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How to develop an NPTE® study plan

Now that you have established WHAT you are becoming and the mission you are on, you need a plan.

Let’s talk study schedule.

Part of working toward passing the NPTE® is knowing HOW to study, WHAT to study, and where to FOCUS.


This might surprise you. When you study, DO NOT study for an extended period of time. Look to study in 1-hour blocks. If you choose to study more than 1 hour per day, be sure to take a break in between your study sessions.

Then, set a schedule. The key is CONSISTENCY. No matter if you start studying three months or four weeks out from the test, just be sure to choose a study time each day and then choose to SHOW UP. For example, if you have a job that starts at 9:00am, set a 1-hour schedule every day for yourself to study from 7:30-8:30am. Then, you’re already done for the day and you might even revisit the information in your thoughts as you have capacity and time to do so. But the important part here isn’t the 7:30-8:30am. Rather, it’s just being consistent and showing up every single day for that one hour.

Finally, when thinking about how to study, you need to set goals. Before you open any textbook, write out for yourself a SMART goal (which, incidentally, is a topic that may come up on the NPTE). You will always want to write SMART goals as a clinician, so start practicing now.

When you write your goals, be explicit and specific about what you will accomplish with your 1-hour study session. For example, “At the end of 30 minutes, I will be able to describe the four types of incontinence and give one PT intervention for each type”. If you define what you expect to achieve in your study session, you will be able to determine whether or not you met your goal.


The NPTE® has content categories for both the PT and PTA exam. Both exams have the same body system content. The largest three categories are Musculoskeletal, Neuromuscular, & Cardiopulmonary systems (in order of greatest amount of questions on the test).

While you can certainly pass the test without achieving a 600 or more scaled score in each of these “big 3” categories, it is advisable to perform the best in the largest three categories, as it becomes much easier to attain a passing score if you do so.

That said, it is also advisable to spend a significant amount of time on the Musculoskeletal, Neuromuscular, & Cardiopulmonary systems. Stay tuned in future blogs for breakdowns of the most important content to study for each system.


Besides knowing how to study and what to study, you do have to be cognizant of the rest of your time. There is a reason you always hear the same instructions over and over again - because the advice works!

So DO make good sleeping habits.

DO choose to do exercise once per day.

DO pick your meals carefully to give your brain and body full sustenance.

In our blog series you will read much about mindset, perspective, and shifting your predispositions. This is another battle that will not just “happen”. It takes time and work to collect your thoughts well and to learn to find the right frame of mind before you walk into the exam. Devote part of your resting and free time to working on your mindset.

(Check out other blogs for ways to learn how to successfully set yourself up for the NPTE®).

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