NPTE Preparation

NPTE Prep Chp. 4


So I found out that I had passed the NPTE roughly 6-7 days after taking the exam. It was definitely a rush of emotions, but all the work I had put in to accomplish this feat, was truly validated by seeing that “Passed” logo. So I would like to talk a little bit about what happens now. In the state of NJ, where I live, a criminal background check is required to obtain licensure via fingerprints. I completed this part the weekend before taking the exam. I wanted to make sure that this was finished prior to receiving my results so that when I finally did pass, nothing was stopping me from getting the license as fast as possible. I was mailed the rest of my application that I had to fill out, along with paying a fee of course. I actually was able to receive my state license number over the phone within 4 days of bringing the application into the State of consumer affairs office.


Now, since I completed all of my interviews back in late May, I do have a job waiting for me once I had my license to practice. This brings me to my next point. After receiving your state licensure, you will need to apply for a National Provider Identifier (NPI) number. This will allow you to legally be reimbursed for services by insurance companies. The application process will ask for your state license number and your place of work. I’m not entirely sure, but I believe you need to be able to put a work address down in order to receive an NPI number. The NPI number is said to take anywhere from 1 – 21 days to be emailed to you and the state license, in NJ, is said to get mailed to you within 15 business days of being approved.


My biggest piece of advice during this time is to not get all caught up in the things you have to do, worrying about what forms you have to fill out now and this and that. Don’t forget to take a moment and really celebrate what you have just achieved. Passing this exam sums up everything you’ve worked for going through DPT school. For me, it was 7 years in a row from undergrad to graduate school of just grinding and learning. I was actually on vacation when I found out these results with family around me, so it was the perfect time to be able to announce my achievement. So much work is put in to passing this exam, so when the time comes, you should celebrate! Thank your family and friends for putting up with your stresses, emotions, attitudes etc. I know my parents were there supporting me throughout the entire process and I definitely appreciate them for it. It’s good to give credit when it’s due!


Another piece of advice I’d like to give is to take a little bit of time between your exam results and starting work. The past few months were grueling and you should take some time to yourself to recover and celebrate before entering the real world and your new career.

It’s important to note that I scored higher on the actual NPTE than any of the practice exams including the PEATs.  If you put the work in with a technique that’s individualized to your needs, the results can be fruitful!

NPTE scale score: 723 (Roughly a 84-85%)

Dr. Mike Montalbano PT, DPT

NPTE Prep Chp. 3

I took 1 TherapyEd exam:

Okay, so it may seem like I slacked in this area, but it’s because I had already gone through TherapyEd once before and I only had one exam left that I hadn’t taken.  These exams are generally expected to be more challenging and therefor you may score lower on average as compared to the SB exams. The TherapyEd text is very thorough and seems to be much more detailed. SB text seems to be a great review but if you need further explanations, you may need to reference other materials. The TherapyEd review is slightly different than that of SB in that they provide you with the type of reasoning required to answer each question. If you are lacking in let’s say deductive reasoning as opposed to inductive reason, then you can focus on that aspect in your preparation. Furthermore, both SB and TherapyEd break down the levels of each question. The levels range from 1- 4 and translate to knowledge, comprehension, application, and analysis. The last 2 are key, namely application and analysis, as these require you to take everything you’ve learned in and out of PT school and make a clinical judgment or decision.

I will include my first 2 exams that I took 6-8 months prior when I was preparing for my comprehensive exam at school.

TherapyEd exam 1 (09/2016) – 60%

TherapyEd exam 2 (10/2016) – 60%

TherapyEd exam 3 (06/23/17) – 64%

So after a month of studying and taking 3 SB exams, that received pretty nice scores, I got a 64% on a TherapyEd exam. I was slightly disappointed at the time, but I remembered that these exams were a lot more challenging. I stayed the course and reviewed my questions the next day and continued on. Also, (Not that I’m making excuses … ) until this point I had only been reviewing SB’s text and not TherapyEd’s. This may have contributed to the slightly low score.

I took 2 PEAT exams:

The PEAT exams are prep exams provided by the FSBPT, so these exams will be much more similar to the actual NPTE. One exam is a pure practice exam and the other is an actual retired exam. I believe the federation changes out exams every 7 years and so the retired exam may be that many years old and may be even over 10 years. These exams are structured exactly the same. The color scheme looked the same and the amount of time and sections was the same. There are 5 sections and you will have 5 hours to complete them. The mandatory break is after the first 2 sections, and then you must complete three more after. I took the practice exam first. I treated this exam as if it really was the NPTE. I kept my calm and utilized all the strategies I had learned over the past 2 months. Speaking of which, I will be posting a section just on strategies and tips for test taking so keep an eye out for that. I spent a little over 4 hours in a cubicle in the public library with my sound deadening headphones with just a snack of mixed nuts at break time. I even used a mouse on my MacBook to simulate what it will be like. 50 questions out of the 250 questions you will be answering will not be graded. These are just trial questions for the next exam. So, you are still being graded out of 200 questions.  Both the PEATs provided performance analysis on multiple categories. They provide your score, a scale score, projected NPTE score, and “on track to pass” stats. Now the practice exam is just that, a practice test. However, the retired exam provides the best info on your ability to pass the NPTE.  99.3% of those who pass the retired NPTE go on to pass the actual NPTE, which is pretty strong evidence if you ask me. I took the practice exam first at a little over 2 weeks out and the retired exam 1 week out. Here were my scores:


Practice exam PEAT (07/3/17) – 82%

Retired exam PEAT (07/12/17) – 79%


So my Peat score were pretty decent. I was hoping for a little better on the retired exam but that was passing. Nonetheless, I was feeling pretty confident at this point.


  • TherapyEd exams slightly more challenging
  • Note the type of level and questions you are getting wrong as there might be a pattern
  • I highly recommend taking the PEATs. These will be the best indicators of you passing the exam!
  • The next section will go over tips and strategies in taking this monster exam


Dr. Mike Montalbano PT, DPT



NPTE Prep Chp. 2

I took 3 of the Scorebuilder’s Practice exams:

So like I originally stated, I began preparing roughly 2.5 months out. I structured my practice exams to be every 10 days. This may seem slightly extreme to some, but this was recommended by the TherapyEd prep course. I actually liked this layout considering my issues were more or less with how to take this monster of an exam, rather than the material itself.

The SB’s exams are generally accepted to be easier than that of the TherapyEd Company. Therefor grades should be slightly higher. I will post my grades later on for you all to reference and compare. For the first 3 exams, I was aiming for anything between 65% and 75% to be comfortable with my study framework. I made sure to keep the practice test structure and environment similar to that of the actual NPTE which includes a 15 minute break after 2 sections of 50 questions. This 15 minute break will not be deducted from the total time allotted (4 hours for SB and TherapyEd exams and 5 hours for the NPTE). If you wish to take a break at any time other than the allotted 15 minutes, time will continue to count down so plan accordingly. For me specifically, time was not an issue. I usually completed my practice exams in 3-3.5 hours and the actual NPTE in 4. Everyone is different so I would like to advise that the general recommendation is to answer 1 question a minute. As along as you maintain that pace, you will complete the exam with plenty of time to spare.

Once I completed my practice exams, I took a look at my score, closed my laptop, and drove home. That was the end of my productivity for the day. Everyone will be different, but I felt that these tests were draining. I chose to wait till the following day to review the questions and answers. You should absolutely go over every single question, not just the incorrect answers! More often than not, we are eliminating 2 answers in each question to improve our odds. Sometimes this elimination can be obvious and sometimes it requires complex thought. At the end of that process you are left with 2 possibilities that both look like they could be correct. Many times you will be using your best guess and in those situations you will want to understand why you were either right or wrong. Read all of the explanations provided on why you were right and why you were wrong (the explanations of the correct answers are provided in SB, TherapyEd, and PEAT). This will help you pin point what information you are lacking in or what strategies are working/not working. Make mental notes or jot down what info you need to brush over or review. This will continue to occur up until you take the NPTE!

When I reviewed my practice exams the following day, it usually averaged around 4 hours so that was it for that day as well. Again, this format worked for me but you should tweak it accordingly.

My SB’s scores:

5/13/17 SB exam 1 – 65%

5/23/17 SB exam 2 – 72%

6/12/17 SB exam 3 – 79%

My SB’s results were promising considering the linear progression I was making and at just about 6 weeks out I was feeling confident. I took a longer break than usual between my practice exams 2 and 3 as I was back at school receiving my diploma and graduating! My next blog will include the rest of my practice exams including TherapyEd and the PEATs!


  • General recommendation to structure practice exams every 10 days
  • Practice exams were all I did on the day they were scheduled (No open books!!!)
  • The following day was reserved for just reviewing questions and nothing more.
  • Keep your practice exam structure and environment similar to the actual NPTE!


Dr. Mike Montalbano PT, DPT

NPTE Prep Chp. 1

Alright guys, so I’m going to kick start this section here on how to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE). I am jumping the gun here as I just took the exam 3 days ago, but I’m hoping for the best! This is such a HUGE topic and everybody’s different, so take what I say with a grain of salt. Tweak my advice and individualize it to yourselves so that you prepare in the way that best suits your personality and needs.

The general recommendation is to begin studying between 2 – 3 months out. I started nearly 2.5 months out, on 4/30/17 for the 7/19/17 exam. I got both the Scorebuilder’s (SB) and TherapyEd textbooks as well as the Scorebuilder’s flash cards and question of the day (QOTD) applications for SB and “NPTE Pocket Prep”. The NPTE pocket prep seemed to reference O’Sullivan a lot so I figured it must’ve been good. Scorebuilder’s QOTD costed $9.99 and gave a variety of questions ranging from easy to hard. The app also supplied info on your performance compared to others who had the app, which was nice to see (This aspect could cause anxiety for some). Both apps were great, however the SB’s questions seemed to be a little more challenging. But, enough about the apps let’s talk about how I structured my studying time.

My strategy changed along the way as I did unfortunately experience burnout. In the beginning up until about a month out, I was waking up around 6, and studying from 6:30 to 8:30. I would then go to the gym at 9 am for about 3 – 3.5 hours. (I love the gym, and it’s great for stress relief, so definitely squeeze exercise in!) Ideally I would complete another 3 hour block from 1 pm to 4 pm. I would finally complete the day with 1 hour of studying between 5:30 and 6:30 pm. My hope for this entire process was to maintain 4 – 6 hours of studying per day 6 days a week, which leads me back to the burnout aspect. 6 hours was very doable in the beginning, however, the quality of your study time is of way more importance! I was noticing towards the end of June, that my cell phone was coming out way more often and I was finding any reason at all to not study, despite being at a library/coffee shop. It was better for me to put my phone away and accept a 4-hour day, than struggle through a 6-hour day and half-ass my attention throughout. I made sure that with each block of studying, I changed my environment to keep my mind at ease. I bounced between multiple coffee shops, libraries, and occasionally home.

This leads me to another area of importance! I have always been able to study in any environment, loud or quiet. When I was in loud coffee shops, however, I chose to listen to some very mellow/chill music with ear buds. When it was time for practice exams and the real NPTE however, I used earplugs and sound deadening headphones. So you have to find what works best for you and try to stay consistent. I would advise that you keep all of your practice exams similar to how you will be taking the NPTE, which will be in a quiet room in a cubicle. The earplugs are optional obviously. This is all for today, but we will be posting much, much more in the upcoming weeks!


  • General recommendation to study 4-6 hours per day, 6 days a week
  • Quality of studying better than quantity!
  • Space the time out over the course of the day to maintain focus
  • Switch up your environments to keep your energy elevated
  • Exercise is great for stress relief during this crazy time!


Dr. Mike Montalbano PT, DPT





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