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5 Simple Hacks for Passing the NBCOT

by Grant Mitchell MOT, OTR/L


It seems to start with "if only I could get into grad school." However, the short-lived celebration turns into "I hope I can graduate."

It's exciting to graduate, except there’s the barrier of the NBCOT test, exponentially multiplied by the anxiety of finding and starting a new job. The good news is, the NBCOT is a pass-it and you’re in-for-life type of test! Then you need only to remain in good standing, renewing your certification every 3 years.

The NBCOT is an overwhelming milestone; the final hurdle. Just know, if you made it through Grad school; YOU CAN PASS THE NBCOT! Tell yourself that, write that down and place it somewhere you will see it daily. However, if you want more than think-positive advice, below are 5 ways to maximize your chances of passing the NBCOT.

1. Focus On How Information Relates

For example, one could spend their time memorizing which hand conditions reduce wrist extension. Followed by memorizing which conditions are caused by an injury to the posterior cord of the brachial plexus. The problem is, the brachial plexus injuries may be the same conditions that reduce wrist extension.

Think of it this way. Your brain is a library and when you memorize information only by category (i.e. hand conditions & brachial plexus injuries) you’re creating more work for yourself by having to create duplicate books stored in different locations.

Instead, re-learn what nerves the posterior cord of the brachial plexus has, then what muscles those nerves innervate. It will be much easier to deduce what nerves affect a condition such as Wrist Drop (Radial Nerve Palsy).

2. Quizlet and Online Flashcards

Quizlet works wonders for the NBCOT exam. This tool is like digital index cards. However, rather than lugging around huge decks of index cards, this can be mobile on your phone. Plus, there are engaging ways to study by marking less familiar terms or playing matching games. You can look up other OT students’ terms and lists too!

What one student might have missed, another may have elaborated on. Then, you can make combined lists of your own. One of the great features of this tool, it is FREE! Quizlet's online website syncs to your phone so you can create term lists on your laptop and then view them offline on your phone. You can create them offline on your phone as well.

3. Create Your Own Study Guides

Reading and passively reviewing other study guides is rarely enough for information to be encoded into your brain. Instead, create your own study guides in Word or Google docs so that you’re able to reorganize the information in a way that you understand.

For example, it can be easy to assume that OT models, theories, and frameworks are different for physical disability, mental health, and pediatrics. However, sensory integration works across settings and age continuum. Certain cognitive models work for both mental health and physical disabilities as well.

Reorganizing your own study guides can be a great opportunity to integrate and reorganize in your brain the massive amount of information that can seem disconnected by semesters, books, or setting.

4. Consider Purchasing Study Material

It is possible to pass the NBCOT without purchasing extra study material. Bottom line is, the study guides are still worth every dollar. NBCOT Exam PrepTherapyEd, Johnson, and PassTheOT are great resources.

After paying 500+ dollars for the exam, it easily becomes worth it to pay an extra 100 dollars for the additional practice material. That 100 dollar investment can be the biggest difference in passing, enabling you to avoid an additional 500+ dollars to retake the test.

Exam prep can give you an idea of what to expect for a score to help you evaluate if you're ready to schedule a test date. Most importantly, the study guide goes through the rationale, which can be helpful to get out of the overthinking mindset and use real clinical judgment.

5. Make this fun!

Don’t make this a painful experience. You need to pass this only once. Get this, you can pick the date to take the test, how great is that?  This can be the first time to really connect all that information that's been crammed into your head throughout graduate school.

Go to a coffee shop, treat yourself to a latte, followed by many cups of light roast.



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