What do you need to succeed? Predictors for improving performance on the National Physical Therapy Examination


National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) pass rates are significant programmatic outcomes for doctor of physical therapy (DPT) programs. A number of authors have used pre-admission and post matriculation data to predict student performance on the NPTE with limited success.1-6 Preliminary evidence indicates a positive relationship between comprehensive programmatic exams and NPTE performance.6 To improve first time NPTE pass rates, the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences implemented a web-based comprehensive examination that students are required to pass prior to graduation. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which student performance data can be used to predict successful completion of NPTE.


This study was a retrospective, multivariate correlational design. Data from 208 students who completed both the entry level DPT program at the University of St. Augustine and NPTE were entered into SPSS for Windows Version 22 for descriptive, correlational, and multiple regression data analysis. Three predictive variables total first year DPT GPA (grade point average), overall DPT GPA, and student score on a comprehensive exit exam were analyzed against first-time pass rates on NPTE. A multivariate multinomial regression analysis for first-time pass rates was performed.


The strongest correlation with the first-time NPTE score was first term GPA (r=0.623), followed by the overall GPA (r=0.619), and then by exit exam score (r=0.503) for students at the University of St. Augustine. A correlation coefficient resulting from the multiple regression analysis shows a moderate to strong correlation (R=.674) between the 3 dimensions. The coefficient of determination (R2=.455) reveals 46% of the variance in the NPTE score is explained by the 3 variables. A significant regression equation was found (F, 3, 204) = 56.700, p=<.005 with an R2 of .455. In general, the study yielded a regression equation associated with the function as follows: National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE)= 191.518 +-12.333 (Final GPA) + 1.609 (exit exam) + 89.940 (first year GPA). Overall, participant’s NPTE score increases most at 89.940 for every 1 unit of change in NPTE score with first year GPA. The coefficient for first year GPA was significantly different when calculated t= 2.312, p=<.05.

Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme: Through the Looking Glass: Transforming Physical Therapy Education

There is a positive relationship between the NPTE first time pass rate and the first year DPT GPA, overall DPT GPA, and score on a comprehensive exit exam at the University of St. Augustine. Implementing a web-based programmatic examination prior to graduation may assist in improving first time pass rates on the NPTE to improve programmatic outcomes.


1. Theiman, T.J., Weddle, M., & Moore, M.A. Predicting academic, clinical, and licensure examination performance in a professional entry level master’s degree program in physical therapy. J Phys Ther Educ. 2003; 17(2): 32-37.

2. Dockert, M. An analysis of physical therapy preadmission factors on academic success and success on the national licensing examination. J Phys Ther Educ. 2001; 15(1): 60-64.

3. Desmarais, L. Woble-Valenski, M.A., & Oestmann, E. Factors influencing physical therapist assistant licensure examination success. J Phys Ther Educ. 2011; 25(2): 36-41.

4. Luedtke-Hoffman, K., Dillon, L., Utsey, C., & Tomaka, J. Is there a relationship between performance during physical therapist clinical education scores and scores on the national physical therapy examination (NPTE)? J Phys Ther Educ. 2012; 26(2): 41-49.

5. Riddle, D.L., Utzman, R.R, Jewell, D.V., Pearson, S., & Kong, X. Academic difficulty and program level variables predict performance on the national physical therapy examination for licensure: A population-based cohort study. Phys Ther. 2009; 89(11): 1182-1190.

6. Kosmahl, E. M. (2005). Factors related to physical therapist license examination scores. J Phys Ther Educ. 19(2): 52-56.

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  • Control #: 2751124
  • Type: Posters
  • Event/Year: ELC2017
  • Authors: Kerry Mallini, Anne Boddy, Lisa Nichols, Matthew Daugherty
  • Keywords:

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