Free Resources Page Header

Stack of Open Books


NPTE Quarterly Faculty Newsletter Volume 8, Number 1

First Quarter 2011

The NPTE Quarterly Faculty Newsletter is published by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) as one mechanism to communicate with faculty in physical therapist and physical therapist assistant programs. This effort to provide ongoing communication includes current information and updates on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as information on other regulatory issues that might impact or be of interest to program faculty. Subscription to the newsletter is free to all physical therapist and physical therapist assistant program faculty.

Newsletter subscriptions are free to all physical therapist and physical therapist assistant program faculty.

To subscribe, contact

NOTE: Please be aware that this information is provided as an archive of faculty communications only. Therefore, some links may no longer work and testing information may be outdated. Be sure to check the "For Candidates/Licensees" section of the website for current information.

This edition focuses on fixed-date testing for PT graduates.

Table of Contents

Fixed-date testing effective July 1, 2011 for PT NPTE

Hopefully you have heard that the PT NPTE will be given on fixed dates beginning July 1st of this year. This decision allows us to address security concerns and protect the integrity of the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), while complying with the recent order entered in Georgia. (You can view the Georgia order by going to

Administering the NPTE on fixed dates effectively eliminates the unfair advantage gained by people sharing recalled NPTE items because test forms will not be used on more than one date. This action was recommended by our Technical Advisory Panel. The dates for 2011 are:

  • September 7, 2011
  • October 26, 2011
  • December 5, 2011

Slides from webinars available

We hosted two webinars for PT program directors in March. You can view the slides from those sessions by navigating back to "For Faculty". Once there, click on “Review the slides from the PT Program Directors WebEx on Fixed-Date Testing.”

Survey responses for 2012 dates
We plan to schedule five dates for the PT NPTE in 2012.

Thank you to the 113 program directors who responded to our survey asking for input for scheduling those testing dates. We also had a great response from students to a separate survey requesting their input on scheduling the 2012 testing dates - 3,290 students responded!

We have closed both surveys so that we can provide the results to our board of directors at their strategic planning meeting this weekend. The board will also be considering a request from the Academic Council of the American Physical Therapy Association.

Temporary licensure
We have started discussions with our members (the state physical therapy licensing boards) regarding the use of restricted /temporary licenses for graduates waiting to take the NPTE.

Please note that each state has to decide whether allowing a graduate to practice prior to passing the NPTE sufficiently fulfills the state’s obligation to protect the public. Additionally, some states’ practice acts do not allow them to issue temporary licenses.

You can view the latest information on temporary licensure by navigating to "Regulatory Tools"/"Licensure Reference Guide." Look for “Temporary Licensure” under “Management of Licenses.”

Future planning
The Federation will host a summit this summer on future possibilities (2013 and beyond) for the NPTE program. We will continue to keep you informed as we go forward with our planning.

Practice analysis update

In our last newsletter, we alerted you that FSBPT would begin a new analysis of entry-level practice (AOP) for PTs and PTAs in 2011.

Purpose of the survey – update the NPTE
Survey results will be used to update the contents of the PT and PTA National Physical Therapy Examinations, including the topics covered in the exams and the number of items (questions) measuring each topic.

Ensuring the NPTE content is valid
Participation in the surveys is essential for ensuring that the NPTE content is valid – the test questions must be current, focused on entry-level knowledge and skills, and important for safe and effective patient care.

Enlisting your support with your graduates
The pilot survey has already gone out to a sample of practicing PTs and PTAs and the national survey will be sent out in mid-April.

In 2006, the response rates were much lower for recent PT and PTA graduates than for experienced PTs and PTAs - so if you have the opportunity and ability, please explain the importance of the survey and the value of contributing to the process to recent graduates.

We welcome other suggestions for spreading the word that this research is important!

New test forms March 1, 2013
Test forms reflecting the new content will be launched in 2013.

What Students Need to Know: How will fixed-date testing work?

The best answer to that question is to share the information on our website regarding fixed-date testing -

There is a Candidate Information Sheet for PTs that may be helpful to share with your students.

We will continue to update that page as necessary.

This Quarter’s Question

Why not just write more questions to increase the size of the item bank so that, say, the NPTE could be given once a month?

The NPTE is a high-stakes examination – a passing score on the NPTE is required to practice as a physical therapist in all U.S. jurisdictions or to work as a physical therapist assistant under the supervision of a physical therapist in all U.S. jurisdictions that regulate physical therapist assistants. Successful completion of the NPTE is an important step in the process of demonstrating that an individual is competent to perform safely and effectively upon entry into the profession.

Exam development goal: to produce psychometrically sound questions
Because of the stakes associated with the licensure examination, it is essential that the test questions (items) are developed using procedures that meet professional testing standards. The goal of this process is to produce high-quality, psychometrically sound multiple-choice items that cover the major areas of entry-level physical therapy practice.

FSBPT’s testing process, inclusive of its item development process, has received both Stage One and Stage Two accreditation by the Buros Institute. We believe that continued accreditation is important to the schools, the licensing boards and ultimately the public. So we are mindful to maintain our program to meet those accreditation standards.

Writing items
Items are written by physical therapists and physical therapist assistants representing a broad range of practice settings in all parts of the country. Beginning item writers are trained by experienced staff and colleagues. The items are reviewed by an independent panel of content experts for suitability for inclusion in the examination item bank.

Validating the questions through pretesting
Before being used as a scored item on the NPTE, newly written items are administered to candidates as “experimental” or “pretest” items.

Pretest items don’t count toward a candidate’s total score. Instead, candidates’ responses to each question are analyzed statistically to verify that the questions are psychometrically sound, meaning that they are of appropriate difficulty and reliability.

Only items that demonstrate good statistical characteristics become eligible for use as a scored NPTE item in future years.

Increased item writing production
We began training new item writers and increasing the number of item writer workshops to produce more items as soon as we discovered the issue of recalled NPTE items being shared.

The item development process is time consuming and resource intensive. It requires PTs and PTAs with specialized skills, acquired through training and experience, to write good questions that cover all areas of knowledge that are important to entry-level practice.

The process also requires time for an independent group of physical therapists to verify that each item measures content that is current, important, and consequential.

Finally, the process requires time to acquire enough statistical information about new items through pretesting to judge whether they should become scored items.

This item development process is necessary for ensuring that all items contributing to a person’s score on the NPTE are high quality, which is essential given the high stakes associated with NPTE performance.

Maintaining these procedures, and ultimately adhering to professional and accreditation standards, limits the number of items that can be developed each year.

We are actively researching options for increasing item production but thus far have not identified options that simultaneously maintain these standards and produce enough items to support monthly testing.