Evidence-Based Teaching: An Association Study Between NPTE First-Time Pass Score and Elements of Graduate Didactics in Musculoskeletal Systems Course


The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy National Physical Therapy licensure exam (NPTE) is designed to assess the candidate’s entry-level competence upon graduation from an accredited DPT program. (1) The ability to score highly on this examination on the first attempt is the fastest path to independent practice, and therefore serves as a critical benchmark used by programs and prospective students as a measure of high quality DPT training. The purpose of this study is to identifying graduate coursework elements within a first year Musculoskeletal Exam and Intervention (MEI) lecture and lab course with measurable association to first-time NPTE score.


A dataset was created comprising 5 years’ of student performance records (2010-2014, n=189 students) from MEI. Continuous data from test, exam, and project data were aggregated including: quizzes, midterm and final exam, worksheets, clinical decision making oral exam (CDMOE), final skill check, and class demonstrations. The dataset was created without reference to personally identifying information; all activities performed in this study were conducted under the approval of the University’s IRB.
Predictor variables were tested for association to first-time NPTE test score (S) in a simple linear regression with course year as a co-variate. Significance was assessed via p-value on the primary predictor variable (element scores).


Several elements of both MEI lecture and lab showed significant association to S, including three of the seven quizzes (P<0.01), one of three demos (P<0.05), the average of all worksheets (P<0.05), four of the six CDMOEs (P<0.05), and the CDMOE average across all six (P<0.001).
We also note that across all elements, there was very low between-element correlation: p=0.16+0.18, meaning that activities conducted within MEI are generally independent measures of student acumen.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: The Pursuit of Excellence in Physical Therapy Education

Analysis of a longitudinal dataset of student performance in an MEI course within an accredited DPT program reveals statistically significant association between course element performances and the NPTE score on first attempt, and may also provide a rigorous, data-driven framework by which other courses or programs at-large can be evaluated.


1. (https://www.fsbpt.org/ExamCandidates/NationalExam%28NPTE%29.aspx)

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  • Control #: 2525880
  • Type: Platforms
  • Event/Year: ELC2016
  • Authors: Dr. John Leard, Michael Wininger
  • Keywords:

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