Factors Influencing Success on National Physical Therapy Examination
Purpose/Hypothesis: The National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) is the national licensure board exam for physical therapist candidates to practice in the United States. The NPTE is a five hour exam, consisting of 250 multiple choice questions and candidates are required to score 600 out of 800 to pass the exam. NPTE pass rates are one of the most important outcome measures for Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) programs. This ongoing study looked at factors responsible for pass rates for DPT students from schools accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. The purpose of this study is to determine the reasons pass rates in DPT graduates. Number of Subjects: 1000 Materials and Methods: The University's Institutional Review Board approved the study. DPT graduates from CAPTE approved DPT programs in the United States were recruited for the study. A survey was developed to examine contributing factors for success on the NPTE. The four section survey was filled by students who met the inclusion criteria. The first section collected demographic data of entry-level education completed. The second section asked for previous NPTE attempts and scores out of 600. The third section constituted questions on student current study approaches, textbooks used, and other study support for preparation. The last section asked the subjects to list their weaknesses in the content areas. The data was divided into students who passed on the first attempt and students who passed on a repeat attempt. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize the data, and t-tests were performed to determine differences between the two groups. The level of significance was set at p< 0.05 and SPSS was used for statistical analysis. Results: 1000 subjects responded to all the survey questions. 960 subjects correctly filled the form and identified as DPT graduates who have passed NPTE. 29.1% (280) subjects reported having a masters degree in kinesiology, exercise science or a related field before getting their DPT degree. 42.5% (408) subjects reported having taken the NPTE two or more times. and 57.5% (552) subjects reported passing the exam on their first attempt. 96.1% (922) DPT subjects reported taking the Practice Exam and Assessment Tool (PEAT). 95.6% (528/552) subjects who passed on the first attempt reported passing the PEAT on the first attempt, whereas 72% (294/408) subjects who passed on a repeat attempt also reported passing the retired PEAT on the first attempt. The PEAT is a paid product offered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) and uses a set of practice questions to help prepare students the NPTE. It should be noted that the FSBPT reports a 99.3% correlation between retired PEAT and the NPTE scores. First attempt pass students reported studying more (4.8+/- 1.1) hours everyday than the repeat attempt DPT students (3.5+/-1.3 hours). Content wise, first attempts students picked 'Other Systems' as the most challenging area for their preparation whereas repeat attempt students picked ‘Non Systems’ as their weakest content area. Conclusions: Taking the PEAT exam offered by FSBPT seems to be a key differentiating factor between first attempt and repeat attempt NPTE pass rates.Students passing the NPTE on their first attempt tend to pass the retired PEAT on their first attempt, and also report studying more hours per day as compared to students who don’t pass the exam on their first attempt. Clinical Relevance: Thousands of candidates takes the NPTE every year to get licensed in the United States. Understanding the factors that negatively or positively affect a student's ability to successfully pass the NPTE on the first attempt will provide important insights for both educational and licensure process.