JoPTE Featured Article - December 2023


Check out this quarter's featured article!

Predicting First-Time National Physical Therapy Examination Performance for Graduates of an Entry-Level Physical Therapist Education Program

Dombkowski, Ryan PhD, MSL; Sullivan, Steven DPT, MBA; Widenhoefer, Tricia DPT; Buckland, Abigail SPT; Almonroeder, Thomas Gus DPT, PhD

Journal of Physical Therapy Education 37(4):p 325-331, December 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/JTE.0000000000000291

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The National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) is a standardized multiple-choice examination, designed to assess competence after graduation from an entry-level, physical therapist, education program.1 Scores of NPTE can range from 200 to 800, with a score of at least 600 needed to pass. Successfully passing the NPTE is required to become licensed as a physical therapist in the United States.

For the most recent examination year, the average first-time pass rate for graduates of doctor of physical therapy programs in the United States was 89%.2 This indicates that although most candidates pass the NPTE on their first attempt, there are still many who do not. There also appears to be considerable variability in first-time pass rates among programs.3 Although candidates can retake the NPTE up to 6 times, failing even once has significant consequences for both the candidate and the program they graduated from. For the candidate, failing the NPTE makes them ineligible for licensure, preventing them from being employed as a physical therapist. Failing the NPTE can also take a major emotional and psychological toll on an individual. For the program, a relatively low first-time NPTE pass rate can negatively impact the program's reputation, making it more difficult to attract strong applicants. In addition, programs are required to maintain an ultimate NPTE pass rate of at least 85% to remain in good standing from an accreditation standpoint.4 Therefore, NPTE success is of the upmost importance for physical therapy students, program faculty, and those in academic leadership positions.