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The NPTE and COVID-19

by Lola Adeyeye PT, DPT, CSOMT

young-woman-doctor-older-man-patient-smilingSpring 2020 created many surprises, life events, and dreams deferred all in the form of a virus. If you are a new physical therapy graduate, you probably had a perfect timeline of your post-graduate life. Your new life outside of school may have consisted of moving to a new city, starting a new job, or even continuing your educational journey by beginning a residency. However, many of those plans are presently on hold, leaving many to wonder, "what do I do next"? If you are a new physical therapy graduate, one item remains on your to-do list before you can partake in any plans, taking the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). During a pandemic such as COVID-19, one may wonder, "how can I possibly study?"

Here are eight tips for the new grad physical therapist on how to succeed in passing the NPTE during the COVID-19 pandemic!

Step #1: Take a break to breathe and relax

Studying for any licensing exam can be stressful and intimidating. In our current climate, we are continually watching news updates concerning COVID-19 and the state of the world, leaving little to no concern for studying. Find the time to unplug from social media and the news to reset your mental space. Several mobile apps, such as Headspace, can assist in meditation and breathing techniques in those anxious times. A relaxed mind will help you perform better while studying and on your test day.

Step #2: Stay up to date

With ongoing changes concerning the pandemic, it is essential to stay informed on the latest news and how it affects your testing conditions and test dates. A useful resource for testing updates is the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). On their website, there are many resources and FAQs regarding testing dates, testing conditions, and expected score delivery times. Be sure to view their guidelines for when to register for your exam, to avoid missing the deadline!

Step #3: Make a Game Plan

The most critical action when preparing for an exam is to create a study plan. The exam consists of content from the prior three years. Reviewing all of the material in one study session can be overwhelming, so develop a plan to divide the content into sections for specific days.

Many test-takers find it easier to organize their study plan with a calendar or study planner. Others prefer having their plan at their fingertips by using resources in their smartphones, such as notepads or mobile apps. For example, I love the old-fashioned system of writing things down with a pen and paper. Writing out your plans and color-coding your notes are excellent tactics to stay organized.

Your style of organizing may be different from your peers, and that is okay. There is no formula to stay organized, so do what is best for you. Layout your timeline of events and assign days for practice tests, content review, and resting, so you have a balanced plan in place.

Step #4: Find your favorite resource(s)

There are SO many resources in studying for the NPTE. Many of these resources include textbooks, prep books, online self-paced, and group study courses. A few examples of online study prep courses include the The PT Hustle, PT Final Exam, and NPTE Final Frontier. Find your primary resource for information that you are the most comfortable using. Use other resources as supplemental study material for clarification on challenging topics. You can also find information on exam content via podcasts, YouTube channels, and blogging sites. For purposes of the exam, remember, your test is directly from your textbook, and it should be your primary source of information.

Step#5: Choose your accountability buddy

If you are a group studier or an independent studier, make sure you have someone to keep you accountable. It is easy to lose track of time, dates, and meals when your days consist of studying and more studying. Your accountability partner can be anyone from your mom to your best friend who will give you that friendly reminder when your activity on social media exceeds your study break. An accountability partner also serves as a great sounding board when you need to vent about study challenges or after a practice test. These current times can be lonely, but remember you are not in this alone!

Step#6: Find your favorite study spot

You are going to study a lot over the next month, so it is essential to find, or create, a productive study environment. Of course, learning in your bed may seem pleasing, but it's too close to your smart tv with your Netflix account. If you prefer to study at home, create an ideal study environment away from distractions. Use your desk space or kitchen table to allow enough room for notes and your resources. It is also a good idea to add some variability into your study routine and change study spots. If you are more comfortable studying at coffee shops, you may be frustrated with your limited creative space options currently. So create the space. Brew your favorite tea or coffee, light a candle, and play jazz music in your background as you study. Allow your study environment to be relaxing.

Step #7: Discover your hobbies (they will keep you sane)

During this time in quarantine, I think it's safe to say we all have either revamped our old hobbies or created new ones. Please don't stop your hobbies during your study season. Keep doing them! Working out, cooking, scrapbooking, and journaling are all great outlets for stress relief. Also, remember to refer back to step one: Breathe! Include a daily hobby on your study days to help offset the stress of studying. If you do not have a stress outlet, include that as a task as you make your game plan. You won't regret it!


You are more than capable of succeeding in passing this exam! You have completed three years in a vigorous program, experienced the realities of going to school, and, for some, participated in clinical internships during a pandemic. Do not sell yourself short. You can and will survive this season and make it to the next chapter as a licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy. Best of luck!

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