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…..you 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 🙂