great! By knowing the options allows us to help them better prepare)
  • Some knew they should be focusing on the exam as it’s coming up but didn’t want to prioritize it (then going and waiting in line for 5 to 10 minutes to get a free t-shirt)
  • Some just didn’t care (smirked, laughed thinking that they didn’t need anything)
  • Some had the mindset of not doing well already (I’m such a horrible test taker, I’m never good at tests, this exam is already stressing me out!)

Practicing Clinicians

It was almost humorous to see the already practicing clinicians regardless of age reacting to seeing the booth and what we do. It’s almost like there’s a ghost and it spooks or brings back bad memories of having to prepare for the exam.

  • Some would put up their hands and say “Thank god I don’t have to take it now”
  • “Did it, done that, don’t want to have to do it again”
  • “Nope, never again to have to think about that exam”
  • I even heard one clinician state “This exam gave me PTSD right there!”


There were many that came up asking about the NPTE practice exams as they have already exhausted what was out there and wanted something new to provide their students. Each one was impressed with the amount of detail our score report provides and glad to see the correct number of questions were presented (250 instead of just 200)

Other Thoughts About the NPTE

When I asked students what they know about the boards I got answers such as:

  • “I heard it’s really hard”
  • “That’s it’s long”
  • “I actually don’t know anything other than I have to take it” (one of the most popular responses I got)
  • “That you essentially have to know everything in school”

When talking to students at the conference and asking whether they wanted the chance to win a free practice exam, some came into the booth with the mindset that they “never win.” Hence, the negative talk came true and were mad when their friends won instead. This would be similar to the viewing of the exam in a negative mindset that it’s “hard.” Often times, if you think it, it becomes true.

I was surprised to see so many second and third years students that didn’t know much about the PT board exam itself including what it’s about. In order to beat this exam, the first part is to not dread the exam as it’s much of mindset game and how your test-taking skills are applied. It’s actually not as hard as you may think and by changing your mindset to “this is a game” instead you can develop a positive attitude around the NPTE. Being proactive actually does help to reduce exam stress by utilizing the PT school courses and clinicals to help reinforce concepts.

Being informed about the PT exam is going to be key to passing confidently. Take a moment to learn more about the NPTE.

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