Physical Therapy Exam: Everything You Need to Know


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According to the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy, there are more than 300,000 physical therapists working throughout the U.S. at this time. If you’re interested in joining them, you’re going to need to obtain the proper training in school and pass the physical therapy exam.

You’ll have to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination in order to get your hands on the license that you’ll need to work as a physical therapist. And it can be challenging to pass the NPTA exam if you don’t take it seriously enough.

Today, we’re going to walk you through everything that you’ll need to know about the physical therapy exam. It’ll help you to prepare for it so that you can pass it with flying colors. You should also be able to use a lot of the tips that we provide here if you’re planning to take the PTA exam.

Here is what you need to know about the physical therapy exam.

Qualifying for the Physical Therapy Exam

Before you begin getting ready to take the physical therapy exam, it’ll be important for you to make sure that you actually qualify for it. The last thing that you want to do is spend a bunch of time studying for the PT or PTA license exam only to realize that you’re not eligible to take it for real.

In order to qualify for the physical therapy exam, you need to have a physical therapy degree from an educational institution that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. If you don’t have this degree, that will be the first step you’ll need to take prior to sitting for the physical therapy exam.

You’ll also need to register for the physical therapy exam, pay a registration fee, and seek to get approved to take the board exam by the licensing authority in your specific state.

Preparing for the Physical Therapy Exam

Once you know that you qualify to take the physical therapy exam, you can hit the books and start to study for it. You should research which topics are going to be covered in the physical therapy exam and study them as hard as you can.

You should also consider signing up for a PT or PTA exam prep course. This will give you a chance to get a full PT or PTA test review, which will put you in the perfect position to pass your physical therapy exam later on.

Checking In for the Physical Therapy Exam

On the day of your physical therapy exam, it’ll be imperative that you show up early. This is because there is a very stringent check-in process for those who will be taking the physical therapy exam.

When you check-in for the physical therapy exam, you’ll need to:

  • Present a valid form of ID to prove that you are who you say you are
  • Have a digital photograph taken
  • Sign a physical therapy exam logbook
  • Get your fingerprint taken digitally

As long as everything checks out when you check in, you’ll then be taken to an individual workstation with a computer where you’ll take the actual physical therapy exam. Testing centers go above and beyond to make sure that their test rooms are as quiet as they can be. But you’re allowed to bring earplugs if you would like to eliminate any and all noise.

Taking the Physical Therapy Exam

After you get settled at your workstation for the physical therapy exam, you’ll get a brief tutorial explaining the exam and what you’ll be expected to do while taking it. Once that’s over, you’ll be able to start taking the physical therapy exam.

The physical therapy exam itself will last for approximately five hours. It will include 250 multiple-choice questions. You will have the opportunity to take a break after every 50 questions if you would like.

You will be provided with an erasable whiteboard that you can use if you want to take notes at any point during the physical therapy exam. You’ll likely want to turn to it early and often to make sense of some of the things that you’ll see on the NPTA exam.

Obtaining Scores for the Physical Therapy Exam

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see whether you passed or failed the physical therapy exam right after taking it. It will take approximately five days for your physical therapy exam score to get sent to your state’s licensing authority.

From there, you will be able to see if you passed the physical therapy exam. It’ll help you decide what you’ll need to do next.

Retaking the Physical Therapy Exam

If you don’t pass the physical therapy exam on your first attempt, you might initially think that becoming a physical therapist isn’t in the cards for you. But not to worry!

You are allowed to take the physical therapy exam up to three times in a 12-month period. So if you aren’t able to pass it at first, you can always go back and hit the books again to try to learn the material that you’ll need to know to pass the physical therapy exam the next time.

Obtaining a License After Passing the Physical Therapy Exam

Once you pass the physical therapy exam, you should be able to secure your license and become a physical therapist. But there may be a few other hoops that you have to jump through first depending on which state you live in.

You should contact your state’s licensing authority to see what the requirements are to obtain a physical therapy license. You won’t be able to begin working as a physical therapist until you meet all the necessary requirements.

Start Taking Steps Towards Taking the Physical Therapy Exam Today

If you’ve had your sights set on turning yourself into a physical therapist for a long time now, the physical therapy exam is the only thing standing between you and your dream. Now that you know more about the PT exam, you should make the necessary moves to get out there and take it.

Passing the physical therapy exam will allow you to begin working as a physical therapist in the near future. It’ll also ensure that you’re equipped with the necessary information to do a great job as a physical therapist.

Read through some of the other articles on our blog to get more great career-related advice.