1. Pace Yourself
Studying for the NPTE (and really any board exam for that matter) is like running a marathon. It’s not a sprint where you can run all out for the first 200 meters and hope that adrenaline will carry you through the second 200 meters. You need endurance to successfully finish this race. Now that you’ve had a few weeks to mentally and physically recover after an exciting finish to your scholastic career, it is time to hit the ground running. By beginning your preparation more than 6 weeks out from the exam, you will be able to appropriately pace yourself. Set aside windows of time each day to spend on focused preparation. Make yourself a calendar with what time you will study, where you will study, and what your objective is for that session (practice test or specific area of focus). This will serve as your training plan. Remember, stick to your plan!
Tips for Creating Your Training Plan
You have 5 hours to complete the 250 question exam. To ensure you’ll have endurance, make sure to allot for several 5 hour practice study sessions. This can be in the form of practice tests or general study sessions.
Try to space out your practice exams evenly so that you can accurately measure progress. If you have 6 practice exams and start your preparation 6 weeks prior test day, complete 1 practice exam each week.
As with any training program, you need adequate rest breaks. Pick 1-2 days off each week to allow your brain some recovery time. Plan something fun and relaxing to do on these days to give you something to look forward to while you are studying.
2. Practice Makes Perfect
At this point in the game, you know the material. You’ve graduated from an academically rigorous program and have demonstrated that you are an entry-level practitioner through your clinical affiliations. But this test covers SO MUCH material! How do you narrow down the most important topics and relevant content? You know the material, now it’s time to master the test. How do you master the test? You practice taking tests!
Get your hands on as many NPTE prep books as you can! Complete all the practice questions within these books and review the rationale for not only the right answer choices but also the incorrect answer choices. Create notes/flashcards for information that requires further reinforcement prior to test day.
Complete as many full length practice tests as possible. Many of the test prep books come with CD-ROMs or flash drives with full length practice tests. Space these tests out evenly from each other. Complete the tests on a computer to simulate the testing environment on exam day. After completing each test, take time to review the rationale for each answer choice and take notes that you can review at a later time.
The more practice questions and practice tests you complete, the more confident you will become in your test taking ability. Not only will you learn how to narrow down the answer choices, but you will gain a better idea of which topics come up more frequently. This is also a great way to practice your time management skills so that you don’t feel rushed during the test.
3. Study Like You Studied During School
By this point, you know how you learn and study best. Now is not the time to try new study techniques. Did you study in groups during school or did you prefer your solitude? Did you utilize flashcards, hand-written notes, or study with your PowerPoint slides? Are you a late night studier or function better early in the mornings? If you studied using flashcards, make flashcards of key facts, terminology, and clinical concepts that you came across while reading the review books and taking practice tests. If you studied hand-written notes, takes notes as you are reading the review books and reviewing rationales for the correct and incorrect answer choices on the practice tests. If you studied using the PowerPoint slides from your lectures, create study PowerPoint slides for facts, terminology, and clinical concepts that require remediation. Study the same way you studied while you were in school. This will help you feel more relaxed and confident in your ability to do well during test day.
4. Avoid Distractions During Your Set Study Times
While you’re studying, there’s probably a billion things you would rather be doing instead of studying. Prepare yourself for success by avoiding distractions as much as possible. Choose locations that have little outside noise and interruption. Put your phone on “do not disturb” and turn off any social media. This will help make your study time more focused and thus, higher quality. Let your family and friends know that you are studying and will be unavailable until “X”. If you are speaking with recruiters because you are ready to get started as soon as possible, communicate your study schedule with them. This will afford them the opportunity to connect with you outside of your set study times without being an outside distraction. Recruiters want you to be successful on exam day, so keep the lines of communication open so that they can continue to be a great resource for you.
Remember, the end is in sight! Once you pass this test, you won’t have to sit for another exam of this magnitude unless you choose to do so. You’ll be amazed by how much free time you’ll have to relish your time outside of work, meet new people, explore new places, and enjoy some much needed R&R.