Hey OT fam. I just wanted to let you know that OT Miri is the realest person out there, all day, every day. Look at her test taking strategies, they are good to prepare you with preparing you for the exam. And just let her energy bounce off towards you. Hopefully my energy will bounce off you as well.
My NBCOT Exam History
I danced with the NBCOT 3 times. My scores were 447, 426, and 480. By the time I took my exam the third time, I had passed the exam in my mind even before going into the testing center. In fact, I told my mom “I finally passed,” because I surpassed the mental barrier in my head. I’m not saying that I was overconfident, but I had reached a point where I didn’t even care about the outcome anymore because I had given it my 100% effort and I was overflowing with faith. Through this experience, I learned that the power to pass the exam doesn’t rest solely on any test prep or study material. The majority of the power comes from your mind because your mind will be taking the exam. I have seen people use the best study resource and having enough knowledge to probably write the questions for the NBCOT, but fall short by a few points. I believe people fall into the trap of focusing on the “chance that things will go wrong” instead of on the “ chance that things will go right.” I fell for it too, until I was able to see right through it. I believe this is because there is all of this negativity surrounding the exam, creating unnecessary anxiety and mental block. Don’t create a self fulfilling prophecy – that’s like giving up before you even try. Go in with no expectations (because you won’t know what to expect anyway) and rock every question.
Resources and Timeline
In the first month of studying for my third and final attempt, I completed one AOTA PDF topic per day. I cross referenced these PDFs with the following resources:
- Therapy Ed
- The Pedretti Textbook
- Case Smith and O’Brien Peds book
- OT Miri Videos on the same topic you review that day
- 40+ AOTA questions and 3 clinical scenarios
- 40+ Questions from the Occupational Therapy Review Guide by Caryn Johnson. “Purple Book”
Note: For Therapy, Ed, Pedretti and the Case Smith textbooks, you don’t have to read every detail. Highlight, cross reference and take notes. The important thing is to read the rationales and break down the questions.
- Dance with each question by bringing the question to life. I made every single client in the question a family member, my mom, dad, sister, brother. I imagined them being younger or older depending on the question. This helps tremendously. When you imagine them as your family or friends, you will choose what is best for them without a doubt.
- Take practice tests without marking any questions. It builds confidence because marking questions for later is like second guessing. Later is not guaranteed, so you have to solve the problem right then and there and say “ bye “ to that question.
- Make connections with everything. Play a game of Connect-the-Dots with the information. Think about cause and effect with every topic. For example, when studying pediatric reflexes, think “the child’s reflex integrates at a certain month because he needs this in order to do this next thing.” Or with splinting, think “I am using this splint for the client to prevent this negative consequences from happening.” Don’t just memorize facts, understand why it is a fact. Always ask yourself, “Why? What is the outcome? What is the benefit? Why would I use this method instead of this one?” This is active studying.
- Break down the questions and highlight the important things. Think of the four domains as steps to answer each question.
During the weekend, I completed a 170-question practice exam from AOTA, completing the exam in approximately 3 hrs and 30 minutes. I also used checkpoints for pacing, which let me know where I should be at what time. So for example, I answered 10 questions per 10 minutes. I highlighted everything and took my sweet time to read EVERYTHING. It didn’t even feel like a clock was there. I finished the clinical scenario in 30 minutes, no rush, no pressure. On the real exam, I had one hour left and had 70 questions to go, but I still wasn’t fazed. I caught up and ended up finishing the last question with one minute left.
In the second month of studying, I simply reviewed my notes and OT Miri videos. On the weekends, I took Therapy Ed exams. Be sure to go back and cross reference with the other materials I listed above and take notes. Keep playing connect the dots with the material. If you can, take one NBCOT Practice test a week before your test date. You can put all your skills to the test with it. Again, it doesn’t matter what you score on this test since these scores don’t really carry over to the real exam.
Your pacing strategies, your ability to break down the question in one minute, your recall of the material, and your hope in the face of fear and pressure- those are the things that will carry you over to the real exam.
Things I Did Wrong on My First Attempts:
- Studying 24/7 with no breaks. Even after a study session, I didn’t think I studied enough so I let it consume me. Please don’t do this. 5-6 hours is plenty, you don’t need 24 hours.
- Sleeping 3-4 hours. I was driving home at 2 am half asleep and was destroying my health . Please don’t do this. Let hope drive you forward, not fear.
- Not doing things to relax my mind. You have to relax yourself, treat yourself often.
- Looking at my exam date as if it was the day of the apocalypse. This is self defeating. Exam day is the day you look forward to with hope of becoming an OT, not the end of the world. If fear in your mind is telling you that this exam is like Thanos from the Avengers, Venom, Juggernaut, or whatever big monster you think you may be facing, destroy that thought process. It’s all false evidence appearing real. There are no monsters hiding under the bed or in the closet. Once you turn on the light, you will see that it is only a test.
- Marking exam questions to review for later. This is like second guessing, so I recommend not marking or reviewing on the practice tests or the real test. It builds your confidence when you trust your answer choice.
- Dwelling on the past and the future at the same time. The past is gone and the future doesn’t exist. There is only now, the present moment. Stay in the present.
Things I Did Right on My Last Dance with the NBCOT:
- I prayed every time before I studied. You relieve all pressure from your back when you understand that God is in control of everything. You are not alone in this trial.
- Laughing with family and friends as many times as I could. Skipping rocks across the lake, rollerblading, listening to lofi hip hop study beats, smelling essential oils. Straight up positive vibes.
- Doing Power Poses like Wonder Woman. These make you feel like an unstoppable warrior.
- Productivity Challenge Timer App. It keeps you accountable and gives you break times so you can refresh your mind. Go out for fresh air on your study break.
- Lumosity. It keeps your mind sharp.
- Eating Healthy Breakfast: banana, peanut butter sandwich, pineapples, blueberries, strawberries, green tea, and smelling peppermint essential oils.
- Watching all of the movies by Hayao Miyazaki every Saturday after taking a practice test. If you know the stories, you can actually draw strength from each character and the trials they go through: Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind, Princess Mononoke, Laputa Castle in the Sky, Ponyo, Secret World of Arietty.
- I also listened to the soundtracks from each movie as I was studying because they are uplifting and inspiring. I believe that studying in silence can be dry and boring and make you feel like it’s a chore. When you spice it up with something that is familiar and pleasant, it will just feel like you are just learning. I would also listen to low hip hop study beats on youtube. Try studying with this playlist in the background.
- Pass the OT tutoring. I did one session and I felt like my third eye was unlocked. I approached each question differently.
- Teaching the material to a baby picture of myself and reciting the material back to myself in a child’s voice. You may think I’m crazy, but this helped a lot. I kind of reconnected with my inner child as well. You can teach it to a stuffed animal as well, or a real person.
- Writing down “ CONGRATULATIONS, YOU PASSED!! : )” Everywhere I looked. On the wall, on the classroom walls, on my phone, and on my paper during the test. I wrote it down so much that I believed it. By the time I looked at those words in front of me on the actual exam, I was like “ Alright, alright, I get it. I passed :)” I completely desensitized myself from the words “ YOU FAILED.” Even though I saw those words twice, I realized that I never failed. It is all mind over matter.
Watching these motivational videos helped too:
Day of the Exam
I didn’t sleep well the night before the exam and I had low back pain throughout the exam. But instead of distracting me from the exam, the pain actually helped block out test anxiety, keeping me focused on the exam. And it all started with a positive attitude. I just carried positivity with me andmade the people at the testing center smile by greeting them: “Good morning my dear, how are you! It’s me again!” Had I approached the exam with this kind of positive mentality the first time, I probably would have passed sooner. All along, I should have been thinking, “I’ve been flexing my brain for weeks, my mental muscles are strong now so I can withstand anything. I am well conditioned and ready to show my strength. Let’s get it!”
Don’t fight the current, flow with it instead. Failure and fear is an illusion. You cannot touch fear and you cannot touch failure. It’s all in the mind. So what is there to be afraid of? Understand that the human spirit never fails. This isn’t an IQ test, and even if it was, it doesn’t matter. Your potential is not limited by numbers. Even if you get past the 450 threshold on the NBCOT, you are worth far more than that. When you take the exam, don’t focus on the score, focus on each question in that present moment, and trust your heart. Sure, the exam is as tough as they say it is. But guess what, you are way tougher than this exam. If you think too much about the outcome, the whole process and all the pressure surrounding the exam can psych you out before, during, and after the exam.
My dad named me after David from David and Goliath, so I always strived to live up to my name. There is no challenge too great for us to overcome. When we drive on the highway, there is always a chance of getting in a fatal accident, yet we still drive with faith and courage that we will get through it safely. When we step outside of your house, there is always a chance that a million different things could go wrong, yet we still face the day with faith and hope that we will see another day. We have more strength than we give ourself credit for. You don’t have to be Albert Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, or Jimmy Neutron. Just be you and bring your maximum effort. You hold a power that is beyond any measure.
I believe that exam success is not defined by getting a perfect score. It’s defined by your effort, resilience and courage to take on any challenge without fear, dread or doubt. Why? Because God will carry you through it all at the end of the day. That is why you can never fail. Period. It doesn’t matter what you see or don’t see in front of you. You don’t even need eyes to see the blessings heading your way. It’s all a process. Think of what your 80 year old retired self would tell you. What I imagine I would say is “Although they are temporary, enjoy the moments that challenge and push you past your limit. They will mold and shape you into an unstoppable force of nature. Don’t ever give up, the world is a better place with you in it.”
This is your own journey, not other people’s journey. You are at the top of the mountain already, there are only blessings headed your way. Look past all of that fear until all you can see is yourself reaching your goal. Always see the bigger picture, your future self will thank you. Those who say they can, will. And don’t wait until you pass the exam to be happy and find a job to be happy. External happiness is temporary, so bring your own happiness with you wherever you go and you will see that you have everything you need. The grass is greener where you water it. Be happy now right where you are, alive and well, and full of unlimited opportunities and endless stories to tell. Every single one of you a hero for going into this profession of helping other people. That’s a pass in my book, and you don’t even need to show me a score. Now go show the world your strength.
If You Don't Pass
If you found out you didn’t get a passing score, congratulate yourself for the hard work you put in, and keep your head up because you already passed, it just hasn’t happened yet. It’s all yours, dust yourself off and go make it a reality. I know how it feels. It can be disappointing that it’s not time yet, but that feeling doesn’t last long. Don’t look at the ground, look straight ahead at your goal and go grab it. You have the upper hand, there is no mystery about the process since you already been through it. I have been there, and came back stronger and sharper than ever. If I can, you can too. The best is yet to come. You have not failed unless you say so. You are just learning how to get to a higher level. It will surprise you when you see the unlimited amount of strength you have when you are out of your comfort zone and you persevere anyway. Rise up from the ashes, get your Phoenix on. There isn’t a thing on this planet, or anywhere in this universe that can defeat your spirit. Every challenge is in place to strengthen you. You will be tested, you may be bent, but you cannot be not broken.
One of my favorite Bible verses is, “You may be hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down but not destroyed.” – 2nd corinthians 4 vs 8-9. God is with you during this trial, don’t doubt him and don’t doubt yourself. You have faced greater challenges and have still come out alive. Always stay in the present moment, leave the past where it is, and let tomorrow worry about itself. You are a warrior, a titan, a force of nature that can’t be stopped. When you can see your true strength and believe it for yourself, you will realize how achievable your goals are. That’s what it truly means to be successful, with this challenge, and with all other challenges in life. Go get it, it has your name on it already and it’s waiting for you to receive it. The world is a better place with you in it, and your clients will love you. Your dream job is being prepared for you when you pass, and you will appreciate it even more. May God continue to bless you and lead you on your journey. Do your thing, laugh and smile with it!