National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) Overview

The National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) is the exam that candidates must take if they want to become a physical therapist (PT) or a physical therapist assistant (PTA). There are several different requirements that everyone taking the NPTE PT or PTA exams must meet. One of these requirements is graduation from an accredited PT or PTA program.

Registering for the NPTE
Once the PT or PTA student has finished school with a passing score, he or she must register for the NPTE to become certified and licensed. Students should check the registration deadlines on the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy website. There are four tests each year, which means students should be prompt when registering.

Students must fill out their state application, the exam registration paperwork, and pay for the exam before the last date for registration for the chosen test date. Once the state approves the application, students receive an Authorization to Test (ATT) letter. With the letter in hand, the student can schedule a test appointment with Prometric.

Students should study for the exam by going over the major content areas included on the test. Of the 250 questions on the NPTE PT, 56 questions relate to the examination, 70 to the evaluation and differential diagnosis, 57 to interventions, 14 to equipment, and 14 to safety and protection. The test includes questions about the major bodily systems within the 250 that correlate to the domains of practice.

The NPTE PTA comprises of 200 questions that fall within three domains of practice and the major bodily systems. Each domain has an associated acceptable correct answer range, and the same corresponds to the bodily systems. This makes the exam challenging, but not impossible. Test candidates should take the PEAT practice exam, which includes two timed practice exams for $99.

Taking the NPTE
To take the NPTE, candidates must arrive 30 minutes early and have two forms of ID. Both forms must contain the candidate’s name and signature, and one must be a driver’s license or state ID card. The name on the ATT and ID must match to take the exam. Those who take the PT exam have five hours, while the PTA exam is four hours. The test is divided into sections of 50 questions each, which include scored and pretest (unscored) questions.

After Completion
After completion of the exam, students can go home. Within 10 business days of the exam, students will have the ability to check their score report. This allows them to know if they passed or failed the exam. Scores above a 600 are passing. However, those who score less than 600 must retake the exam. If a student must retest, he or she will have to go through the registration process again. Candidates can take the test three times in the same 12-month period.

Candidates who receive their PT or PTA certification receive a state license after completing a Jurisprudence Exam (if required). Once the license is approved, the candidate can apply for a job as a PT or PTA, depending on the exam taken. After licensure, many states require continuing education and license renewal every two years.