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General Information


About the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy® (FSBPT®)

The mission of FSBPT is to protect the public by providing service and leadership that promote safe and competent physical therapy practice.

FSBPT’s vision is that state licensing boards and FSBPT will achieve a high level of public protection based upon 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.

FSBPT develops, maintains, and administers the National Physical Therapy Examination® (NPTE®) for physical therapists (PTs) and physical therapist assistants (PTAs).

Purpose of the NPTE Program

The PT and PTA exams are designed to assess a candidate’s basic entry-level competence after graduation from a PT or PTA program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) or from an equivalent non-accredited program. The exams have two main purposes:

  1. To help ensure that only those individuals who have the requisite knowledge of physical therapy are licensed in the physical therapy field; and
  2. To help regulatory authorities evaluate candidates and provide standards that are comparable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

The national exams are only one part of the evaluation process used by licensing authorities. In some jurisdictions, the national exam is supplemented by other means of assessing candidates' ability to practice physical therapy. For more information on each jurisdiction’s licensure requirements, see the Licensing Authorities Contact Information page on FSBPT’s website.

Exam Development

Questions (also known as items) appearing on the NPTE are developed by volunteer item writers. These volunteers are licensed PTs and PTAs who represent a broad range of practice settings from across 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 Exam Development Committee (EDC) reviews the items and determines if the item is appropriate for an entry-level practitioner; that it tests current content; and it contains only one correct answer. These items will later become pre-test questions on exams to determine fairness before appearing on the NPTE as actual scored items. There are 45 pretest items on the NPTE-PT and 40 pretest items on the NPTE-PTA. The EDC also reviews each fully composed exam to ensure that questions do not share content or provide information that makes it easy to answer another question.

Examinations are built based on an examination content outline. 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 entry-level practice of physical therapy. The job analysis is based on survey data from currently licensed practitioners 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 and developed without bias. Additionally, staff and technical advisors work to maintain the examinations and ensure compliance with established testing standards.