Man getting an answer wrong on the NPTE

Have you ever said to yourself “I missed this NPTE question because I didn’t know enough about that topic?” If so, you’re not alone as many candidates feel they could be gaining points on the NPTE if they knew more. However, I’m pretty sure you know enough to pass, it’s just being able to combine all the knowledge you learned to answer this clinically based exam. Most of the points that are lost are more related more toward test-taking mistakes than actual content knowledge.


Mindset Towards NPTE Questions

Knowing and believing you know information even when you confront an unfamiliar topic is a part of being able to beat the NPTE. We may think we don’t know enough to answer the questions, but that is not necessarily true. There are a lot of NPTE questions you are probably able to answer; you just don’t think you can. Here’s where the mind stops you from reaching your full potential. I’ll share with you common reasons why points are missing because of your mindset rather than the lack of actual content knowledge.

Woman Anxious about the NPTE

Anxiety, Panic and Mind Blanks

When you see an unfamiliar topic, it’s almost like your brain hits a panic button causing you to feel like you can’t answer this NPTE question. At that moment, you may feel an increase in anxiety, creating mind blanks, or doubts about choosing the correct answer. However, if you step back to look at the bigger picture and take a deep breath, this will allow you to calm your mind and body from the flight or fight response. Rather than focusing on the unknown, look at what you do know and how things relate. When your brain is settled down and your mind is clear, you’ll be able to pick out clues to the right answer rather than just guessing.


A Guessing Game

Many times when getting down to two multiple choice answers, both of them look right and you may just randomly guess the answer. After reviewing the choices, you may find that you picked the wrong answer and the other one was right. This can be truly annoying especially when losing these points that could help your score be much higher. To help gain back points,  ask yourself whether the choice actually answers the question. If the answer does, choose that one and move on. If it doesn’t, then you pick the other answer.

Woman Anxious about the NPTE

Overthinking Mindset

Sometimes points are lost when overthinking the NPTE question or answers. The common mistake that happens is adding your own or clinic experience to the information. This can misguide you to the wrong answer and not focus on what the actual question was asking for. To avoid missing points, concentrate on the important information that is given to you.


Keeping Things At Face Value

It’s easy to lose points when not keeping the information at face value and tending toward overthinking. Rather than clarifying the question, don’t make things more complicated than necessary. When focusing on a particular keyword or clue in more detail, going off on a tangent causes points to be lost. To relate this clinically, this would be like you adding words and ignoring what the patient is telling you. To gain back points, keep the information given to you simple and don’t change the meaning.

Woman Unable to Choose an NPTE answer

Not Enough Information

At times, it may feel that there’s not enough information given to you when looking at the NPTE question or answers. What you’ll want to remember is that it is not necessary to have everything provided for you. These types of questions challenge you to make connections and integrate information in order to arrive at the answer. It’s about seeing how things are pieced together. These NPTE questions are harder as they want you to go beyond the academic recall and memorization. So, there truly is enough information given in order for you to answer correctly.


Overwhelmed with Length

Now there are some NPTE questions that you may feel have so much information it’s hard to know what’s important. When this happens, your brain may feel overwhelmed with so many details and want to shut down rather than working through the question. When this happens, you can miss some clues. Break the information down into pieces and utilize your brain dump sheet to work things out. It is also good to use the highlight or strikethrough feature to narrow things down.

Woman sticking with gut instincts

Not Sticking With Your Gut Instincts

Easy points are lost when you initially choose an answer and then decide to change it for whatever reason. You may gain back at least half of the points if you had stuck with your gut instincts with your first answer. This mainly happens when talking yourself out of your initial response. What you’ll want to do is to practice just sticking with your first answer and move on.


Choosing An Answer Even When Wrong

When going through the answers, points can be lost when knowing the whole answer is not completely right especially when there are some parts that are true. This can happen when the answer has multiple components where one part is true but other parts are incorrect. At times our minds want to justify even when knowing something isn’t exactly right. What I recommend doing is making sure that a particular answer actually answers the question. Here’s another time to use the strikethrough feature as well as using the brain dump sheet.

Women correlating NPTE answers

Not Answering The Actual Question

You can also lose points by picking an answer that doesn’t actually answer the NPTE question. Sometimes this happens when picking up on a particular clue or keyword and associating that information without understanding what the question wanted. This can happen when you have a perceived thought and align the answer to it. What I recommend is to rephrase the question so that you understand what it is asking for.


Not Picking Out Keywords

Sometimes points are lost not because you didn’t know the information, but rather by not picking out the right keywords or skipping over some by rushing through the question.  This can happen when your mind is full of thoughts, and you are distracted or anxious. Many times a candidate would tell me, “I would have gotten this question right if I had picked up on this keyword.” Taking an extra moment to be sure you picked out enough clues or keywords to help you answer the question can make a difference, especially when you want all the points you can get. This is a great time to utilize the highlight feature as well as the brain dump sheet. 

Man breaking down the NPTE

Not Breaking Down Terminology

At some point, there will be terminologies that are unfamiliar to you, whether physical therapy related or simply regular terms. I have often had candidates tell me “I couldn’t answer this question because I didn’t know what this terminology meant.” Usually, the terminology wasn’t complicated such as “uncompensated” or “bivalve.” What I would recommend is breaking down the terminology into prefixes and suffixes and going with what you know. Even having a general idea can help you gain points back. 


Pushing Through When Tired

You are likely to miss NPTE questions during the latter sections of the exam when you are tired. This when multiple questions can be missed in a row. At some point, you just want the exam to be done and are easily distracted with time or other factors. This is when you want to take a mini-mental break as it’s easy for your brain to start shutting down. 


As you can see, there are many ways to lose points on the NPTE; however, there are now also many ways for you to gain the points back. Even if you change one aspect, you’ll see a difference, especially on the NPTE practice exams. Let me know which content test-taking mistakes strategies helped you gain points back towards beating the NPTE.

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