Study Plan & Timeline

I gave myself 6 weeks to study for this exam. Personally, I thought anything longer than that I would get really burnt out and start to over-think everything. There are TONS of different resources to use to study for this exam, and it was quite overwhelming to know which one would be best for me personally. Ultimately, I decided to go with Pass the OT and AOTA Questions/PDF’s, along with OT Miri videos.

OT Miri was one of my saviors though this process – and HUGE shout out and thanks to her. All her videos were such a delight to watch. She was positive, welcoming, cheerful – a light each day that I was feeling stressed out. She really made me feel like I CAN do this!! She broke down each topic, and gave great ways to memorize things (in which I used on the exam!!)

Study Resources

I decided on two sources because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with too many sources (TherapyEd, Purple Book…etc.) and not be able to keep up with everything or end up neglecting something and not getting my money’s worth (because let’s face it – this is also an expensive process for someone without a job). I thought Pass the OT and AOTA ended up complimenting each other. Areas where AOTA lacked (Cardiac Conditions/MET Levels for example), Pass the OT seemed to make up for, and vice versa. I thought AOTA practice questions were great, and the most similar to what you see on the exam. Pass the OT had questions as well – although in my experience, they seemed to be more knowledge based rather than clinical application. Pass the OT also comes with tutors – my classmates said they were very helpful.

I know many people always want to know: How did you study for this exam? Although it’s different for everyone, here is what I did:

  • I studied 4-6 hours a day M-F and took the weekends off. Usually I studied 8-11:30 (took an hour break for lunch) and then 12:30-3:30.
  • I studied one module/topic at a time, and went through all my resources on that topic. I took notes on everything (I did this in school – rewrote my notes, so I stuck to my old study habits because I knew they worked for me).
  • My first two weeks, I did practice questions here and there based on topics I studied. On week 3, I decided to take a practice exam to see where I stood. Every week after that I took another practice exam. A day or two after my exam I would review the rationales for the questions I got wrong.
  • Once a week, I had two classmates who I would Skype with (shout out to Gabby and Amanda if they are reading this). What worked best for us: we would each take a topic and teach it to the others. This was awesome because it allowed us to learn the material, and teaching helps you learn it even better! It was great to collaborate with a group and hear their points of view/perspective on things as well.
  • I tried making a study schedule (X topic on X day) and realized that didn’t work for me because if I didn’t make the deadline, or ended up getting onto another topic that day…etc. I would be very disappointed in myself, and didn’t want to promote any negativity!

Find Your Support System

My boyfriend was a huge support system, and I am forever thankful for his encouragement, positivity, and promotion of brain breaks throughout the process. My best friends from school, and family were also great support systems as well (although I didn’t live in the same areas as any of these wonderful people, so weekly phone calls were awesome to help keep my spirits up).

Before I knew it – 6 weeks had flown by. I was doing anything in my power to raise my confidence (see my tips below about confidence). I ensured that I worked out, ate healthy, got lots of sleep before my exam. I woke up early on exam day, I cooked a healthy breakfast, I left early and got to my exam site an hour early (this really alleviated the stress of possibly running into traffic, not finding the site…etc. Also gave me plenty of time to use the bathroom, take some deep breaths, and ultimately, I got to start my exam a little early!). Afterwards, I felt like I failed. I talked to classmates, read some posts on the AOTA Facebook page, and it seems to be a pretty common feeling after the exam. Regardless of how you feel after the exam, treat yourself!! You deserve it!! I went out to some happy hour with friends, and this really helped ease my mind and allowed me to relax!


1. Study One Topic at a Time

Since I was using Pass the OT and AOTA, I started with Pass the OT Modules (there were 6 Modules of content). I would read over the AOTA PDF’s that incorporated with that module in Pass the OT. I also watched OT Miri videos that went along with this material too. I felt this made it less overwhelming to focus on one topic at a time.

2. Look at the Big Picture First Before Conquering the Details

  • One thing I always had to tell myself is NO ONE will ever know every single thing for this exam, it is impossible. Of course, I wanted to know everything, I wanted so desperately to pass. This also helped me feel a little more at ease with my practice test scores not being 90-100%.
  • What setting are you in? Is it a progressive condition? General symptoms/presentation of clinical conditions.
  • OT Miri videos are great at starting with the bigger picture and then focusing in – I HIGHLY recommend ?

3. Don’t Dwell on Your Strong Areas/Topics - Trust What You Know!!

  • For me, neuro was my strong area, and my passion in OT. There is SOOO much in neuro, and it was really easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty details of all the neuro conditions.
  • Peds and mental health were my weaker areas – and I spent longer going over these areas compared to neuro.

4. Review Rationales of Questions You Got Wrong

  • One of my clinical instructors told me, if you get a question right you know it and move on. Don’t spend too much time going over what you already know. So, I only reviewed rationales of questions I got wrong.
  • You can totally review rationales for questions you get right – but DEFINTELY review them for the ones you got wrong. Going over rationales was time consuming for me because I truly wanted to understand why (this was the other reason I only went over the questions I got wrong).

5. Take Breaks & Make Time to Have Fun

  • Don’t drop off your daily routines – if you work out every day, take your dog to the park…etc. Keep those routines!
  • Give your brain a break – if you start to get tired, your studying won’t be as effective and then you end up wasting precious time,
  • Do fun things on the weekend, allow yourself to watch an episode or two of your favorite show on Netflix every night. Don’t allow studying for this to take over your ENTIRE life. Health and wellness is crucial!
  • Don’t punish yourself for a day that isn’t as productive as you wanted it to be. This is okay! Maybe you were more tired, or feeling burnt out, or had some other things going on – allow yourself to take the break, and put forth double the effort tomorrow.

6. Practice Tests in Testing Conditions

  • I would do anywhere from 50-170 questions, and each time I would always take my questions under timed conditions in a quiet place.
  • If you take a simulated exam of 170 questions, 3 clinical simulations – again take it in a quiet place, don’t allow yourself to pause the exam (since you can’t do that in the real exam), and if you need to take a break keep the clock running.

7. Increase Your Confidence (these might seem silly – but worked for me)

  • You know everything you need to know to be successful on this exam” – this was my mantra through OT school (one of our teacher assistants told us this before our first exam, and I carried it with me all the way through OT school and to the NBCOT exam).
  • Every time you look in the mirror say “I WILL pass this exam”
  • On exam day – do some power poses before walking into the exam.
  • Place your hands in a V (I told myself V for victory)
  • Place your hands behind your head to open your chest for confidence. You can Google power poses and see what you like best?

8. Last Week Before the Exam

  • Do NOT do any more practice questions. I made this mistake, and it psyched me out. I started to panic and think I wasn’t prepared for the exam.
  • Review all content – but especially your weakest areas.
  • Review rationale of questions you got wrong – this is how I spent the last day before my exam.

9. Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose

Shout out to anyone who know where this quote is from. It’s one of my all-time favorites.

  • Clear Eyes – knowing who you are, and not losing sight of that no matter what obstacles/troubles come your way. You ARE an OT!!!! You have graduated from school, you have passed the coursework and your fieldwork!! You are starting the next part of the journey.
  • Full Hearts – putting your whole heart into something, better yet, everything you do. Give this studying your all. Embrace the journey, take this as a time to learn more and get to know material more before your first job as an OT.
  • Can’t Lose – no matter the outcome, you can’t lose.
  • Pass or Fail – you don’t lose. As OT Miri mentions in one of her videos – everyone has a different timeline. If you didn’t pass, maybe a better job opportunity will come your way. Don’t give up – press on!

Every man at some point in his life is gonna lose a battle. He’s gonna fight and he’s gonna lose. But what makes him a man, is that in the midst of that battle he does not lose himself. This game is not over, the battle is not over. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose” – Coach Eric Taylor