The 5 Stages of Emotions After the NPTE

We all know Kubler-Ross’ 5 Stages of Grief, yea? Denial…Anger…Bargaining…Depression…Acceptance.  Well, I believe the few days following the NPTE and waiting to get your results have some interesting stages, too!  These are the stages I went through in the days between taking the NPTE and waiting for my results.  It’s funny now…but wait until YOU go through it! 🙂  In fact, maybe you should read this after you take the NPTE…I don’t want to freak anybody out!

Stage I: Numbness

IT IS A 5-HOUR LONG EXAM!….Five sections with 50 questions and only ONE 15-minute break after the first 2 sections.  And during these 5 hours, your brain is all over the place, ranging from: “You know, I don’t think this is that bad….” to “oh my gosh, this is worse than I thought” and
THANK GOD I looked that up yesterday” to “I should know this answer…I looked at this 5 million times“….all while trying to make sure you stay on track to finish in the 5-hour time frame.

The NPTE is a lot about what you know, but it is also a lot about your ability to stay focused for 5 hours.  You  really begin feeling the fatigue by the 4th and 5th sections.  So when you finally do get to that last “Submit” button, it’s a little surreal.  In a way, you kinda felt like the darn test was never going to end.  And for a brief moment, it is less about how you thought you did and more about crossing the finish line.  YOU, my friend, completed the whole exam.

In general, you feel pretty numb to the whole experience as you walk out the doors to head home.  You’ve been staring at a computer screen for 5 hours.  You’re exhausted.  And for the next, very few, minutes, you can’t think of anything but getting into your car and driving home to go to bed.  Your brain has a bazillion things swirling around inside of it.  Memories of test questions have yet to start popping into your brain.  It’s not the most pleasant state of mind but, unfortunately, this stage is as good as it will get for the next few days.

Stage II: Catharsis

Now remember, I said the first stage was short-lived!

You get to your car and decide to call someone…you know, to let them know you’re still alive.  Let’s say you call your mom (I did!).  Your mom (or whatever unfortunate person you decided to call) picks up the phone and, of course, asks how it went. And just like that, your brain quickly snaps out of the numbness….“Yea, how did it go?!” you wonder.  The “finisher’s medal” around your neck disappears…it is no longer about surviving the test as much as it’s about whether or not you passed.  The importance of it all comes crashing down on you.  You spent so much time studying for this day…did you prepare enough?!

This is the moment when the emotions hit.  And yes, you cry (at least I did….so make sure you call the right person!).  You cry because your tired.  You cry because you really do not know how you did on the test.  You cry because you spent months studying for the test and you just. can’t. do. it. AGAIN.

This, too, is a short-lived stage because moms really know how to talk a person down (did I suggest calling your mom already?!…CALL YOUR MOM!)….and because you are just too damn tired to carry on like this.  It’s time to go home and sleep!

Stage III: Downward Spiral

You get home from your exam and all you want to do is get into bed and crawl under the blankets and pretend the whole thing never happened…or more like that it did happen and that you got your results and that you passed 😉 You change your clothes, hop into bed and clothes your eyes.

BAM! A question from the test pops into your head and it hits you like a train.  This is a question you were unsure of….this is an evil question! You roll over and try to ignore it but now the two answers you were torn between are floating around in your mind.  Okay fine….you get up and look through one of your books…and there it is…the answer.  And you answered it incorrectly.  NOOOOOOOOO… answered 1 of the 250 questions wrong….basically, you’re an idiot…and so begins the downward spiral into convincing yourself that you failed the exam.  This, my friends, is why YOU SHOULD NOT LOOK UP THE ANSWERS AFTER A TEST (also because you do not want to accidentally give something away to someone who has yet to take it).

Anyway, your brain starts doing math, which is pretty scary because you are not a math person (you chose PT because you like to use your phalanges to solve complex math problems like addition), but your brain insists on it.  And your brain is bound and determined to convince you that you failed. “Okay, let’s see…I got this one wrong…I highly doubt it is one of the 50 questions that are thrown out (you actually have no idea which questions are and aren’t counted but, like I said, your brain is determined to convince you that you failed)…so then if I missed this question, which I thought was one of the easier questions I struggled on, then that means I have 49 questions left that I could have missed to get at 150/200 (assuming that is what they are considering as a score of 600). But then each of the 5 sections is 50 questions…and I had to miss AT LEAST 10 questions in each section (and of course none of them are the ones that they throw out)…soooooo I FAILED.”

All it takes is one stupid question popping into your brain…one stupid question that you just HAD to look up the answer to to arrive to the conclusion that you failed.  I actually looked up quite a few questions and felt better when I got a couple right.  But then I also got quite a few of them wrong…so then I felt like crap again.

Long story short, do NOT look up the answers!  It only gets you a non-stop ticket to Crazy Town…which you were headed for anyway, it’s just now you arrived there a little sooner and have to stay there longer.  And for the next 6 days, Crazy Town is your new home.  Welcome!

**Side Note: I have heard of people hitting up the bar immediately after the exam.  Now I don’t really like alcohol so it’s not for me…but hey, maybe it’s a way to hold this stage off for a little longer! Haha

Stage IV: Calmness

After you get beyond the craziness of the day of the test, you have a couple of days where you have, somewhat, calmed down.  I say “somewhat” because you’re still a psycho lunatic, you are just a little less of one 🙂 Let’s say that maybe you’re living on the outskirts of Crazy Town and make frequent trips to it.

You’ve convinced yourself that there is no point in getting worked up about the test when you know the results won’t be posted until Tuesday-ish (because you’ve noticed that that seems to be when past test-takers have gotten their results).  You try to live a normal life and you, and those around you, go out of their way to distract you from what lies ahead. For instance, my mom and I went to Michael’s to get crafty stuff and walked away with three $2 mystery grab bags that had all kinds of stuff inside.  We each took turns pulling stuff from the bags, without looking, and getting super excited when there was something actually useful inside (like a pen…or stationary that actually had an initial on it that matched one of our names). It was the stuff like that that got me through.

But there’s always that calm before the storm.

Stage V: Insanity

You figure they won’t post the results over the weekend.  You start to lose it again when Monday rolls around.  Maybe just maybe they will post the results sooner this time!! You check the page a bazillion times.  Nothing.  You are losing your mind.

It is Tuesday.  TUESDAY. This is the day that a lot of past test takers got their results.  Come on Tuesday!

Again, you are checking the results like crazy.  You are looking through the Student Doctor Network forums and on facebook to see if anybody has mentioned getting their results.  Nothing….but you know it’s coming.

It’s 8 pm and you look and see on the SDN forums that people are starting to get their results.  Dear God…it’s coming…it’s coming for ME!  You watch as more and more people post that they are getting them.  You stop looking at Facebook because you don’t want to see that your classmates have gotten their results and you have not.  You know that you’ll be finding out soon.  You’ve been texting your best friend in the program and neither of you have your scores yet.  You decide to stop texting your friend because you cannot handle hearing that she got her results when you have not. Your brain starts racing….did I do enough?  Should I have studied more?  Why did I make those silly mistakes?  What if I don’t pass and my classmates and friends ask how I did? Am I going to have to study all over again for another test?  And if I do…what if I don’t pass that one?!  You feel sick.  You want to move away to another country and take up some other career and just never face the results of the test.

I cried a lot during this time.  I cried in front of my mom…I then called my boyfriend up and cried on the phone.  Honestly, I think I might have felt worse at this point than I did when I went in to face the cadavers!

My results finally got posted that night.  I remember looking and seeing that it said I passed and calling my mom over, telling her “I passed” and then dropping to the ground and sobbing.  I’m not sure I have ever cried that hard before.  But it was a good cry….there had been cadavers, 3 years of ups and downs in PT school, months of prepping for the board exam, a board exam and a really long 6 days waiting to get the results that had led me to this moment.  I had conquered it all!


So those were my stages of waiting to hear how I did on the NPTE.  As you can see, it is a pretty stressful time, but I got through.  What is also important to note is that it really is not the end of the world if you do not pass.  I had seen plenty of posts by people who did not pass and they seemed extremely pumped and motivated to tackle it the next time.  There is so much more that goes into this test beyond just studying the material.  Having the endurance and focus to sit through the test and not psych yourself out is really key in passing the NPTE.  And having nice distractions and moral support is key in surviving the days after the exam 🙂





New Blog Coming Soon!!

It was a bit of a bummer coming to terms with the fact that this blog is coming to an end. Even though I have not been all that great at updating it lately, it’s still a little sad to see it go. On the bright side, this blog is coming to an end because I am no longer a student physical therapist!

This blog was created for a lot of reasons, one of which was to give those interested in PT school an idea of what it is like. Here’s the thing though, this new chapter in my life comes with a lot of those same questions, fears and excitement that starting PT school came with and, because of these reasons, I’ve decided to start a new blog that follows me on my new journey: The Life of a New Grad Physical Therapist.

My goal for the new blog will be no different from the goal I had for this one: to be as honest and open as I can be about my experiences so that those who are curious can truly see what it is like being a new grad PT.

If you enjoyed following my journey as a student, please feel free to head over to the new blog and follow it as I will be writing some new posts in the next few days.

And if you’re still a little sad about this blog ending…hang in there! I have 2 more posts planned before I leave my student days behind!


My Tips for Surviving the NPTE

Here are some tips that I have thought of to help you get through the NPTE. Some of these things are pretty obvious, but when you’re stressed out, sometimes pretty obvious isn’t obvious enough 🙂



1. Take the practice tests

Scorebuilders….O’Sullivan’s….whoever….just take them.  But, most importantly, take the PEAT.

2. Take the practice tests as if they were the real thing

Put yourself in a quiet room and sit for the whole 4 hours (practice tests are 4 sections of 50 questions, the NPTE is 5 hours with 5 sections of 50 questions).  Remember, there is a 15 minute break after the first 2 sections.  For every practice test and for the NPTE, I gave myself a 15 min break.

Yes, you need to know your stuff for this exam BUT you also need to be able to sit for a very long period of time, answering questions, while maintaining your focus.  Taking practice tests as if they were the real exam will help build up your endurance.

3.  Review ALL of your answers

Why did you get it right?  Why did you get it wrong?  Why were the other questions right/wrong?  You’ll find out where you made simple test-taking mistakes you can learn from and you might even learn some things just by reading the explanations for the answers.  I know I learned quite a bit.

4.  Study with people…or don’t

I know plenty of my classmates who studied together all of the time during PT school.  I, however, liked to study on my own.  So was I going to change things up and start studying with people? No.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, yea?

5.  Know that looking up how other people have done in the past on the NPTE may make you feel worse…or better

Trust me, I’ve read every post in every forum.  I can probably tell you every cute little creative DPT username, what they scored on every practice test, and what they scored on the actual test.  Some of those people made me feel better….and some of those people made me feel worse.

6.  Take a test drive before exam day

Say what?! So I did not realize this until it was too late BUT, you can take a test drive of the prometric center before the NPTE.  What does this mean?  Basically, you go and do everything you typically do on exam day, except take the actual exam.  This is for those of you out there who really want to get a feel for what everything will be like the morning of exam…from checking in and fingerprinting to sitting down to take the test.  It’s just one way to make one of the stressful unkowns about the test into a KNOWN.  By the time I realized this was a thing, it was too late for me to sign up.  I obviously did fine without out, but I know if my past self had seen it sooner, she would have signed up.  If this had been a test center I had been more familiar with, I don’t think I would have done it but I would have liked to have gotten a feel for the place a little bit beforehand. Click here for more information.

7. Speaking of test drives…why not just drive to the test center?

I drove to the test center the day or 2 before the exam just so I could make sure where the building was and where to park.  I also got out and made sure I could find  the suite that the testing center was in.  I could see where you check in and stuff so it made me feel a little better.  I’m all about stressing about the “unknowns” so any opportunity to eliminate them is fine opportunity if you ask me!



1. Have everything ready to go the night before

Make sure you pack a snack and some water for the 15 minute break (unfortunately, you cannot take them into the room…yes, you can’t even have water).  Have all of your IDs packed and ready to go.  Have your clothes laid out.  Make sure you know where you are going the next day.  Basically, just take care of all the things you do not want to have to think about the morning of.

2. Don’t study…or do….?

I had told myself that, at most, I was going to do some really light stuff the day before.  I skimmed my Scorebuilders book and looked for anything that stood out.  Most people would probably advise giving yourself the day off.  I just felt that it was actually calming my nerves more just to glance at things.  Ultimately, you should do whatever it is that you think will most likely reduce your pre-test anxiety.

3. Get plenty of sleep

By this, I mean, start getting plenty of sleep in advance.  I had been staying up late every night (not studying, just a bad habit) and knew I had to try to start getting to bed earlier since I chose the 8 am time slot to take the exam. You want to be well rested but…..

4. Don’t stress if you did not get a good night of sleep.

Make sure you get good sleep the nights leading up to the night before the exam because you are going to be stressed out the night before and we all know that can mess up your sleep.  I tried to go to bed by 10 PM…finally fell asleep at 12ish and then woke up at 4 am completely awake.  There was a 0% chance I was going to fall back asleep so I just played on my phone.  I was so stressed out that I didn’t get more sleep (I’m the kind of person that really requires a solid 8 hours to feel human…7 hours is pushing it…6 hours and I know it’s going to be a rough day).  At a certain point I just told myself to accept it because stressing out was not going to do me any good.  And they say it’s the night before the night before that actually matters, right?  I actually ran into a classmate before the exam and she said she only got 2 hours of sleep…I’m thinking this is probably pretty common.



1. Set a couple of alarms

I had 3 alarms set.  I did not want to worry about anything not going off when it should or not hearing one of them.  Just do it.

2.  Give yourself plenty of time to get to the exam

The absolute last thing you want is to be running late the morning of your exam because 1.) if you do not make it at the time you are supposed to be there, you don’t get to take the test or 2.) if you do make it, you will have already stressed the bejesus out of yourself just trying to make it on time.

3. Bring a sweater

It can be cold in the exam room.  Bring something to keep you warm, like a sweater or sweatshirt.  You have to show them the inside of your pockets though before you go into the exam so make sure you don’t accidentally leave anything in your pockets!!

4. Get there early

The prometric center said to get there 30 minutes early to check-in and what not but they called the night beforehand to say to get there 1 hour early since there were so many people coming in to take the NPTE (this will vary depending on where you live).   I ended up getting there 1.5 hours early, I believe, and decided to just go in so I didn’t have to be anxious waiting in a line to check in.  I actually got to begin the test a little earlier too!

5. Do not bring notes into the testing center

You are not allowed to access any notes during any breaks.  If you don’t bring your notes inside, you won’t feel tempted.  Plus, once you submit a section, you can’t go back, so I don’t know what good it would do you anyway even if you could look at notes.  I saw a guy with a stack of flashcards when I was leaving.  He was there to take the 1 pm test.  I really truly wonder how he did on the exam because it seems to me that if you are looking at your flashcards all the way up until you take the test, then you probably don’t feel too prepared…but who knows!

6. Use the tutorial time to calm your nerves down

There’s a tutorial on how to take the test before you actually begin taking the test.  It is 20 minutes long, from what I remember.  The functions of the NPTE are very similar to the Scorebuilders tests so it really wasn’t anything new, however, I did use a few minutes to take some deep breaths once I got into my seat and just get comfortable in my place.  I put on the headphones, too, because people will be going in and out during the exam and I didn’t want to hear them.  Once I calmed down a little, I started the test.

7. Take the test like you have been taking all of the others

If you have been taking the practice tests like they are the real thing, then this really should not be anything new.  I made the mistake of re-reading everything a little more slowly than I had done in practice tests, so I had actually fallen behind schedule a couple of times (remember, the exam is 5 sections of 50 questions which you must complete in 5 hours.  It is up to you to pace yourself for each section).  This made me anxious so I had to hustle a couple of times which made it a little more stressful for me.

8. Take the 15 minute break

It’s up to you whether or not you want to do this, but my feeling is that you should give your brain a rest for 15 minutes before you take the final 3 sections.  I used that time to go to the bathroom, drink some water and take a bite of food (because I started getting nervous again and was not all that hungry).  My best friend said she had taken the break but decided to stay in the room and put her head on the table to rest.  Remember, after 15 minutes your exam timer will begin counting down whether you are there or not.  Also, keep in mind that you have to sign in/out when you leave the room, and the timer starts as soon as you submit section 2, so factor in the time it takes you to leave the room and sign in/out.  Also, you are not allowed to bring in a watch so look at the clock when you sign out so you can keep track of time.

9.  Understand that there will be some questions you do not know and prepare for what you will do when you come to these questions

You can’t expect to be perfect in this exam.  There will be questions where you don’t have the answers.  There will be questions where you can picture the exact page of your prep  book where that topic was discussed but you can’t remember the answer.  That’s okay.  What I told myself going into the exam was that if I ran into questions I really didn’t know how to answer, I would tell myself that it had to be one of the questions that will get thrown out (Remember, the NPTE has 5 sections of 50 questions…but of those 250 questions, 50 of them are actually not getting counted toward your final score).  Do you know which ones they are? Nope, there’s no way to tell.  But it did make me feel a little better to think that maybe those harder questions weren’t actually part of the exam.


1. Do NOT talk about the questions/answers

This is a big no-no.  You’ve worked so hard to get this far….do not do something that could get your new license taken away. Besides, there are actually some questions that do get thrown out.  I’m not sure how they determine which questions get thrown out and all that stuff…but I do know that, aside from the 50 questions that are already not counted in your final score, there are typically a couple questions that get thrown out.  So let’s not go talk to Joe Shmoe who has his exam at 1 pm the same day and do anything that might ruin it for everybody else.  I know…that Joe Shmoe can be a pretty convincing fella…but he should have studied 🙂

2. Do not look up the answers

Again, you’re not allowed to discuss questions/answers from the test and by looking up some answers to some questions, you run the risk of accidentally sharing some information.  Not to mention that if you did look up an answer, and you see you got it wrong…YOU ARE GOING TO FEEL MISERABLE. I might have taken a look through some notes and things myself….and trust me, I regretted doing it.  You most likely made stupid mistakes on the test…but that doesn’t mean you failed.  Just don’t look it up.  There really isn’t any good that can come from it.

3. Allow yourself to feel however it is you’re going to feel…

Sounds funny…until it’s happening to you! 😛 You will have just completed a 5 hour test that is obviously very important to your future.  You may be met with all kinds of emotions. For example, I walked out of the test feeling like a zombie.  I called my mom and then felt a need to cry.  Just don’t fight it…it’s pointless….and I have a lovely little post coming up one of these days about it all!

4. Make some plans to do something fun

Go celebrate with classmates.  Go celebrate with friends.  GO HOME AND TAKE A NAP! Do something!  I’ve heard of some people going out of town to celebrate and distract themselves before they get their results.  At this point, there is absolutely nothing you can do to change your results so you might as well go live it up!

5. Avoid social media on the day you think they will be posting results

I know, it’s tough to do.  You also do not know for sure when they will be posting results.  It seems like it’s usually the Tuesday following the exam that results get posted, but I’m sure that’s not always the case.  I kept checking Student Doctor Network and Facebook to see if anybody had gotten their results yet.  When I finally did see that people were posting on SDN that they passed, I instantly regretted it.  It was at least 1-2 hours later that I got my results, and it was not pleasant waiting.  I would have rather just kept checking a zallion times, not knowing if results were getting posted, than know that results were getting posted and going crazy waiting…if that makes any sense!

I have another post coming up about the post-NPTE experience.  Other than that, I believe that’s all the advice I have for you.  You can do this!! 🙂






How I Prepared for the NPTE: Part 2

Moving along from my last post….

How long did I study?  About 4-5 hrs/day.  I would sometimes go to the library and study or just study in my apartment.  I would get in those hours of studying and then go home or watch TV or do something else.  I have never been the kind of person that can sit in a Starbucks all day and study.  Once my brain starts to wander, I know there’s not much more I can do.  Sometimes I would get a new surge of energy at night and I would try to get in a little bit more studying, but for the most part I’d say it was 4-5 hours for those 8 weeks I had studied.

As I said in my previous post, I used Scorebuilders to prep for the NPTE.  I started out using Scorebuilders’ content prompts focusing in on neuro for my first week of studying.  The plan was to study for neur M-Th and take the Scorebuilders test on Friday and use Saturday and Sunday to review my answers. Remember, the practice tests can take up to 4 hours to complete (the NPTE is 5 hours) so, in my opinion, it is best to set aside 2 days to review your answers in detail because it can take EVEN LONGER to review them.

Scorebuilders score #1: 68% (above the average score on scorebuilders)

I was not thrilled with the score but it was above average.

The next week I ended up focusing on neuro some more since there’s more emphasis on it for the board exam.  I also started studying cardio.  I took test #2 at the end of the week.

Scorebuilders score #2: 65%  (still above average)

I was a little worried about this one…how had I studied more and done worse?  I felt that this had been the hardest of the 3 Scorebuilders tests.

In the 3rd week I studied musculoskeletal and took another test.  At this point, I had started breaking from the content prompts and just started going through the book and looking for my areas of weakness.

Scorebuilders score #3: 78% (above average)

Finally, a score that was at least passing.  However, some lovely person had posted in a forum that a person should really be scoring about 90+% on the Scorebuilders tests because apparently they are A LOT easier than the board exam.  I don’t know how that person came to that number…but I don’t agree with that statement.

The weeks after that are a little bit of a blur.  I know one week I had just gone through the Other Systems and Research sections of the book.  Remember, here is the most current (as of Dec 2015) breakdown of the NPTE.  I was not going to spend a crazy amount of time studying the research section when I was MAYBE going to be asked as many as 5 questions on it.  Yes, research isn’t my strongest area, so I had to study it, but I wasn’t going to let that take a huge amount of my time.

I eventually took the 2 PEAT exams.

PEAT #1: 73.5% ( I took this one 2.5 weeks before the exam and gave myself 1.5 weeks to study before taking the 2nd PEAT) 

PEAT #2: 78% ( I took this one 1 week before the exam)

Not amazing….not horrible either.  But if you look at this article you’ll see that passing the PEAT is a pretty good indication that you will pass the NPTE…and by pretty good, I mean, 99.3% of those who passed the PEAT later passed the NPTE.  So I felt like things were looking up!

While my scores were not anything at all to brag about, I felt that I was as prepared as I was going to be.  I decided to watch one of the final videos on the Scorebuilders ACE program where Scott Giles talks about being ready for the NPTE.  So that video scared the living daylights out of me and made me feel like I was nowhere near ready to take the exam.  I, personally, would not recommend watching it unless you’ve been getting bright and shiny scores.  Basically, what he says throughout the program is that if you are not almost completely positive you’ll pass the test…don’t take it.  I’m here to say that, for what I can probably safely assume for A LOT of people preparing for the NPTE, you’ll probably NEVER fully or almost fully ever feel like you’re going to pass the NPTE.  If I waited until I was absolutely ready…I don’t think I would ever take the stupid exam.

My best friend in the program never got above a 68% on any practice test (Scorebuilders or PEAT) and she passed the exam.  From what I have seen of other people posting their scores in forums, it SEEMS as though people do about 10% or so better on the NPTE than they do on the PEAT.  Is that always the case?  Definitely not.  Have I really seen that many scores to backup my theory?  Definitely not.  But my friend did 15% better, I did 10% better and some other scores in forums have been similar.  Also, the same article I mentioned above said that 67% of those who failed the PEAT later passed the NPTE.  At the same time, some people who had great scores have failed.  From what I’ve seen from those who have failed, it’s that they had psyched themselves out (which I can totally understand).

NPTE score: 712 (min score required to pass is 600)


**Note: I have posted my numbers here for you to have something to compare to but please keep in mind that everyone will vary.  As I said before, my friend did not pass any of her scores and she passed the board exam while others have done much better on practice tests and did not pass the exam.  The important thing is that you do what you feel you need to do to feel as prepared as you can be.





How I Prepared for the NPTE: Part 1

As I said previously, I passed the NPTE.  Hooray!!!  I wanted to post something on how I studied.  Keep in mind, this is what worked for me.  It might not be a plan that works for you!  I also broke this post down into 2 Parts because it’s a lot of information.

I studied for about 8 weeks prior to the exam.

I originally had this bright idea that I was going to start studying for the NPTE during my last 2 clinical rotations.  Fortunately (yes, fortunately…I’ll get to that later),  that did not work out.  I was way too pooped out after a long day of work to go home and study.  After realizing that this was not going to be something I could do during my rotations, I made up my mind to study once the rotations were over (3 months before the NPTE).  Well, after I finished my clinicals, my boyfriend and I went to Connecticut to see his family, then to Washington D.C. for a big swing dance competition.  We got back from the event and had yet another big competition weekend the following weekend.  By the time I got through all of that, I had about 8 weeks to study.

I used Scorebuilders to study for the exam.

To be honest, I didn’t really look into the other options prior to going with Scorebuilders.  The classes ahead of us had used Scorebuilders so I just went with it.

I liked the book.  It was a good refresher for me.  It was not super detailed which helped me get through it rather easily but also allowed me the opportunity to go look up things in more detail if I felt I needed more info.  I would occasionally refer to my class notes or look up things online but felt like most of the info was there in Scorebuilders.

I only used one study guide.  I felt that having an additional source would be too much for me.  I have heard of people using multiple sources and liking that approach…but it wasn’t for me.  I’d say the other study guide I found a lot of people mentioning online was O’Sullivan. I’ve heard (again, I did not use this source so I can’t speak for myself) that O’Sullivan is a lot more detailed which some people like and some people feel is a little too much.  I think it really just comes down to how you’d like to study.

I used the Scorebuilders flashcards

I bought actual flashcards first before I knew you could buy an app that had them for your phone.  I ended up buying the app as well and then didn’t bother with the actual flashcards. Also, someone stole my purse which had my neuro flashcards in them…so basically there’s a thief out there with some pretty good knowledge on neuro PT!

The app was great to take along and quickly review things if I had some down time but didn’t have my book.  I also liked that it had 25 question quizzes I could take at any time.  The quizzes were broken down by section but there was also the chance to take a random quiz which would include all the sections.  The questions in the app were much more basic than you’d see on the board exam or any prep test, but it was good way to see where I was weak.  I believe there were about 750 questions in the app and there weren’t any repeats from any other Scorebuilders products.

I had, at one point, used the Scorebuilders Question of the Day App.

I did this well before the exam.  I believe you have the app for 6 months.  It’s pretty self-explanatory, you get a question each day.  I think it was a fine app to have to get me thinking about the NPTE well before I needed to really start studying.  I ran out of my 6 months by the time I started studying and didn’t feel like I really needed it for the 2 months before the exam.

I did the Scorebuilders ACE (A Competitive Edge) program.

I really liked using this product for several reasons

  •  It was a great way to learn about the NPTE and get familiar with the structure of it.
  • It had mini tests focusing on each area of the NPTE (i.e. musculoskeletal, neuro, cardiopulm etc).  They were timed tests.  I actually did these fairly close to the NPTE to see where I was still having difficulty or if I still had some areas to review further without having to take a long practice test.
  • After you take the mini tests you can review your answers AND watch a video where Dr. Scott Giles explains why certain questions were wrong, why the answer is right, and tips for taking the test.
  • It allows you to select why you answered questions wrong (i.e. for academic reasons, decision making reasons, or test taking reasons) which help you get a better sense of how to improve your scores (i.e. studying more or focusing on not making those silly mistakes).
  • You can compare your scores to the average for all your scorebuilders quizzes.
  • What I loved MOST about it was that it had a great study tool that broke everything into content prompts (i.e. musculoskeletal, neuro etc)(SEE BELOW!!).  Each section was further broken down into things that make up that category (i.e. ROM, MMT) which was then further broken down (i.e. for MMT: Purpose, Scoring, Positions etc.).  A box was next to each section that you could use to fill in with how much you felt you knew about the material.  Overall, it was a great visual and a quick and easy way to see where I still needed to study.Scorebuilders


I took 3 Scorebuilders tests

I think the Scorebuilders tests were very helpful.  The test is online and the explanation of the answers are provided in the book.  What I actually started doing was going through the book questions after the test and sort of retested myself.  I’d read the question and cover up the answers and ask myself whether it was a question I thought I got right or wrong.  I’d look at my online test and see if I got it right or wrong, and keep the side of the answers covered up so I couldn’t see where the check mark was that indicated the right answer.  I’d make myself pick the answer again (it was easier if it was a question I got right because I usually remembered my answers).

I’d then check my answer and read the explanation…for EVERYTHING.  This is something that is very much encouraged by everybody who writes about how to study for the NPTE.  It is important that you read the explanation for each answer and really understand why you got the question right/wrong.  You learn a lot by doing this!  DON’T SKIP THIS STEP!  It does take a while to get through all the questions but it’s worth it.

Scorebuilders breaks your test down into categories and then tells you where you’re at for each category (i.e. Poor, Fair, Good, etc).  This is very helpful for determining where you need to focus your studying.  Scorebuilders also shows your score compared to the average Scorebuilders test scores.

Overall, I thought the tests were very helpful.  I thought the PEAT, which I will talk about below, was most similar to the NPTE, but I felt that Scorebuilders did a great job with preparing me for the format of the test and I felt that the questions were good, as well.

Now, I’ve seen a lot of posts online about Scorebuilders being A LOT easier than the NPTE and other practice tests, specifically O’Sullivan’s tests which everyone says are much more challenging than the NPTE.  I’ll talk about my scores on tests later, but I don’t necessarily feel that the NPTE was far and beyond that of Scorebuilders.

I took the 2 PEAT exams

These practice tests were developed by the FSBPT, the same people that come up with the NPTE.  Everyone describes it as being the most similar to the NPTE.  I’d have to agree, at least compared to Scorebuilders.

If you’re going to take any practice tests…take the PEAT!!!



I think I’m going to leave it at that for right now.  I’ll be posting Part 2 soon!


FAQ: Advice for Someone Who Has Passed Out in Cadaver Lab?

Now that I’m getting near to the end of the blog, I’ve decided to go back through all of my emails and post the questions/advice that I think would be helpful for any of you reading the blog.  Don’t worry, names are kept anonymous, and I’ve altered the questions some as well.  If you have any questions, please email me at  And if you would prefer I didn’t post your question online, please let me know!



My class went to the cadaver lab last year and I passed out in less than 5 minutes of entering the lab. I have not returned since, for fear of humiliating myself, but my teacher just announced today that we will be taking another field trip to the lab. I honestly don’t know what bothers me so much about the cadavers, I don’t have a problem with the smell or the fact that they were once humans, but for some reason I have a huge fear of them. I don’t even have a fear of seeing pictures! I understand the importance of studying cadavers and know I will have to look at them if I want to get through PT school. I just read through your website of how to get over anxiety for this situation, but the idea of going back to the lab makes me crazy anxious. Do you have any other tips? Like what I should do when I’m there so I can calm my nerves.




Okay, so I’ve been thinking about your situation and I’ve managed to come up with a couple things.  I’m not quite sure if you actually fear the cadavers or if it is more a fear of passing out again.  Either way, I hope this helps!

First thing first, I think it’s important for you to try to come up with a possible explanation for why you might have passed out last time.  My biggest problem with the cadavers was the fact that they were once people.  That doesn’t seem to be your case.  You also don’t have a problem with the smell.  Because of those reasons it’s a little hard to figure out a reason for you passing out.  I’ve come up with a couple of ideas that I’m going to throw out here and maybe they are right or maybe not so much.

1.) Did you eat beforehand?

It’s not uncommon for people to avoid eating before cadaver lab for fear that they might get sick. I hardly ate anything before my labs and they were at 1 pm!  My sister was in a lab once where they were dissecting cats and a girl passed out…not because of the cat but because she didn’t eat before class.

2.) Did you lock your knees while you were standing in lab?

Locking your knees while standing for long periods of time can cause you to pass out.  Make sure to keep a slight bend in your knees and to move your feet a bit in order to keep the blood circulating.

3.) Did you jump in too soon?

I was feeling pretty good by the end of my cadaver experiences.  I went into lab alone with one of my friends to review and, feeling much more confident than ever before, waltzed right up to the cadavers like they were no big thing.  It took about a minute for me to realize that I had been a little overconfident and that I was starting to feel a little funny.  It’s not that I couldn’t handle the lab, it’s just that my approach to it was all wrong.

4.) Were you breathing?

How was your breathing in lab?  Maybe you were a little nervous and so you might have been holding your breath or hyperventilating.  Either one of those could have caused you to pass out.

5.) Were your classmates freaking out?

You might not have been nervous, but those around you could have been.  It’s easy to start panicking when the whole rest of the class is.  Ever have that feeling of being prepared for a test and then you walk into class right beforehand and hear everybody freaking out about how they don’t know anything and you suddenly start to think that YOU don’t know anything?  It’s like that.  You could have gotten a little anxious which would also tie into not breathing correctly.

So those are my possible explanations for why you passed out.  Ultimately, I’m not you so there’s no way I can confidently say which one, if any, of those things contributed to your cadaver experience. I personally, and please correct me if I’m wrong, think that your fear isn’t so much about the cadavers as it is about passing out in the lab again.  You even said that you don’t know what it is that bothers you about the cadavers.  I think you had a bad experience in the cadaver lab where you passed out in front of your classmates and were embarrassed by it.  Totally understandable!  So here’s some things to keep in mind/do for your next trip to the lab.

1.) You shouldn’t be embarrassed

I totally understand where the embarrassment comes from.  I would feel the same way too.  But, place yourself in one of your classmates shoes.  If you had seen a classmate pass out in the lab would you sit there and laugh or would you be more concerned about them?  People are going to want to make sure you’re okay.  I’ve never passed out but my friend did while I was sitting right next to her in class and I can tell you that it is a pretty scary experience for the people around you, too.  Definitely not a laughing matter.

The other thing is that you’re not the only one to have had this happen to you in cadaver lab.  I’m sure there is an overwhelming number of people out there who have had the same exact thing happen to them.  My professor told me that she had to drag a grown man out of the lab last year! And let’s just talk about me for a second…23 year old girl in a doctorate program CRYING in lab because she didn’t think she could go in…if that isn’t the epitome of embarrassment then I don’t know what is!  And I’m quite okay with it 🙂

2.) Make sure everyone knows about your concern

This was a life saver for me in lab.  I’m not sure there was a person or professor in my program who didn’t know I was scared out of my mind about going into lab.  It can be hard to admit that you’re afraid (either about cadavers or passing out), but it takes a HUGE amount of pressure off of yourself when you do.  It’s so much easier to let everyone know that you’re afraid so that when you go into the lab you don’t have to worry about what everyone is going to think if you freak out or pass out.  If you tell them, and then something does happen to you, they’ll not only be prepared to help you out but they’ll also be very sympathetic towards you.  My strategy: make fun of yourself.  It just makes the subject lighter and easier to talk to people about.  Don’t get me wrong, we would all laugh about it but we all knew it was very serious.

One more thing, make sure to tell your teacher just so that they are aware of the situation and can help you out if need be.  Also, make sure you have a “buddy” in lab.  Don’t go anywhere in the lab without somebody just so that if you do feel funny you’ll have someone there to help you out.

3.)  Practice progressive relaxation/breathing exercises

These are great for teaching you how to wind down when you’re starting to get anxious.  When you get into the lab, you can use both of these strategies to make sure that you’re breathing properly and not putting yourself into a situation where you’re likely to pass out.  You can find the tools for both of these anywhere on the internet.  There are even apps for them.  But practice them at least every night, particularly the breathing exercises.  The more you practice, the better you’ll be at applying these strategies when you’re nervous.

4.)  Take a slow approach

Don’t rush into lab.  Let your teacher know that you are concerned about passing out again and that you are going to go easy in lab and see how you do.  They will understand!  My post “Today I Faced My Biggest Fear: Cadaver Lab” explains how I took a very slow approach in lab.  It might be helpful for you to do the same thing.  When you show up to the lab, just hang out outside for a few minutes and then work your way in.  Maybe just stand behind your classmates and take little peeks at the cadaver.  Only move forward when you feel ready.

Just remember, YOU are in control of the situation.  Only do as much as you feel you can do and don’t worry about what everyone else will think.  If you let everybody know before the lab then you won’t have to worry about what everyone might be thinking about you during the lab.  And even if somebody did judge you, who cares?!  They have their own fears and I bet they aren’t facing them…so be proud of yourself!  I completely understand the anxious feeling you have towards lab and I’m sorry you feel that way.  I know it’s not fun. The time leading up to getting into lab that first day was, honestly, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through so please believe me when I say that if I can do it, you can too! You’re in control.  YOU are in control!!! I can’t say it enough.






I Passed the NPTE!

Yes, my friends, it can be done!  I passed the board exam!!!

I took the exam on Wednesday, Oct 28 and got my results on Tuesday, Nov 3 at about 9 PM ish.

Now, I’m sure there are probably a billion questions you might be thinking of asking because I was thinking those same questions, too.  I plan on writing a couple of posts regarding the NPTE (i.e. my study plan, my advice for studying, etc.) so be on the lookout.  I don’t have a job right now so I don’t really have any excuses to fall behind on posting these things.

Speaking of jobs…my plan for the blog is to do a couple posts about the NPTE, maybe a little something about finding jobs and job interviews and then a post on where I end up.  After that, I believe it’ll be time for me to wrap this blog up!  I cannot believe it has been 3 years of doing this.  Man, I can’t believe I even stuck with a blog for all this time (yea, I know I fell behind on it a bit, especially at the end)!

It has been a great journey and I thank you all for coming along with me.  While the blog may be coming to an end, know that I will still GLADLY answer emails until the end of time regarding anything PT school related at 🙂


My 8 Week Ortho Rotation

Well hello again!  I have returned with stories to tell starting with my ortho rotation that happened….oh, about 3 months ago.  Better late than never, right?

My 8 week ortho rotation was at a site that treats workers comp patients.  I wasn’t all that thrilled to do a rotation there because I’ve heard how treating WC patients can be rough.  It, however, was the closest rotation I could get to where my apartment was (it was still 30-40 minutes away).

My CI was a graduate from my PT program so I was excited about that.  He was nice, no complaints.  The clinic was connected to urgent care and my CI had some other duties outside of PT that would often cause him to disappear for a few minutes to go to meetings or help someone out with something.

Basically the site worked as such: if someone were to get hurt on the job, they would come to the clinic, see a physician or a PA and then get sent over to PT, if needed.  I was given a schedule of the patients I would see, but there was also a chance that I would take walk-overs who had just seen a physician and needed to start PT that day.  The PTs were also responsible for doing performance evaluations.  A performance evaluation is for those that have been hired for a job that requires them to lift certain amounts.  Each employer has a form with how much an employee should be able to lift and how many times they should be able to lift it.  Once these people have seen a doctor or PA, they are sent to the PT clinic to complete the performance eval.  It only takes a few minutes, and the PTs are expected to squeeze them in while also working with patients.

There were 3 PTs at the clinic.  One moved a couple weeks after I got there so then there were only 2 PTs.  There were 2 students on their last week when I got there.  I guess they hadn’t done so hot on their rotation, because all I ever heard about after they left was how they could never handle a full caseload.  They were with the other PT.  I had a whole week by myself as the only student and then another student came and joined the other PT.

On my 2nd day of my rotation, I did 2 evals.  It was actually due to miscommunication between me and my CI.  He had really only wanted me to do the subjective part of the eval, but he didn’t make that clear.  Plus he walked up and started setting tools on the table and I just started taking them and using them to measure things.  My CI said he didn’t see me struggling so he didn’t see any point in stopping me.  It was nerve-wracking for sure but it’s always awesome to get your first eval over with at the start of a rotation.

My CI pushed me quite a bit through the rotation.  I was always way ahead of where my school said I should be (i.e. doing evals on the 2nd day when I should have attempted a full eval the 2nd week, taking 50% caseload earlier than scheduled).  I was fine with it because I knew this was my last stop before the real world and I wanted to be prepared.  At the same time, I was extremely stressed out.

Patients were scheduled every half hour.  I pretty much had to get in my manual work in the first 30 minutes with the first patient so that they would be doing their exercises when the next patient came in and I wanted to do manual work.  I tried my best to stick to that plan  but it became challenging when patients would show up incredibly early (which happened more often at this clinic than any other) or incredibly late (also happened pretty often).  I quickly learned that just because a patient was a half hour late didn’t mean they weren’t showing up.  And yes, the clinic wanted me to squeeze them in.  Sometimes my CI would just take them if I already had 2 patients to juggle.

We didn’t have any aides.  I was fine with that because I’d like to be as hands on with my patients as possible, but it would have been nice to have someone to clean the tables and put away equipment when I was done with things.  It’s the little things like that that could have saved me some time and eliminated some of my stress when I was already running around like a crazy person.

My first 2 ortho rotations didn’t involve very much juggling.  My first rotation had 1 patient every 45 minutes with no overlapping.  I loved it!  My CI in the 2nd rotation didn’t really give me a full caseload so it was never a problem.  But this 3rd rotation I got my fair share of juggling.  I always went home feeling pretty bad because I felt like I was always in such a rush that I didn’t have time to think things through.  There were some moments when I would be driving home, reflecting on my day, when I would have a hard time remembering what I even did with some patients.  I felt like I had hardly even seen them.  I didn’t like that. At the same time, I’m sure it’s something I would have gotten really good at with more experience.

I wasn’t crazy about working with WC patients.  I’d say about 50% of the time I was somewhat doubtful about what they were reporting, because their descriptions didn’t match up.  For instance, I had a patient who came in and said his should pain was a 10/10, yet he sat there completely normal and was moving his should fairly decently.  This was even after I clarified what 10/10 pain would be like.  This isn’t to say I didn’t believe them, I just felt that some might have been exaggerating a little.  It made it challenging for me to see if I was ever really making a difference.

I had one patient who failed to keep her appointments with her physician which is a big no-no for WC patients.  She came into the clinic one day complaining of really bad pain and clicking in her neck. “Like, I’m serious, I’m really planning on going to the doctor right now about this”. I palpated where she was reporting clicking and asked her to do the provoking movement.  I felt nothing.  I explained to her that I didn’t feel anything and that she could see the physician today after our session to discuss it since she had already missed her last appointment with them.   But then she started saying how busy she was and how she didn’t think she could see him which was interesting because she came into the clinic saying she needed to see him.  After going through her exercises with her, which was also interesting because she told me she was doing her exercises 2x/day and yet I had to demo each one of them for her, I told her she could cut through the building to head to the waiting area for the physician.  I said this because I knew she was going to try to bail even after she agreed to go to the physician after her PT session.  “Ummm, uhhh, okay…Ummm actually, I think I’m just going to go to the waiting room this way…” she said, pointing to the door that led to the parking lot.  She left, and I watched as she walked along the sidewalk towards the waiting room door and then quickly bolted to her car in the parking lot, hoping I wouldn’t see her.  This was pretty typical for this particular patient and it drove me crazy.

I have plenty of very interesting patient stories I could share, but I won’t go into all of that.  Don’t get me wrong, there really were some great patients, so I can’t say WC is a bad experience.  I would just say it was a different experience than my other ortho rotations.

Overall, I did well on my rotation.  I’m always way harder on myself so it was great to get positive feedback from,not only my CI, but the other PT as well.  I was told that I develop great relationships with my patients and that I make working at the clinic a lot of fun.  I’m still developing my skills, shoot, I’ll always be developing my skills, but if I can make it an enjoyable experience for my patients, I think I’ll be just fine out in the real world 🙂


Currently Studying for the NPTE!

Again, I’ve been slacking on the blog, but then again, I’ve been slacking on a lot of things.  I finished out my last semester of PT school with the intention of studying for the NPTE while out on my final 2 rotations.  That didn’t happen.  It’s not like the pediatrics clinic required me to do anything outside of the clinic, it’s just that after only seeing a couple of patients during the day, I couldn’t imagine sitting and taking the time to study after I had already been sitting for 8 hours. My ortho clinic, which I have yet to write about, was pretty stressful (the most stressful clinical I had) and so I would often come home and spend time preparing for the next day by looking things up (i.e. diagnoses I was scheduled to eval the next day or other things I planned to do with my current patients).  Anyways, I really didn’t do much studying for the exam.

Fast forward to the end of my clinical rotations ad I now have about 3.5 months to study for the exam.  Yay!  Oh…but then throw in a 5 day trip to Connecticut to see my boyfriend’s family…followed by a train ride to Washington D.C for a big swing competition….then a plane ride back home on Monday, which I didn’t get back until late…and at the end of the week, another big swing dance event/competition.  So did I study for the NPTE?  Nope.  But I can say this…I’m now an amateur national champion!!! So good news is, things are going great in the lindy hop world for me…bad news is, that does me no good on the NPTE.  Oops.

I started studying last week, Wednesday, after I had come back from the other dance event and gotten my life together.  I started off by going page by page of my Scorebuilders book.  I started with the neuro section because…well, because I don’t like neuro very much.  I was going to the library where I sat facing a wall so I couldn’t look up and be distracted by anything.  I was doing well but noticed I would come to sections that were a little more challenging and required a little more brain power and, rather than powering through, I would just skip over it and go to the easier stuff.  So this week I decided to continue with neuro but this time I made an excel sheet where I used the Scorebuilders ACE course’s content prompts to make a list of what I was going to do each do (Scorebuilders content prompts- basically they list out a bunch of different key things for each system/category and you can click on each topic and it’ll provide a list of more specific things you should know about the topic).  For example, if you clicked on the musculoskeletal system, a category might be “Manual Muscle Testing”. If you clicked that it would provide a list specific to MMT with things like “Purpose”, “Benefits”, “Positioning”, “Grades” etc.  It doesn’t provide any details on anything, but serves as a checklist where you can check off whether it’s a strength or a weakness.   My checklist definitely helped keep me on track better and it kept me from skipping over the harder stuff.  I also tried to make sure that each day had 1-2 things that were a little more challenging, a few things that I needed to review but I didn’t think would take very long, and a couple things that I felt pretty good about but I needed to take one more glance at.

I’ve decided that this is how I’m going to roll with each section of the book, at least M-Th.  I’ve decided to take a practice exam every Friday…I have 3 Scorebuilders tests and 2 PEATs.  The plan is for me to review them over the weekend and start back up on Monday with the next section of material…which I think next week is going to be Cardiopulmonary.

So that is what I’ve been up to these past few weeks 🙂

I’m No Longer a Student!!

Today was the last day of my outpatient ortho clinical which means….I’m officially done with PT school!

I’ve been soooo busy with my 2nd 8 weeker that I haven’t updated the blog at all.  Oh yea, and I walked at graduation like…3 months ago.  I plan to write about everything that has happened in the last few months (i.e. end of the peds clinical, outpatient ortho clinical, and walking at graduation).  But, for today, I think I’ll just take a deep breath and breathe a huge sigh of relief…it’s over, my friends! 🙂