To begin your career as a physical therapist, you must pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE). If you have just completed your online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program, presumably, you have a practicing license, however, if you are just beginning your career as a physical therapist, you will need to sit for the NPTE exam to obtain your license to practice.
So, perhaps you’re wondering why the additional testing is necessary. Didn’t you just graduate from an accredited DPT program? Yes, however, to ensure that you learned and have retained what you learned, the NPTE test is designed to assess the knowledge and skills that you have acquired through your graduate program. The test ensures that you meet all regulatory requirements for meeting the patient’s needs in an efficient and safe manner. Depending on your state’s regulations, you might also be responsible for taking a jurisprudence exam, which will test your knowledge in your state’s laws regarding physical therapy.
To apply for licensure, you must contact your jurisdiction, complete the proper application, pay the applicable fee and follow their instructions for submission. Once approved, they will allow you to sit for the NPTE exam, as well as, any other exams required by your state.
Prepare for the NPTE exam. You can start at any time by going to The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) website to find helpful tools such as an online practice exam to see how you do and where you may need to spend some extra study time. You may also want to review the NPTE Candidate Handbook for other insightful tips. The exam consists of 250 multiple-choice questions that will test your knowledge of the major areas of physical therapy. You will have five hours to take the test with one 15-minute scheduled break.
Typically, the NPTE will test your knowledge in cardiovascular and pulmonary systems, neuromuscular and nervous systems, musculoskeletal system, gastrointestinal system and the lymphatic system, as well as, safety and protection practices and your knowledge in using PT equipment and devices, just to name a few exam topics.
To take the exam, you must pay a $400 exam fee, however, effective January 1, 2019, the fee is expected to increase. You must arrive 30 minutes prior to your scheduled testing time with two forms of identification. One must be a photo ID such as a driver’s license or passport and the other identification must have your name printed on it with your signature, such as a credit card. Your social security card will not be considered as an acceptable form of ID. All identification names must be identical to the name on your “Authorization to Test” letter.
Did you pass? To get your score, FSBPT will allow you to go online after ten days to see if you passed, however, within five days of testing, your scores will be sent to the licensing authority where you applied for licensure. Hopefully, your score was 600 or above. If so, congratulations are in order. You’re ready to get to work!
However, if your score was below 600, don’t worry, you can take the exam again. You can take the exam a maximum of three times within a twelve-month period. Although there is not a “waiting period” between attempts, you will need to wait till the next available scheduled test. In addition, if you fail, you may request a “Performance Feedback Report” to see where you need to do some extra preparations. After six attempts to pass the NPTE exam, you should probably think about pursuing another career, for the FSBPT will not allow you to test again.
Good luck to all! If you are interested in a PT career, please see our list of the Best Online Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree Programs.