Studying for an exam takes preparation. Preparation for students often comes in different ways. That may mean a quiet environment, managing time, the supplies and resources… whatever it may be to reach success. This, however, is not just any exam. It is the NBCOT® exam: what occupational therapy programs have prepared students through curriculum and fieldwork experiences to pass. The question remains though —

When is the best time for students to study for the NBCOT® exam?

Results show that the best time to seriously study is AFTER Fieldwork II is complete, to allow the student to fully dedicate the required time and focus to passing. After Fieldwork II is completed, it is best to study for 8 weeks (6 to 8 hours per day, 6 days a week) and THEN take the NBCOT® exam. Studying should be structured and focused.

Students will need to hold themselves accountable for strong, positive study habits. In an OT program, cohort students often build connections with peers/ future colleagues. Therefore, providing students who are ending their program with the opportunity to come back together and begin PasstheOT program is ideal.

Why NOT have students study for the NBCOT® exam during their Fieldwork II?
This seems like a reasonable and effective use of time, right? Wrong.

  • Students in Fieldwork II will need to concentrate on their area placement (i.e., inpatient setting, pediatrics, outpatient, home health), soaking up every bit of knowledge and hands-on skills that may translate into what they might find on the NBCOT® exam.
  • There just isn’t enough time. Students are seeking that “just right” balance, but students who try to do it all are more often off-balance. Either studying for the NBCOT® exam or their fieldwork performance may get compromised, not to mention the risk of possible burn out.
  • It can be overwhelming. Often, students will know the information, yet get practice questions wrong. Frustration sets in because they don’t have the time to try to understand, or to use clinical reasoning to break down the question and what is really being asked.

Structure. Focus. Positive Mindset. Once students have completed Fieldwork II, they are ready to prepare for the NBCOT® exam. PasstheOT introduces students to organized modules, notes, and audio on each section. Each week’s activities may include reviewing visual notes, listening to group tutoring sessions, or meeting with a tutor to address specific needs or questions. Moving through each section, students increase knowledge to apply to possible test questions. Students also learn self-care such as brain food/nutrition, proper hydration, rest, and inspiration to reach the end goal of passing the exam!

While it may be convenient or seem like a good idea to do it all at once, this is not the best practice for best results. Students perform best when they devote 8 weeks (6-8 hours per day) to the job at hand. Although it may feel tedious, exhausting, or maybe even not needed, it IS essential. It will pay off in the end. No shortcuts, and just as students would expect from future clients, it takes hard work and commitment. Fortunately, is here to help!

Students should set their test day, and then commit to a study schedule to meet their end goal of making a difference in the field of OT.

By: VGuggenbiller, OT/L