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If you think you failed (or you know), TAKE HEART and DON’T LOSE HOPE!

Let’s talk four things to do.

.01 Process It

The VERY first thing to do is take a breath.

Alright, the worst is over. You already know the outcome.

Give yourself time to process this. It’s an emotional upheaval and time is the best remedy.

This exam is HARD. It tests you in ONE way only - multiple choice, written format. On a normal day in the clinic you will not be sitting down to 200 or 250 multiple choice questions.

You will be on your feet interacting with patients and thinking fast.

Unfortunately, the NPTE cannot assess you in the manner in which you will be practicing. The take-away lesson here is that the exam is not a reflection of your skillset as a clinician.

The domains of learning include three categories: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor. Clinical competence extends beyond cognitive information to include affective domain skills like care, compassion, and patient relations, as well as psychomotor abilities like using your hands for manual therapy skills.

You are most likely becoming a PT or PTA because you harbor significant abilities and gifts that go beyond didactic information.

So don’t walk away from all the work and effort you just put in. Think of it as a foundation to build on.

Go do something completely unrelated to the exam and allow yourself to process what just happened.

.02 Debrief

Next, reflect on the test. Be as genuine and truthful as you can.

Write down how you really think the test went and anything you can remember from that day.

Then write down what YOU think you truly need in order to pass. You are the best person to know what you need.

Snag your score report if you can. It can help you find a direction forward. Reach out if you want help processing and interpreting your report.


Blog 0.34.

How to Interpret Your Score Report

A step by step walkthrough for how to read your NPTE score report and how to use it for future planning.


.03 Write a Strategy Plan

This is the time to take action.

You HAVE to be a problem-solver regarding this test.

You need a plan to go forward. That plan might change and you can develop it further as time goes on, but put something down right now.

Approach this as if it’s a patient. Your patient comes in, they tell you a problem, and then your job is to solve it.

The same goes for the NPTE. You already know the overall issue - passing the test - but identify the actual problems (like you would identify impairments within a diagnosis).

Do you need to work on:

  • Interpreting the question’s meaning

  • Understanding how to choose between 50-50

  • Increasing your confidence

  • Decreasing your anxiety

  • Limiting the tendency to overthink

  • Sticking to the study schedule you made

  • A certain body system or category (like musculoskeletal or lymphatics)

  • Or something else?

Whatever YOU think keeps you from conquering this test - that needs to become part of your plan. A majority of your plan will come from the debriefing you already completed.

.04 Create Your First Goals

Go ahead and write out the first steps to get you where you need to go. Try to create realistic, tangible, and specific goals.

Even if you can’t take the test next round or you’re planning to take some time off, write down your goals while everything is relatively fresh. Then you’ll already have a plan and a partial roadmap to get going when you return full force to contend with this test.


Takeaway Prescription



“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts”
~ Winston Churchill

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