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All You Need to Know about the NPTE

Key Takeaways

  • From January 2024, the NPTE includes 225 questions with some scenario-based. Review the updated test plan.
  • Focuses mainly on Cardiovascular/Pulmonary, Musculoskeletal, Neuromuscular/Nervous Systems, and includes other systems plus non-system questions.
  • 250 multiple-choice questions (200 scored, 50 pretest), 5 hours to complete, divided into 5 sections.
  • Preparation varies; most begin 4-6 months ahead.
  • The NPTE is challenging, with an 87% first-time pass rate in 2021. Requires a score of 600+ to pass.
  • Understand core subjects, practice time management and quick decision-making, use resources like practice questions and mnemonic videos.
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The National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) is the cornerstone for any aspiring physical therapist aiming to showcase their competence and professionalism in the field. As a rigorous assessment designed to evaluate the breadth and depth of a candidate’s knowledge in physical therapy, succeeding in the NPTE opens the gateway to a rewarding career. The significance of this exam necessitates an unwavering commitment to thorough preparation. This comprehensive guide is dedicated to equipping NPTE candidates with the knowledge, strategies, and resources essential for mastering the exam.

2024 NPTE Changes

Starting January 2024, the test will include 225 questions, including some that are based on scenarios. There’s also a small update to the test plan, so it’s important to review the 2024 test plan if you’re taking the exam anytime after January 2024. For more details, please download our guide by filling out this form.

What Topics are Included in the NPTE?

The NPTE covers a wide range of topics related to the practice of physical therapy. Three subject areas comprise more than 60% of the questions:

      • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Systems

      • Musculoskeletal System

      • Neuromuscular and Nervous Systems

    The rest of the content is derived from these categories:

        • Integumentary System

        • Metabolic and Endocrine Systems

        • Gastrointestinal System

        • Genitourinary System

        • Lymphatic System

        • System Interactions

      Non-system, which includes: 

          • Equipment

          • Devices and technologies

          • Therapeutic modalities

          • Safety and protection

          • Professional responsibilities; and 

          • Research and evidence based practice

        Each of the content areas except for the Non-system question is divided into topics related to:

            • Foundations for Evaluation, Differential Diagnosis and Prognosis

            • Interventions

          How Many Questions Are on the NPTE?

          The NPTE exam has around 250 questions. Some questions might include pictures or videos. Out of these, 200 questions count towards your score, and the other 50 are being checked to see if they should be used in future exams. You have 5 hours to finish the exam. This means you get just over a minute for each question. The questions are multiple-choice, so you’ll pick the best answer from four choices.

          The exam is split into 5 parts, each with 50 questions. After finishing a part, you can’t go back to change any answers. There’s a 15-minute break after the second part, and you can take more breaks if you need to, but it will reduce your total exam time.

          Guessing won’t count against you, so it’s a good idea to answer every question, even if you’re not sure of the answer.

          How long should I Study for the NPTE?

          How long you need to prepare for the NPTE exam varies based on how you learn and your knowledge level. Some students might only need a few weeks, while others might need a few months to get ready. Usually, students begin studying 4-6 months before the exam. This gives them plenty of time to go over everything they need to know.

          Is the NPTE Hard?

          The NPTE is challenging, testing your knowledge and skills in physical therapy. The difficulty varies depending on your preparation and test-taking abilities. In 2021, 87% passed on their first try. A score of 600 or more is needed to pass. Consistent, thorough study can boost your chances of success.

          Tips for the NPTE

              • Time management and quick decision-making are vital due to the test’s timed nature.

              • A solid understanding of physical therapy principles and practices is essential for passing.

              • Focus your studies on the musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, nervous, and cardiovascular and pulmonary systems.

            NPTE Preparation Tips

            Start by reviewing the exam topics. Practice questions can help you understand the test format and find weak spots. Using mnemonic videos for tough topics can also help. Make a study plan, breaking your time into manageable sessions with breaks to stay fresh.

            Consider resources like Typical PT, Anki Deck, and Picmonic for practice questions, spaced-repetition, and mnemonics to track your progress and prepare effectively.


            Passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) is a crucial step for aspiring physical therapists. This guide has provided you with the essentials to understand the exam’s format, the breadth of topics covered, and effective study strategies. With updates in 2024 adding new question types and content areas, staying updated and preparing accordingly is key. Remember, success in the NPTE boils down to thorough preparation, understanding of the core topics, and good time management during the exam. Utilize the recommended resources and study tips to tailor your preparation to your strengths and weaknesses. By dedicating yourself to a structured study plan, you can overcome the challenges of the NPTE and move forward in your career as a physical therapist.

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