Passing the NPTE: 2 hours of efficient learning per day for 30 days

Every year when testing season rolls around for the NPTE or any other major tests, I harken back to my days of cramming and reflect on how inefficient it was and how much of that information I haven't retained. 

However, when I took the NPTE, I employed a new strategy based on the emerging principles of efficient learning and retention - and it worked wonders.  

I passed the NPTE, with a healthy margin, studying 2 hours a day for the 30 days leading up to the exam date.

No cramming and long periods of hunkering down or huge spikes in my sympathetic nervous system.

So how did I do it? 

By harnessing the power of distributive, randomized studying.  This type of studying has consistently proven to be the gold standard for retaining information.

I highly highly – highly^infinite power – recommend reading Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning if you have not done so already.

So what is distributive, randomized studying?

Distributive studying means that the time spent studying is significantly less than the time spent not studying – known as “rest”.

Randomized studying means that there is no set order to the topics being studied.

Therefore, with distributive randomized studying you are studying randomized topics for an amount of time that is significantly less than the rest of your day. 

However, before you can begin you need the proper materials and tools.

My Study Materials

I used two different information sources and 1 tool to create the distributed, randomized learning. 3 things total:

1 – Scorebuilders book including the practice tests

2 – PEAT practice tests

3 – ANKI:  For those unfamiliar, this is a computer and phone application/program in which you create notecards and then the app randomizes and distributes the studying for you.  In my case, I ended up with a bank of about 900 note cards and according to the ANKI algorithm, 150 note cards per day was optimal for learning and retention.

The 30 Day Process

Here is the 30 day breakdown of my studying plan:

Day 1:  Took the 1st test of scorebuilders

Day 2:  Analyzed the test – specific questions, terms that I didn’t know, general topics/trends of things I didn’t’ know – and put that information into ANKI. 

On a side-note, shout out to my dude Brian Kinslow at EvolvFlg for supplying me with a healthy ANKI database from the jump.  Back to the breakdown.

Day 3-7:  Used ANKI

Day 8: 2nd scorebuilders test

Day 9:  In the same vein as the 1st test, analyzed and inputted information into ANKI

Day 10-14: Used ANKI

Day 15: Took PEAT practice exam

Day 16: You guessed it, analyzed that exam and inputted into ANKI

Day 17-21: Used ANKI

Day 22: Took the PEAT retired NPTE exam

Day 23: Analyzed, inputted into ANKI

Day 24–28: Used ANKI

Day 29: Reviewed all ANKI note cards

Day 30: Reviewed Scorebuilders “common conditions” section

Adding Supplementary Information

A great part about using ANKI is that the time you spend each day on the note cards will progressively decrease - allowing more time to review supplementary material.

During week 1, it took me roughly 2 hours to get through the 150 cards so I stopped there.

During week 2 that time decreased to 60 to 75 minutes, during week 3 it was around an hour, and during week 4 it was 30-45 minutes. 

With that extra time, I went through Scorebuilders and reinforced material that was giving me trouble or that I didn’t feel comfortable with.

In my case, this was primarily nerves and nerve roots, pediatric reflexes, general age based characteristics, certain modality parameters (ew), specific orthopedic rehab timelines, and differences between specific receptors (mazzoni, ruffinian, etc).

I found it to be quite helpful.  If nothing else, just for confidence and some peace of mind.  

If I had it all to do again, what changes would I make?

The one thing I would change is reviewing the Scorebuilders “condition profiles” sooner because they are very low hanging fruit – well laid out and easily digestible material that is commonly seen on the NPTE exam.  Great addition by the Scorebuilders folks and I tip my cap to them.

Is 30 days and 2 hours a hard and fast rule?

 Absolutely not!

In general, if you feel like 30 days or around 2 hours daily is simply not enough time, then you can push out the study schedule to 45 or 90 days and/or increase the daily studying time.

That’s the beauty of this plan – it provides a great foundation in and of itself but it’s flexible enough that you can stretch it out or add more time daily. 

I hope this helps anyone who is studying for the NPTE, other test, or just trying to keep their knowledge base sharp. 

If you build the right process with great inputs, the outputs and outcomes will be great as well.  In this case, that outcome was a great test score. 

Thanks for reading and feel free to subscribe to the RSS feed.  Until next time, 3CB out.