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General Information

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The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT)

The mission of the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) is to protect the public by providing service and leadership that promote safe and competent physical therapy practice.

The Federation’s vision is that state licensing boards and their Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy will achieve a high level of public protection through a strong foundation of laws and regulatory standards in physical therapy, effective tools and systems to assess entry-level and continuing competence, and public and professional awareness of resources for public protection.

We develop, maintain, and administer the National Physical Therapy Examinations for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. We continually research and use the best examination methodology available.

Purpose of the Examination Program

The NPTE program has three purposes: 1) to provide examination services to regulatory authorities charged with the regulation of physical therapists and physical therapist assistants; 2) to provide a common element in the evaluation of candidates so that standards will be comparable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction; and 3) to protect the public interest in having only those persons who have the requisite knowledge of physical therapy be licensed to practice physical therapy.

The Physical Therapist (PT) examination is designed to assess basic entry-level competence of the licensure candidate who has graduated from an accredited program of physical therapy or from an equivalent non-accredited program.

The Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) examination is intended to assess basic entry-level competence of the candidate who has graduated from an accredited program for physical therapist assistants or has met equivalent requirements set by a licensing authority for physical therapist assistants.

The national examination is only one part of the evaluation process used by licensing authorities. In some jurisdictions, the national examination is supplemented by other means of assessing candidates' ability to provide physical therapy..

Examination Development

The Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist Assistant NPTEs are developed by physical therapists and physical therapist assistants who serve as item writers or on one of FSBPT's examination committees: the Examination Development Committee (EDC) and the Item Bank Review Committee (IBRC).

Questions (items) for the examinations are developed by item writers and their item writer coordinators. These volunteers are physical therapists and physical therapist assistants who represent a broad range of practice settings in all parts of the country. Item writers attend workshops and receive instruction to enable them to write high-quality, job-related examination items. Once items have been developed and submitted to FSBPT, the IBRC reviews the items and determines if the item is entry level, tests current content, and contains only one correct answer. The EDC reviews entire test forms and ensures that each item is entry level, tests current content, and does not overlap content or cue the answer for other items on the examination form. Examinations are built based on an examination outline or blueprint. This outline identifies the content areas that must be on the examination and the number of questions to be included from each content area. The outline is developed from a job analysis, which identifies the activities and tasks that comprise the practice of physical therapy at the entry level. The job analysis is based on survey data and expert judgments.

The involvement of a representative group of practicing physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and other professionals during examination development ensures that the examinations are relevant to the current practice of physical therapy. Additionally, staff and technical advisors work to maintain the examinations and ensure compliance with established testing standards.

Eligibility

You must submit a registration form, pay the appropriate examination fee, and meet FSBPT eligibility requirements in order to be registered for the NPTE. Registered candidates will then be submitted to the jurisdiction licensing authority for jurisdiction approval.

To meet current FSBPT eligibility requirements:
  1. You must be at least 18 years of age.
  2. Cannot have an open exam registration for the same exam level.
  3. Cannot have taken the exam more than 3 consecutive times (maximum attempts in any 12-month period per exam level is three)
  4. Cannot have an open security investigation or sanctions that have not been completed.

Two additional eligibility requirements will be in effect beginning with the January 2016 NPTE administrations.   

  1. Lifetime limit – candidates will be able to take the examination a maximum of six (6) times.  An individual can take the NPTE for PTs six times and also take the NPTE for PTAs six times if he or she is otherwise qualified to do so.
  2. Low score limit – candidates who receive two (2) very low scores on the exam will not be allowed to test again.  A very low score is defined as performing at or close to chance level (scale scores 400 and below). 

Each licensing authority has established its own criteria for eligibility to sit for the PT and PTA examinations. At a minimum, the licensing authority must require that the candidate is a graduate of or graduating from a PT or a PTA program that meets the accreditation standards of the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) or is deemed substantially equivalent. You should review the materials distributed by the licensing authority to which you intend to apply for licensure or certification, in order to determine if you have met that authority's eligibility requirements. A current examination may be used only for administration to bona fide candidates for initial licensure or certification, relicensure or reactivation, or for candidates who are not currently licensed in a jurisdiction and do not have a qualifying examination score for that jurisdiction. FSBPT is the final authority on access to the NPTE but will not grant access to the NPTE unless a candidate has first been approved by a licensing authority or authorized designee to sit for the examination.

For more information of eligibility requirements, please go to our website at www.fsbpt.org/eligibility.

Examination Administration

The computer-based PT and PTA examinations are administered by FSBPT through Prometric. FSBPT scores your examination and then transmits the score to the licensing authority. FSBPT is the final authority on issuance of scores on the NPTE. One commonality among U.S. licensing authorities is that, effective July 1996, all licensing authorities adopted FSBPT's criterion-referenced passing point, so that the minimum passing score is now the same in all jurisdictions.

NOTE: Individual licensing authorities make all decisions regarding licensure or certification as well as licensure and certification procedures for their jurisdictions.

Fixed-Date Testing

The NPTE-PT and NPTE-PTA are administered on fixed dates throughout the year. To view information on examination dates and deadlines, click here. Candidates who do not meet a registration deadline or are not approved by the jurisdiction approval deadline must wait until the next fixed-date examination.

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