Physical Therapist

Information about NPTE (National Physical Therapy Examination)
 

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The FSBPT develops and administers the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. All 50 states and 3 additional jurisdictions use the NPTE as one factor in the licensure or certification of physical therapist and physical therapist assistants.

The FSBPT also can develop and administer jurisprudence examinations. Currently FSBPT offers jurisprudence exams for Alabama, Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Georgia, Florida and Nebraska.

Effective October 18, 2006 exam scheduling will no longer be available at test sites in the U.S. territories and Canada. If you are currently scheduled to take an exam in the U.S. territories or Canada, you will be able to sit for the exam as scheduled. All future examinations may be scheduled at any of the approximately 300 testing centers in the United States.

Purpose of the Exam

The NPTE program has three purposes:

  1. to provide examination services to regulatory authorities charged with the regulation of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants;
  2. to provide a common element in the evaluation of candidates so that standards will be comparable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; and
  3. to protect the public interest in having only those persons who have the requisite knowledge of physical therapy be licensed to practice physical therapy.

The physical therapist (PT) and physical therapist assistant (PTA) examinations are designed to assess basic entry-level competence of the licensure candidate who has graduated from an accredited program or from an equivalent non-accredited program.

The physical therapy examination is only one part of the evaluation process used by licensing authorities. In some jurisdictions, the physical therapy examination is supplemented by other means of assessing candidates' ability to provide physical therapy.

Exam Development

The Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist Assistant Licensure Examinations are developed by physical therapists and physical therapist assistants who serve on these FSBPT committees:

  • the Examination Development Committee (EDC),
  • the Item Bank Review Committee (IBRC) and
  • the Item Writer Coordinators Fact Sheet, Application Form.

The EDC determines which items are included on an examination based on an examination outline or blueprint. This outline provides the committee with the content areas that must be on the examination and the number of questions to be included from each content area.

The outline is developed from a job analysis, which identifies the tasks and activities that comprise the practice of physical therapy at the entry level. The job analysis is based on survey data and expert judgments.

Questions (items) for the examinations are solicited from physical therapists and physical therapist assistants representing a broad range of practice settings in all parts of the country. Item writers attend workshops and receive instruction to enable them to write high-quality, job-related examination items.

The involvement of a large, representative group of practicing physical therapists and physical therapist assistants and other professionals at every stage of examination development ensures that the examinations are relevant to the current practice of physical therapy.

The computer-based PT and PTA examinations are administered by FSBPT through Prometric.

FSBPT scores your examination and then transmits the score to the licensing authority.

Individual licensing authorities make all decisions regarding licensure or certification as well as licensure and certification procedures for their jurisdictions. 

One commonality among U.S. licensing authorities is that, effective July 1996, all licensing authorities adopted FSBPT's criterion-referenced passing point, so that the minimum passing score is now the same in all jurisdictions. Examination program provides examination services to the licensing authorities, and assures comparable evaluation standards for licensing authorities to evaluate the capabilities of candidates.

Candidate may sit for the examination at any of the approximately 300 testing centers in the United States. You are not required to sit for the examination within the jurisdiction in which you are seeking licensure.

Candidates are allowed 5 hours for the PT examination and 4 hours for the PTA examination. There are 250 items (questions) on the physical therapist examination, and 200 items on the physical therapist assistant examination.

For the PT examination the appointment time is 5 ½ hours even though the exam itself is only 5 hours. For the PTA examination the appointment time is 4 ½ hours even though the exam itself is only 4 hours. The extra half hour is to allow for the scheduled 15-minute break as well as the pre-exam tutorial and post-exam survey.

Fifty (50) pre-test questions are included on each examination. Scores will only be based on 200 scored items for the PT examination and 150 scored items for the PTA examination. Pre-test questions are included to determine if the questions meet rigorous psychometric testing standards. If the questions meet these standards, they may be used as scored items in future examinations. All 200 scored PT items or 150 scored PTA items on the examination you will be taking were included as pre-test items in previous versions of the examination. Item pre-testing also eliminates delays in sending score reports to candidates when new examination forms are introduced.

The exam is delivered in sections or blocks of 50 questions. Each section is a “mini exam” in that it will follow the same basic content outline as the larger exam and contain both scored and pre-test items. The PT exam has 5 sections. The PTA exam has 4 sections. Once you have completed a section you cannot return to the section to review or change your answers. Though, the testing software allows candidate to "mark" questions that candidate wants to review before ending a section. Any question can be "marked," regardless of whether it has been left blank or answered. It is not necessary to "unmark" a question in order for it to be scored at the end of the examination. After candidate finish a section they can not return for additional review.

Pre-test items will be distributed randomly within each examination and cannot be identified. Therefore, candidate should answer each question as if it were a scored item. However, as stated above, the score will only be based on 200 scored items for the PT examination and 150 scored items for the PTA examination. There is no penalty for wrong answers.

There are two kinds of breaks during the examination; scheduled and unscheduled. Both the PT and PTA examinations have one scheduled 15-minute break after section two has been completed. The PT exam also has 3 unscheduled breaks. The PTA exam has 2 unscheduled breaks.

The NPTE scale score is an arithmetic conversion of raw scores (the number of questions a candidate answers correctly) to a scale that ranges from 200 to 800. One reason for converting raw scores to scaled scores is that forms (versions) of the examinations may vary slightly in their level of difficulty. A given raw score on one form of the examination may not be comparable to the same raw score on another form of the examination. To ensure that scores on different forms of the examination have the same meaning, raw scores are converted to scaled scores that represent equivalent levels of achievement regardless of the examination form taken.

The NPTE minimum passing scaled score is 600. The number of questions that have to be answered correctly to achieve a score of 600 can change from form to form.

If a form of the examination is slightly easier than the form on which the passing score was set, more questions would have to be answered correctly to obtain a scale score of 600. If the form of the examination is slightly harder, fewer questions would have to be answered correctly to pass the examination. Thus, candidates are not unfairly rewarded because their examination was easier nor unfairly penalized because it was more difficult.

Effective July 1996, all jurisdiction licensing authorities adopted the same criterion-referenced passing score for the NPTE. Therefore, effective July 1996, a score at or above 600 is considered to be a passing score by all jurisdiction licensing authorities, and a score below 600 is considered to be a failing score by all jurisdiction licensing authorities.

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