It’s that time of year again. The sense of joy, relief and accomplishment from getting handed that brand new DPT degree is slipping through your fingers as the physical therapy job. But first, you know you need to study and pass the NPTE.
Here's the good news: you just graduated from physical therapy school! You’ve spent years learning this material, getting hands-on experience in the clinic, and now have that shiny new DPT degree (remember?). What comes next is using efficient strategies to review a lot of material in a short period of time so that you can pass the NPTE and enter the real world.
Quiz yourself effectively to pass the NPTE
During my second year at the University of Southern California (USC), a few other students and I were given the opportunity to write study questions from the Scorebuilders textbook for a company called Memorang. Who could say no to a chance to study for the boards AND get paid for it? Now anyone can sign up for a subscription with Memorang and look through the hundreds of questions that PT students helped develop to conquer the NPTE.
But I wouldn’t stop there.
Research has shown that actively trying to recall information without looking at the text is one of the best ways to study. Writing your own exam questions and quizzing yourself (and others!) is one powerful way to reflect on the material you’ve just spent hours trying to cram into your head.
Break down the questions
I am an “over-preparer”, and maybe you are too. I took all the practice exams for the Scorebuilders and O’Sullivan texts, the two PEAT exams through the APTA, and countless practice quizzes through NPTE study apps. And yet, when I sat down to actually vanquish the “beast” I was dismayed to see how different the questions I had been practicing were compared to the ones on the real exam.
What I learned was that you need to know how to APPLY the information you’ve learned and make the best decision from that knowledge. With the NPTE you will be given four possible answers. Two to three of these answers will sound right (and probably are correct to a certain extent), but you will need to pick the best choice. Keep an eye out for “distractors” and make sure you read through the question stem carefully.
Let’s break down an example question:
The correct answer is “D”. You can make that choice by using clues in the stem to rule up/down the best diagnosis for this patient. This is not a median nerve issue (rules out Carpal Tunnel), there are signs of more proximal dysfunction (rules out Cubital Tunnel), and the cervical spine is cleared (rules out Cervical Radiculopathy).
This process takes time and can be quite challenging, but the benefits you gain from learning the material in this way are worth it. So good luck, be confident, and know that you have what it takes to pass the NPTE and crush this exam!