National Physical Therapy Exam

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Over the past several decades the field of healthcare has seen vast increases in the types of services available. With such growth the need for organizations dedicated to providing certification and oversight of training arose. During the 1980s the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) was created to act as the official organization for physical therapy professionals. The FSBPT promotes competent physical therapist practitioners and seeks to provide the public with a regulatory agency. In less than a decade the organization designed the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) as a component of bestowing certification for qualified individuals. Passage of this exam is one step in achieving licensure for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. Since its creation the test has transitioned to being computer based and has continuously grown in popularity. Today, it stands as a highly respected exam and passage of it is invaluable for those wishing for a career in physical therapy.[1]


NPTE Study Guide

This test is given for several reasons, they include to aid authorities in the regulation of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants, to provide consistency in evaluating candidates for certification, and to protecting the public interests by making sure that certified physical therapists have undergone rigorous testing.[2] This test is designed for those wishing to earn professional certification as a physical therapist. It is critically important for job placement as passage of this exam helps allow recent graduates earn careers working in hospitals of outpatient care centers. In order to sit for the exam several criteria have to be met. First, candidates must have a degree appropriate to the field, check with the FSBT for acceptable degrees, from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) accredited college. Second, candidates must be approved by the licensing authority in the state from which they are seeking licensure from. This is a very important requirement, without such permission an individual cannot sit for the NPTE. The minimum requirement for all states is an appropriate degree. For a complete list of state conditions refer to individual state websites. The majority of test-takers will sit for the exam immediately following conferral of their degree in physical therapy or a related field.[3]


NPTE Flashcards

In order to take this test potential candidates must first receive an Authorization to Test letter from the FSBPT. On that letter a date will be indicated for when an individual should take the test. The exam is offered several times a year, once in January, April, July, and October.[4] Once a person receives confirmation that they are eligible one should immediately sign up as slots fill up rather quickly. This test is administered by Prometric testing, which has locations throughout the United States. Prometric will need the name of the exam, either Physical Therapist NPTE or Physical Therapist Assistant NPTE, a social security number, telephone number, and the date and location for your test. There is a $400 dollar testing fee that must be paid before the exam will be given. Accommodations for test-takers with disabilities can be made and should be requested when initially signing up for the exam.[5]


Sections of the NPTE Test
NPTE Test Subject Areas # of Questions Percentage
Physical Therapy Examination 50-56 26.5%
Foundations for Evaluation Differential Diagnosis, & Prognosis 60-70 32.5%
Interventions 56-64 28.5%
Non-System Domains 22-28 12.5%
Total 200 100%

Test Environment

Candidates for the NPTE are expected to arrive at the exam site at least half an hour before the exam begins. For admission, two forms of ID are required. One of them must be a government issued photo ID, and the other must be an ID containing a signature, like a credit card.The NPTE is a computer-based exam that takes place in Prometric testing centers. The entire exam period will take five and a half hours. This includes the time it takes to complete the computer tutorial as well as the scheduled break.[6]

Test Structure

The National Physical Therapy Exam is a computer based exam that is made up of 200 questions, and an additional 50 pretest questions. The NPTE consists of five sections, or mini exams, that each contain fifty questions. The topics covered have to do with the following domains: Physical Therapy; Foundations for Evaluation, Differential Diagnosis, and Prognosis; and Interventions. There are also two Non-System Domains: Equipment, Devices, and Therapeutic Modalities, and Safety, Protection, Professional Responsibilities, and Research. The pretest questions included in each of the four sections will be mixed in and indistinguishable.[7]

Sample Questions

More free NPTE practice test questions.


Once a test is completed it is sent off to be scored by the FSBPT. The results are then transferred to the licensing state and a free report is made available for test-takers. This process usually takes around 10 days. Individuals can see their score results by going to Status of My Request on the FSBPT website. Free reports are available for thirty days, after that point they must be purchased. The NPTE is scaled from 200 to 800. It is a pass/fail test and in order to achieve passage an individual must score at least a 600.[8] Any scores below 600 will be considered a failing score.[9] If an individual needs to retake the test they may do so. One should first check with their testing jurisdiction to find out any particular rules on retesting. The FSBPT only allows 3 tests during a 12 month period. Individuals also must wait until the next available testing window to sit for a retake.

Recent/Future Development

As of January 2013 the NPTE underwent two changes. First, the content of the exam was altered to include an emphasis on certain systems of the body. There will be more questions regarding musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular/pulmonary, and lymphatic systems. Second, while the passing score of 600 did not change, experts in the field noted that the new test content is more difficult than previous exams.[10]


  1. ^ History 14 May 2014
  2. ^ Candidate Handbook 14 May 2014
  3. ^ FSBT 14 May 2014
  4. ^ Dates 15 May 2014
  5. ^ Fee 15 May 2014
  6. ^ NPTE EXamination 14 July 2014
  7. ^ NPTE-PT Test Content Outline 14 July 2014
  8. ^ Pass 15 May 2014
  9. ^ Scores 15 May 2014
  10. ^ Standards 14 May 2014