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Here is How I Passed the NBCOT

Written by Leah Eisig, Published on February 8, 2016

When I think of the NBCOT, two distinct thoughts come to mind:

1) The fear and stress of studying for the NBCOT exam and
2) The aftermath of feeling excited and thankful for passing the NBCOT

Passing the NBCOT was a crucial point in my occupational therapy career. The experience of studying for the NBCOT exam, then successfully passing it, helped me bridge the gap between being an occupational therapy student to a registered occupational therapist.

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Furthermore, passing the exam was the light at the end of the tunnel, granting me the ability to officially start the dream of enjoying my rewarding career. Looking back, I can say that all my hard work and dedication had paid off.

In this article I will discuss:

  • Life After Graduation - Actions to take after graduating to ensure passing the NBCOT
  • Study Tips
  • Resources to help pass the exam
  • Weekly study breakdown ( 8 Weeks total)
  • What to do after you pass your exam (besides celebrate) 

Graduating from OT school

After graduating from my OT program, the last thing I wanted to do was study for this exam. However, I was determined and focused to pass the boards on my first attempt.

I made myself a weekly schedule of what I needed to study before taking the exam. For 8 weeks, 5 days a week, 7 hours a day, I studied with all my heart and soul. Studying for, and passing, the NBCOT became my life. I was constantly studying, reviewing information, and doing practice questions.

Passing the NBCOT was my opportunity to show the NBCOT that I was capable and qualified for my title as an entry-level occupational therapist.

I was motivated to study right and pass on the first attempt.

Studying for the test wasn’t always smooth sailing. There were times throughout my studying period that I became discouraged.

I would constantly ask myself, "Why am I getting these practice questions wrong?" and "Will I pass the exam?"

I had to focus myself on studying, rather than stressing out, which was easier said than done.

As my studying progressed, I saw how my hard work was paying off, and I saw how much I had improved over the 8 weeks, not only in my depth of knowledge about OT, but also my ability to use correct reasoning and test-taking strategies.

After the course of my studying, I felt that I studied all that I could, and before walking into the exam, I was anxious, yet excited for the day of my test to finally come.

After Passing the NBCOT

Once the test was over, I had such a headache. Sitting for the entire 4 hours was mentally draining. All I could dream of was waiting to see the results early Thursday morning.

Waiting for the results was not fun.

Although I walked out confident, towards the ending of the waiting period, I was extremely nervous.

I could not think straight.

Wednesday night, I could not sleep, knowing that results were being posted early the next morning. As I typed in my username and password early Thursday morning, my heart was beating extremely fast, as I would be finding out if I could call myself a registered occupational therapist. For me, my story is a happy ending. I passed the boards on my first try.

I was so happy that I passed, after investing the time and energy into studying. Looking back, I can say that my studying and hard work definitely paid off.

If you set your mind to succeed, you, too, will cross the bridge from an occupational therapy student to occupational therapy practitioner.

Being that I was in your shoes not long ago I will share with you my study plan and how I prepared for the boards in 8 weeks.

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6 Tips to passing the NBCOT

  1. Make a schedule. A study plan can help guide you so you don’t feel overwhelmed. A study plan/guide will make sure you stay focused and complete all that is necessary.
  2. You know yourself best! Schedule your exam based on a time when you work best. Are you a morning person? Can you focus at 5 pm for a 4-hour test?
  3. Time is everything! Learn how to pace yourself doing practice questions. Practice limiting yourself to 1 minute per question; this will help with proper pacing.
  4. Find a good place to study. Do you study well at home or in a library? Find a place where you can focus and you feel comfortable studying.
  5. Think positive. Studying is not easy! You need to stay focused and believe in yourself. Keep telling yourself, "YES, I CAN PASS." Do not get discouraged, even when you have frustrating days.
  6. Evaluate your strengths and weakness. What topics can you improve upon? Studying is all about getting better and refining your testing skills.

How much time do I need to study for the NBCOT?

I gave myself 8 weeks to study, averaging of 4-5 days per week.

I first went through the content and information in TherapyEd and AOTA. Once I studied all of the information, I started doing practice questions. I did 1 chapter (according to TherapyEd) a day. As I read the chapter, I took my own notes on important facts and key terminology. The more questions you answer, the better. Practice questions are the most helpful, so conquer as many questions as you can.

It is not enough to simply complete the questions. Half the battle is understanding why the correct answer is the answer the NBCOT is looking for, and why the other options are wrong.

Going through the rationale for the questions will help develop your reasoning skills. For the 10 days before the test, I just reviewed information and the practice questions that I got wrong.

NBCOT resources

1. TherapyEd
2. AOTA NBCOT Review
3. Johnson practice tests

Weekly breakdown to studying for the NBCOT

Week 1 - The process of occupational therapy and professional standards and responsibilities. Different types of group processes, ethics, reimbursement, SOAP notes, and documentation.

Week 2 - Human development across the lifespan, grasp development, musculoskeletal system disorder, neurological system disorder, cardiovascular, and pulmonary system disorders. Burns/wounds, TBI and stroke (right versus left), Rancho level of cognitive function, Glasgow coma scale, and spinal cord injury (complete versus partial).

Week 3 - Gastrointestinal, renal, endocrine system disorders, psychiatric and cognitive disorders, biomechanical approach, neurological approach, cognitive perceptual approach, psycho-social approach, and evaluation and intervention for performance in areas of occupation, Muscle manual testing, ROM and goniometry placement, physical agent modalities (PAMS), splints, Allen cognitive level test, frames of references, FIM scale, psych signs and symptoms and interventions.

Week 4 - Mastery of the environment, home modifications, wheelchair and doorway dimensions.

Week 5, 6, 7, 8 - Practice tests and the rationale to correct answers using therapy Ed, AOTA, and Johnson material.

I learned a valuable lesson: success is the result of hard work and persistence.

Good luck! Please comment below if you have any specific questions!

Topics:NBCOTNew Grad Successstudying for the NBCOTtips for occupational therapy students

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