10 NBCOT ® Exam Tips: Conquering the Beast!

10 NBCOT Exam Tips to Conquer the Test

Dear OT and OTA student, if you are looking for some NBCOT® exam prep tips then look no further!

You have survived this far, coping with all the stress of OT school, but no one warned you about all the stress and anxiety that was to follow with the next step of the journey; namely, how to pass the NBCOT exam, finding a job, and essentially getting your life in order.

It is only natural to feel like a bundle of nerves when you find yourself preparing for this daunting exam and we will be sharing:

  1. 🔟 NBCOT exam tips
  2. A free printable OT board exam study planning worksheet and a sample OT Crossword Puzzle to help you in your studies (grab them below!)

Let’s Review 10 Tips to Help Decrease Your Stress and Provide Some Guidance on How to Prepare For The NBCOT Exam!


1️⃣ Reflect On Your Own Strengths And Limitations When It Comes To Taking the NBCOT Exam.

It can feel intimidating when beginning the study journey for this exam and reflection can be helpful to calm those nerves. What better way to develop a thought-out and intentional plan than to take some time reflecting on what you need to help you succeed. Through reflection you can think back on previous challenging experiences as well as look forward into the future to set your own study goals and strategies you will use to conquer this exam.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself while you reflect: 

  • Have I previously had test-taking anxiety? If so, what has helped me manage this before?
  • How would I describe my study habits?
  • What are going to be my own challenges when studying for this exam?
    • Procrastination?
    • Self-Doubt?
    • Lack of Time?
  • What are some of my fears around the study process?
  • How will I know when I need a break?

Reflecting on these things will help lay the foundation for a successful study plan.

Studying for the NBCOT exam tips


2️⃣ Engage Active Rather Than Passive Study Strategies To Study for the OT Board Exam. 

There are many different ways to study and you likely know what works best for you to help you retain information. That being said, it is tempting to choose easier or more passive approaches to studying that involve a general review of notes and textbooks or reading content as the main method of studying. Although by doing this you may remember or memorize what is in the book, there is no real understanding of the content needed to apply the material.

Active studying entails engaging more deeply in the study process.

This may include:

  • taking notes,
  • asking and answering questions,
  • making your own unique outlines or diagrams,
  • using flash cards or sticky notes, or
  • having a discussion with a fellow student.

All of these are examples of ways to help you better retain and process the information.

These worksheets and this OT crossword bundle from OT Exam Insights are an amazing addition to your study toolkit if you are looking for some more active ways to study the material (plus, get an extra 10% off using code: FLOURISH10 🙌 ).

NBCOT exam study worksheets and get an extra 10% off using code: FLOURISH10


3️⃣ Transform Negative Thoughts Into Positive Ones That Will Increase Your Confidence. 

Negativity can be your biggest enemy when preparing for this exam. It can rob you of the opportunity to feel confident, prepared, and knowledgeable. Start being aware of your own negative self-talk and try to transform these thoughts into positive ones.

Squash the NBCOT exam negative self talk and try these tips | OTflourish.com

Just remember that a positive mindset is a passing mindset!

4️⃣ When Answering Practice Questions Be Sure To Review The Rationales For Each Question.

There is valuable information to be found in the rationales following questions which explain why certain answer options were or were not correct. By reviewing these rationales, you will likely start to notice patterns in how questions are set up.

Often certain concepts are prioritized, and you may find that the correct answer is often:

  • the most client-centered option.
  • the safest option.
  • the one that is most suited to the client’s own unique goals described in the question.
  • the only one that applied to the specific frame of reference stated in the question.

These are simply some examples, by going through rationales you will be able to find out more!

5️⃣ Put Together a Toolkit of Strategies You Will Use To Help You Manage Stress and Anxiety For the NBCOT ®.

Your level of stress is going to directly impact your exam performance and therefore will impact your results. It is important to evaluate the reasons for your stress and develop a plan to help compensate for these tendencies. Putting together your own unique toolkit of strategies that you can use when you feel anxious, overwhelmed, or afraid will help you in being proactive and resilient throughout your study process.

You may find that certain strategies or exercises work better for you than others. Some examples of coping strategies are:

  • Relaxation exercises
  • Time spent with a good friend or family member
  • A self-care routine
  • Mindfulness
  • Physical exercise

Spending time taking breaks to complete some stress-relieving tasks shouldn’t be considered ‘lost study time’ but rather valuable time spent re-charging so that you can be your most productive and rejuvenated during the time you do spend studying (therapeutic use of self on yourself, anyone?).

6️⃣ Determine Your Own Realistic Study Schedule and Stick With It.

It’s natural to want to get this exam over with as soon as possible and move on to the next step in your OT journey. It may be tempting to try and cram the exam preparation into a short amount of time just to get the agony over with; however, this might not be a realistic plan.

Try to begin with:

  • a review of the vast amount of topics you will need to study,
  • how long you feel you need to spend on each topic,
  • allot time for practice tests, breaks, etc.

These are all important factors to consider in a realistic study plan.

Once you have your plan in place, try to stick to it as closely as possible. This will help you feel more organized and in turn more confident.

A plan will help you with only focusing on the work you need to do in one day or in one week.

Get your NBCOT exam study pack Planning Worksheets & Crossword freebie here ⬇️

nbcot pdf

7️⃣ Engage Reflection When Analyzing NBCOT ® Exam Questions.

Trying to figure out what the questions are really asking can be one of the most challenging parts of this process. Often the questions are very wordy and complex making it difficult to dissect the question. By using reflection, it allows you to break down the question more easily and use clinical reasoning to form conclusions.

These are some examples of reflective questions you can ask yourself when answering questions:

  • What is this question really asking?
  • What is my reasoning for choosing this answer? What is my reasoning based on? Is it something factual?
  • What did the client state is their priority?
  • What terms can I define to help me find the answer?
  • What answer applies to the specific information provided in the question?

If you start using reflective questioning when answering practice questions, it will be a lot easier to ask these same questions on the real exam.

8️⃣ Create An Ideal And Healthy Study Environment.

Your study environment has an effect on your ability to concentrate, as well as how long you can study. A conducive environment that is comfortable and organized will help you focus, while a noisy and cluttered environment can frustrate you.

Be mindful of how you feel while you are studying – if you are starting to feel bored or isolated in your study space it may be time to change things up a little bit. 

Additionally, having a study routine where you study in a certain place at a certain time each day / week will help your brain know that it is time to work. Fostering an effective study setting will help you make the most of the time you have to study.

Feel confident studying for the NBCOT exam, by using these tips you can try TODAY! | OTflourish.com


9️⃣ Stop The Comparison Game.

As it is with comparison in general, overly comparing yourself to other students when preparing for this exam is going to decrease your self-confidence.

If other people are using 5 study prep materials and you are only using 2 this doesn’t mean you aren’t going to pass.

If other people took the same practice exams and got higher scores than you this doesn’t mean you aren’t going to pass. 

While it can be helpful to get advice from other students about their previous study methods that seemed to work for them, avoid falling into a trap of self-doubt if you feel like your plan isn’t identical to someone’s who previously passed the exam.

Stop comparing yourself to others and start believing in yourself!

🔟 Take a Holistic Approach to Preparing For The NBCOT ® Exam.

Are you finding yourself overwhelmed with reviewing OT content, figuring out how to break down the challenging exam questions, and at the same time trying to manage your own anxiety surrounding this exam? Perhaps you should try to take a holistic approach to exam preparation.

By taking a holistic approach, you consider what you need – body, mind, and spirit – to be successful. A holistic approach also considers the complexities of this exam and how it isn’t just about knowing the OT material (of course this is a BIG part of it) but it is also about your exam performance and ability to understand the questions.

Crush the OT Board Exam with these 10 tips!


OT Board Exam Resource

The newly released book OT Exam Insights: Cracking the Code to the National Occupational Therapy Exam will provide you with strategies to calm your nerves and prepare your passing mindset, help you to analyze questions, and provide you with practice questions and rationales to dig deeper to see if you truly understand the OT content. If you are looking for a refreshing and compelling resource to help you prepare for the NBCOT ® exam then this book is for you.

At the end of the day just remember that you have come this far, and you can overcome this hurdle too! As OTs we are often telling our clients to have perseverance, confidence, and hope that they can achieve their goals, so why not listen to our own advice. Make your new mantra: “I CAN do this!”

About Our Guest Blogger

Melissa Vanwynsberghe, MOTR/L is an occupational therapist and the author of OT Exam Insights. She has a passion for tutoring and mentoring OT students and felt inspired to develop a holistic resource after seeing firsthand how many students are daunted by the NBCOT® exam. The insights and strategies she has described in the book OT Exam Insights are the result of her experiences both as an OT student and an OT exam tutor. With a degree in philosophy, she has a unique understanding of the fundamental nature of human success and potential and is dedicated to creating resources that help students to maximize this potential. 

This post contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something we may earn a commission with no additional costs to you. Thank you for your support!

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