Woman checking time management on the NPTE

When taking an NPTE practice exam, do you worry about how much time you have? Or do you focus on the lack of time you have to answer? Either way, you’re not alone. Many NPTE questions are missed because of the timing concern. This can cause you to miss several questions in a row. In the previous post, I discuss how the mental aspects play a factor on the NPTE score outcome. This post will focus specifically on timing concerns when answering NPTE questions.

Timing Concerns with NPTE Questions

Once the timer starts on answering NPTE questions, it’s normal to have some test anxiety as you begin this endurance marathon. The main timing concern with the NPTE is that it feels as if there’s not enough time to answer all the questions. Rarely do examinees feel there’s enough or too much time to answer NPTE questions.

Woman checking the NPTE questions

Amount of Time for the NPTE

Let’s take a look at the amount of time you have to answer the NPTE questions. For the PT exam, there are 5 sections of 50 questions each and you are allowed 5 hours for the exam. For the PTA exam, there are 4 sections of 50 questions each and you’re given 4 hours to take the exam. This doesn’t include the tutorial, scheduled break, or the exit survey. 

This would mean you have an hour to answer each section. When you consider how much time you have per question, that would be 72 seconds each! That doesn’t sound like a lot of time to answer the NPTE question and that’s why we feel we have to rush.  However, take a deep breath, you actually do have enough time. 

Time Test-Taking Mistakes

There are several test-taking mistakes that cause you to lose points on the NPTE questions. These timing mistakes are from either rushing or taking too long to answer the question. The good news is that most of these mistakes are relatively simple to fix. Even if you implement only one of the strategies, you’ll see a difference in your next NPTE practice exam.

Man checking the time on the NPTE

Looking at the TIme

One of the easiest ways to miss multiple NPTE questions is to look at the time instead of focusing on the question itself. Let’s say you look at the time and you just realized that you spent too much time on a previous section. That can cause you to panic and increase your test anxiety. Then you lose focus on the question in front of you because now you want to rush through. Whether you are worried about the amount of time you spent on a particular section or looking at how much you have left, these can cause you to lose points. 

When you focus on the time, it’s harder to hear or in this case, see what information is provided to you. Let’s relate this to a clinical scenario.  A patient is waiting in the room, you come in hastily, and grab a seat while looking at the clock on the wall. When asking questions and waiting for their replies, you check your watch, flip the chart, write or type some notes down. As the patient provides information, your mind is mainly focusing on how much time is left or how many more patients you have to see for the day,  instead of what he is telling you. After a moment of silence, you say something to the patient and with no response from them, get up and leave the room to rush to see the next patient. 

As you can see, not a lot of information could be processed with the mind being focused on the time and this relates to your answering questions on the NPTE exam. You’ll want to be sure you are focused on the question in front of you rather than the time. More points will be gained back when you have a clear mind and can give your undivided attention to answer the NPTE question. 

Man running an NPTE marathon

Rushing from the Start

If you feel you are going to run out of time and bolt as soon as the timer starts on the NPTE, you may burn up your mental and physical energy before reaching the last section. Rushing at the beginning of the exam because of being anxious can cause easy points to be missed. Remember that it’s not so much how you start, it’s about whether you can last throughout the different sections and especially at the end. So, instead of rushing, learn to reduce the test-taking mistakes by controlling the tempo of the exam.

Rushing Test-Taking Mistakes

What are the test-taking mistakes that are made by rushing? There are several reasons; however, the common theme among candidates has to do with reading NPTE questions and answering too quickly. Points are lost when you don’t remember information, don’t understand what was asked, and don’t focus on important keywords. Then you will accidentally pick the wrong answer. 

Having to Re-Read the NPTE Questions

One of the downfalls of rushing is not truly understanding what is being asked in order to answer correctly. After reading the NPTE question, if you can’t answer what you just read, you end up having to re-read the information again. Having to repeat can make you even more anxious as you’re now spending more time than initially wanted. This can cloud your thoughts as you feel you have to make up the time even more now. 

Here’s an example of how rushing causes you to have to redo something. Let’s say you are in a rush to go somewhere and you missed taking a turn as you got distracted. After realizing you missed the turn, at the next available corner, you turn and go around the block to take the initial turn. By having to make extra turns, you lost time and feel more frustrated. This same feeling carries over on the exam and can make you more anxious. So, to avoid having to re-read the question and answers, you’ll want to go slowly enough to understand what is being asked.

Woman choosing answers on the NPTE questions

Missing Important Keywords

When rushing through the NPTE question and answers, there’s a high probability that you’ll miss important keywords. These keywords would direct you or even point towards the answer. This test-taking mistake is the most common where you actually know the information; however, you missed picking up on a silly keyword and ended up losing points. This is an easy mistake to fix when reading slowly enough and taking the time to understand the information given to you.

Picking the Wrong Answer

While not as common; however, it still happens often enough is picking the wrong answer either above or below what you had intended due to rushing. As mentioned, this isn’t that you didn’t know the information, it was a simple mistake that can cost points to be lost. It’s also a simple fix of before moving onto the next question is to check that you clicked on the answer you intended. This does not mean re-read through everything but rather double-check your answer selected. What can also help here is using the strikethrough feature to make it clear to you to not choose something that you have already eliminated.

Man and Woman taking the NPTE

Difference Between Test-Takers

There’s a difference between fast test-takers and smart, quick test-takers. Both are quick; however, the smart, quick test-takers go slowly enough to understand the information and pick out the keywords in a systematic way. Fast test-takers tend to commit more of the haphazard mistakes that are mentioned above. The point of taking the NPTE is to not rush through and get it done (well, sort of), it’s more about showing your competence on this entry-level exam that you can be safe when practicing.

Panicking With Too Much Time

Now let’s talk about the other timing mistakes that may not seem like rushing; however, they are just disguised and end up being just that. When you feel you are taking too long on a question or choosing an answer, this creates anxiety and increases your temptation to now rush to make up for the lost time. The need to hurry up makes it harder to understand the information and allows our brains to make easy mistakes.

Anxious Mind Creates Unsureness

When you feel you need to rush to make up lost time, you may experience an increase in anxiety. If you’re anxious, it’s harder for your brain to process the information that is in front of you and makes choosing an answer more difficult. Being unable to quickly pick out the answer, you may begin to feel unsure and therefore more anxious. This negative cycle makes it easy to miss several questions in a row. To help reduce test anxiety take a quick mental break and say a calming phrase to gain calmness.

Man having a coffee break

No Time For Breaks

When you feel you are running out of time or in a hurry to finish the exam, a common mistake is to not take a break. Now, this isn’t about the scheduled or even the unscheduled break that cuts into the time, it’s about the mini-breaks you can have at your seat. While the time is ticking, you may feel that you just have to push through without any sort of break. However, this can be detrimental to your NPTE score when you are mentally fatigued, especially during the last section of NPTE questions. To help clear your mind and reset your focus on the question, take a second break on the question. This is true when you are having to re-read and panicking about running out of time is high.

When you are able to identify what timing mistakes you are making and are to implement the strategies reducing the number of mistakes, you’ll see your scores go up on the next NPTE practice exam. While the solutions seem very simple, they do help build up your confidence and you will be able to tackle the NPTE with ease. So, let’s see how well you can improve your score while managing your time!

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