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Advice For Physical Therapist Assistants Preparing For The Board Exam

How to Pass the NPTE

Physical therapist assistants (PTAs) are licensed health care professionals in the United States and thus must complete a number of steps before they are allowed to provide services to their patients as licensed PTAs.

One of the most important steps is to successfully take the national physical therapy exam (NPTE), which is a comprehensive exam offered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).

how to pass npte

It is vitally important that the candidate do his or her best to pass the examination the first time.

Failing the NPTE will, at the very least, delay the candidate’s ability to become a licensed PTA. More importantly, there are limits on how many times an individual can attempt to retake the NPTE, depending on the state.

The FSBPT also limits any candidate to no more than six attempts to pass the NPTE. Finally, a candidate who has a very low score on two tests will not be allowed to retake the NPTE, even if he or she has not taken the test six times.


The NPTE for PTAs is a comprehensive exam with 200 questions that must be completed within 4 hours. These questions cover all aspects of the PTA’s duties and allow the candidate to demonstrate his or her academic and practical qualifications.

The tests are conducted at FSBPT approved test centers and the candidates are limited as to what they can bring into the test center.

Cell phones are specifically not allowed to be used at any time during the test. In addition, candidates are not allowed to leave the test center during the examination. Doing so will result in the candidate failing the examination.

The testing process is computerized, rather than using hard copy test materials.

However, the candidates will not need any specific computer training, as the supervisors will explain how to use the computers before the exam commences.

Preparing For the NPTE: Practice Tests

Practice and review tests can be an excellent way to prepare for the NPTE. These tests can come from a variety of providers including the following:

  • Private test preparation services. These services can range from simple online tests to full-scale test preparation “boot camps.”
  • Public and private test review classes. Many community colleges offer courses that can help prepare PTA candidates for the NPTE.
  • The FSBPT offers a variety of review materials for the NPTE. These materials are regularly updated in order to ensure that they provide the best possible experience for the candidate.

It should be noted that these review tests are not identical to the NPTE. However, their format is similar and the general skill level required to pass a practice exam is comparable to that needed to successfully take the NPTE.

In addition, these tests can be taken under a variety of conditions and times, allowing the candidate to fully evaluate his or her preparedness for the NPTE. It is important to note that an individual who is consistently unable to perform well on a practice exam is unlikely to be able to do well on the NPTE and should consider remedial work before he or she attempts to pass the NPTE.

Practical Preparations For the NPTE

Beyond being academically prepared to successfully complete the NPTE, the candidate should take practical measures to ensure that he or she is able to arrive at the testing center in the best possible condition to pass the examination.

Locate the Test Center in Advance

The candidate should make certain that he or she knows where the test center is. In addition, being aware of how long it will take to travel to the center is important, especially in regions where traffic or other factors can lead to delays.

It is wise to drive to the center at least once before the test in order to verify how long it will take to arrive.

Finally, the candidate should be certain to have access to emergency transportation should his or her vehicle suffer a malfunction immediately before the test date.

Plan to Arrive Early

Even the best-planned trip can suffer unexpected delays, making it important that the candidate plan to arrive well before the start of the test.

The FSBPT mandates that the candidate is required to arrive no later than 30 minutes prior to the scheduled test time, but it is wise to plan to arrive even earlier.

Arriving an hour in advance of the mandatory arrival time can allow the candidate to relax and mentally prepare for the examination.

Have a Proper Amount of Rest and Nutrition

Although popular, “cramming” for an exam can actually harm the individual’s ability to do well, especially if the cramming comes at the cost of proper sleep and nutrition.

The candidate should ensure that he or she has an adequate amount of sleep and eats properly before the exam.

Inform the Test Center of Any Disabilities

The Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and a number of state regulations mandate that individuals with disabilities receive assistance when taking an exam.

Anyone with a disability should contact the test center in advance in order to ensure that the test center is aware of any special accommodations the individual will need in order to complete the examination.

Ultimately, taking the NPTE is an important step for those individuals who wish to become physical therapist assistants in America.

By preparing for the NPTE in advance, the candidate can maximize his or her probability of passing the examination with a minimum of difficulty.