This past week has been one of the more interesting periods in my academic career. With the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) this past week life has been full of ups and downs. This time last week I had just taken a practice exam to try and see where I was at in my preparation. After getting a little crushed by “Therapy Ed C”, I decided that I needed to order a version of the PEAT to see where I was really at. The PEAT was supposed to be the most accurate representation of a student’s readiness for the board exam. Luckily for me the PEAT went well and my confidence was back with about 24 hours to spare before the examination.
I had to sign up to take the exam about 2 hours away from where I am staying in Texas which is about 16 hours away from where I spent most of my time learning this material. As soon as I pulled into the AirBnb I was staying at, I opened the door and a beautiful black cat walked out from behind the couch and meowed at me…if that isn’t a good omen I don’t know what is. After a night of cramming in a little more information, it was finally game day. I had been prepping for the past two weeks a specific routine each morning in preparation for the exam. I got up, showered, ate an egg scrambler sandwich, made my “brain dump” sheet, and that left me with enough time to brush my teeth and head out the door.
To anyone reading this that is yet to take the NPTE, I highly recommend doing a planned routine two weeks before and sticking to it. By doing this you take away some anxiety on game day and you know how your body is going to handle the food you’re eating for breakfast as well as when your morning coffee will hit you.
The day prior I had gone to the testing center and scoped out the area just to make sure there weren’t any hiccups on test morning. After parking and paying the meter, I headed inside even though I was 45 minutes early. Luckily they let me start a little early so I got the chance to get in the room first without having to wait for others to be ID’ed, patted down, and finger printed (all of this actually has to happen to take a standardized exam). Once I hit start, I made my brain dump sheet and started working my way through the 5 hour exam. No matter how many practice tests I did, I don’t think I could ever simulate the pressure I felt during the exam. If I didn’t know something on a practice exam I gave it my best guess and moved on. On game day I would stare at a question for 5-7 minutes thinking it through and racking my brain.
With 10 minutes to spare, my exam was finished and everything I had done for the last 3 years in PT school was submitted. Now was where the fun began. Even though the exam is completely multiple choice, we still have to wait 7-10 days to get the results back. This left me with mixed feelings of anxiety and complete exhaustion. The 2 hour drive back home was a mixture of phone calls, 90s country, and my mind just being numb. Honestly I am not sure what happened during the drive or the route I took to get back home. Once back home it all started to sink in. I was done. All that stood between me and a license in physical therapy was a week or so of waiting and there was nothing I could do to speed that time up.
You know that feeling you get when you see all the Christmas presents under the tree when you’re a kid and you want nothing more than to open them? That is pretty much how I have felt these last 5 days. I am so excited to see if what I will get is something awesome that I have wanted for such a long time, or if I am about to open up a big lump of coal that told me I have been a bad boy for the last 3 years and will have to try again.
I typically am a pretty level headed person, but there is no way to be level headed about a week of waiting to see if you get to begin your career or if you have to run it back and take the exam of a life time again. To those that are still planning to take the NPTE whether that is in October, or in a year or two, know that all you can do is prepare your best for the exam. There will be curveballs you didn’t see coming, there will be things you studied 10x that you know you should know that are somehow tripping you up 4 hours into the 5 hour exam, and when you walk out if you feel like a zombie, you’re not alone. Even the great NPTE legend Kyle Rice says he walked out of the exam feeling like he failed. The only thing that has kept me going through this week is the fact that 85-90% of students pass this exam, I prepped as much as I could in the time I allotted to myself, and Kyle Rice’s voice reinforcing the idea that we all crushed it.
Stay positive my friends and colleagues, only 2-5 more days left of this waiting game. May the odds be ever in your favor!
I am a new graduate DPT and am interested in personal growth and becoming a connector within my profession.