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6 Tips for the Night Before the NBCOT

by Dominic Lloyd-Randolfi, OTD, OTR/L


It’s the night before the NBCOT and you have been cramming developmental milestones and spinal cord levels all week. While you’re certainly busy stuffing your brain with the last bits of information, the night before the NBCOT should be all about taking care of yourself.

That doesn’t mean not looking at your study materials, but using your time wisely is key and you don’t want to stress yourself out anymore. Here are 6 tips for the night before the NBCOT to be your very best on testing day.

1) Be (overly) prepared

It’s ok to be overly prepared. You have been working up to this moment for years (no pressure though).




Be sure to check out where your testing site is. Know the general area and how to get there. We recommend having a tangible copy of your map/route. Your phone isn’t always reliable. If you leave 30 minutes before you think should, you’re able to give yourself a buffer. The last thing you want is to be stressing unnecessarily on your drive. With your extra time, you can do one last pep talk or a quick meditation session. Better than being locked out!

When you take the test, you need TWO forms of identification. Have these ready and make sure that your name matches the name on your ATT letter.

In this case, surprises are not good. Avoid them by reading NBCOT’s Certification Exam Handbook.

2) Have a diet in mind

Similar to being prepared for the day, I would recommend having a pre-made breakfast waiting for you. Overnight oats are definitely something to consider. They are quick, easy, cheap, healthy, and filling. Now, remember, you don’t want to be feeling sluggish or sleepy during the test, so don’t overeat. However, the NBCOT is FOUR hours long and you’ll probably be there for a total of five hours, so eating breakfast is a must.

You can do some research on your own regarding “brain food” such as fish, avocados, broccoli, and coconut oil. The main thing here is to stick to your normal diet. Don’t do anything crazy. Just stick with the normal routine that got you through grad school. Your stomach is already going to be in knots from the nerves, but you don’t need to make it worse!

3) Pick an outfit

Continuing with our theme of being overly prepared, be sure to have your clothes for test day laid out. Again, it helps eliminate unnecessary stress in the morning.

Have you ever heard the saying “look good, feel good, do good”? So go ahead and do what you need to do to look and feel your best.




However, also remember that you are going to be sitting for the majority of four hours. So try and choose something comfortable. Maybe try your favorite pair of jeans or yoga pants with a light shirt. Bring a jacket just in case because you may never know the temperature of the testing room.

4) Exercise

This is probably preaching to the choir here, but listen. Exercise will help you regulate your mood and help get the jitters out. An easy jog or yoga will help you relax the night before the NBCOT and assist you in staying calm. Being active the day before will also wear you out in hopes of getting a good night's rest.




Don’t overdo it, and don’t get yourself hurt. We are talking just a simple run or workout. Maybe 20-45 minutes!

5) Study. Maybe…




This is a very personal choice and it’s not for everyone. Sometimes, the cramming can stress you out.

But if you have extra time (since you got to the testing center early), why not quickly review your developmental milestones or spinal cord levels? If you believe practicing your pneumatic phrases just before the test may make a difference, then go for it. Some people thrive under pressure and their adrenaline kicks in.

Even so, a quick glimpse over the notes might not hurt the night before the NBCOT if you promise not to psych yourself out.

6) Get some rest

Obviously, I’m talking about sleep here (every OT student’s favorite occupation). Try and get your normal 8-10 hours here, but also don’t do anything new or drastic. Follow your normal habits, routines, and rituals before hitting the sack.




Don’t forget about good sleep hygiene. Be sure to avoid your bright screens right before hitting your pillow. If you have trouble falling asleep, put the phone down and try reading a book or listening to a podcast while laying down.

You can also try some meditation, mindfulness, or yoga. All of which have been proven to reduce stress.

On the day of the NBCOT

Do what you need to do to be cool, calm, and collected for the night before the NBCOT exam. Trust yourself and the hours of hard work you have put in.

Once you've passed the NBCOT, you may be wondering what Occupational Therapy setting is best for your personal and professional goals. That's where we come in! Press the link below.

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