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The National Physical Therapist Assistant Examination (NPTAE) is a challenging, comprehensive test of entry-level knowledge. The 200-question examination includes content from every major system requiring the student to focus for 4 hours to complete it.

Due to the nature of the NPTAE, many candidates have heightened anxiety during the examination, affecting their ability to work through the questions successfully. An effective method to combat test anxiety (in addition to proficient content knowledge) is understanding strategies to work through questions to arrive at the most logical answer. This section will provide testing strategies and tips to help you navigate the NPTAE.


While solid content knowledge is crucial to success in the NPTAE, careful understanding of the format of NPTAE questions and strategies to eliminate wrong answers to arrive at the best choice is a key component to successful test-taking. These are some facts about the NPTAE to bear in mind:

  • With only 4 hours to complete 200 questions, the candidate has 1.2 minutes per question.

  • The questions do not test memorization skills but rather the application and clinical understanding of concepts. For example, a typical question will not ask, “What is the action of the iliopsoas muscle” but instead, “Which muscle might be affected if a patient has difficulty during the terminal swing phase of gait?”

  • There is only ONE right answer. However, every other choice will seem attractive and reasonable.

  • The NPTAE is a marathon, not a sprint. To prepare best for the examination, study in large blocks of time to mentally train the brain to replicate the examination duration. No extra points are awarded for finishing quickly; therefore, take your time.


  1. Read each question slowly, carefully, and twice.

  2. Pick out keywords in the question stem to help understand the question.

  3. Rephrase the question into your own words.

  4. Formulate an answer before looking at the choices.

  5. Read each answer choice slowly, carefully, and twice.

  6. Do NOT read into the question or add details that are not already in the stem.

  7. Eliminate the wrong answer choices one by one.

  8. Eliminate similar answer choices since there can only be ONE best answer.

  9. Refer back to your stem when in doubt or to confirm your answer selection.

  10. Do not spend too much time deliberating on one question.

  11. Do NOT leave any questions blank.

  12. Do NOT change your answers.


    Candidates often read questions too quickly and miss pertinent information that changes the meaning of the question. For example, missing “EXCEPT” at the end of the statement or seeing “anterior” versus “posterior” when reading too fast. There is plenty of time to read each question and answer twice, and there will be some questions that you can answer quickly, leaving more time for the difficult questions. Pace ...

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