The MBLEx, NCETM, or NCETMB exams for massage therapy are all criterion-referenced tests in which a student’s performance is compared to an established set of standards. A board determines the amount of knowledge and skill a massage therapist needs to be successful. Established standards and criterion-referenced tests are great news for a student since expectations and practice samples are published.
Test preparation for the licensing exam begins with massage therapist classes. Keeping a file of final exams from the classes of your massage therapy school gives you a place to begin for review. It is a good idea to get copies of the standards themselves. Often in the standards it specifies exactly what knowledge or skill will be tested and how. Reading through these and visualizing what you know gives you a good idea of what knowledge is strong and weak in your mind.
Tests given in a training situation are not the same as a criterion-referenced test. It is important to find a set of practice tests to study. Practice tests online may be found at professional organizations websites such as www.NCBTMB.org for a small fee. An Internet search will turn up some free practice tests but be careful. Check to see who is providing the test items. Criterion-referenced test items are written in a certain way with very specific answers and distracters (answers that are the most common mistakes or similar to the correct answer), and these may not give you the type of test practice you need. It is best to find a resource that understands the standards. Professional organizations in massage therapy and testing or educational publishing firms are your best bet in obtaining aligned instruction to national and state standards.
The best study guides are those that provide the standards with clear, concise explanations and direct your focus toward what the standards indicate. In addition, the actual exam subjects are weighted differently and have a varying number of questions. A good study guide will reflect the weighting of the test and spend the most time on the items that occur more frequently on the exam. It should have short drills on specific aspects of massage therapy knowledge. More importantly, it should provide explanations of why a particular answer is correct as well as why a particular item is incorrect.
Criterion-referenced tests cover knowledge acquired over a time. It is not a test to study for at the last minute. Picking a good massage therapy school is insurance for providing the best chance at passing the exam the first time. Frequently reviewing your class notes or final exams will keep knowledge fresh in your mind and make studying easier when the time comes for reviewing for the licensing exam. Discuss items with fellow students. Share opinions and ideas. As the time of the exam draws near, have a set routine for studying. Purchase a study guide, flash cards, or online practice tests. Setting up a study group and assigning different standards is a great way to review. Take practice tests, study the mistakes, and then correct them. Taking practice tests keeps a student focused and not continually reviewing items they may know well.
If you have done all of the above, the next step is having confidence in yourself. Test anxiety is a real fear. Testing goes better if you relax. If you have picked a good school, made a good effort in classes, and taken the time to review, it is highly likely you will pass the exam. Review material a day or two before the test, but do not go over and over it. A student knows what they know. Take some time for yourself and do some activities that keep you calm and positive. Get plenty of rest the night before the exam. Eat a good breakfast. A student will need the energy to think clearly. Once in testing and fear arises, take deep breaths and release slowly. Do not let one test item throw your test rhythm off. Pick the best answer and move on. If time permits, come back to the test items you had doubts about and review. Often the answer becomes clear.
If things do not quite turn out the way you want, do not panic. Retests are allowed. The best part is a student receives a print-out of what was mastered and what was not. It is good information for your next study session.