Pre-Admission Physical Therapy Observation Hours as a Predictor of Doctor of Physical Therapy program Outcome Measures


Most physical therapist education programs (PTedprog) require applicants to complete observation hours (OHr) prior to admission. The number of hours required ranges from 10 to 200 hours (mean 60 hours).

The required OHr are believed to enable the prospective PT student to gain increased knowledge about the profession, to examine their personal career goals, and to improve likelihood of success in the program. Observation hours have a significant impact on an individual’s decision to apply to PT school.(1) In a small sample there was no correlation between number of OHr and program success.(2)

Considering the number of applicants to PTedprog and the number of OHr required, there is the potential to over burden clinical sites.

The purpose of this study is to further examine relationships between the number of OHr and indicators of academic success in a PTedprog.


This study was a retrospective cohort study, examining data from 323 students who matriculated into the XXX DPT program during a six-year period (2009-2014). Descriptive statistics were computed for all study variables. A multiple linear regression model was used to examine the relationship between the admission variables of undergraduate GPA, undergraduate math/science GPA, verbal GRE, quantitative GRE, and total OHr at the time of admission. OHr were also coded into quartiles to evaluate the relationship of number of OHr to outcome variables. Academic performance variables included probation for at least one semester (Cumulative GPA <3.0 in the DPT program), NPTE exam results (pass or fail), GPA in the DPT program and performance on the PEAT (Practice Exam and Assessment Tool). Goodness of fit for the models was evaluated using the R-squared value. Statistically significant associations were those with p-values < 0.05.


The number of OHr was not a significant predictor of NPTE pass, probation status or DPT GPA. Ranked OHr (p =0.0291) in combination with TGPA (p =0.0239) and VGRE (p =0.0002) and QGRE (p =0.0026) did predict performance on the PEAT exam. The students with the least number of total OHr performed better on the PEAT. QGRE (p values <0.05) was predictive of passing the NPTE, PTGPA, and probation status in the DPT program. Of the total OHr documented by incoming students, 76% occurred in an outpatient environment and 24% in an inpatient environment and 67% were paid and 33% unpaid.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Shaping the Future of Physical Therapy Education

Consistent with previous findings(2), increased numbers OHr were not predictive of student success in the DPT program or on the NPTE exam. Based on these results and those of Dockter, more observation hours are not better. Prospective applicants should be encouraged to obtain sufficient OHr to solidify their career path decision(1), but high numbers of OHr are not required for program success. Reducing the number of required OHr should allow clinical sites to increase the number of internships offered to PT students.


1. Gleeson PB, Utsey C. An examination of observation hours used as an admission criterion for physical therapist programs in Texas. J Phys Ther Educ. 2003;17(1):65-73.

2. Dockter M. An analysis of physical therapy preadmission factors on academic success and success on the National Licensing Examination. J of Phys Ther Educ. 2001;15(1):60-64.

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  • Control #: 2289628
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2015
  • Authors: Prof. Thomas Mayhew, Emma Wheeler, Sheryl Finucane, Shawne Soper
  • Keywords:

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