Massage Students – How to Prepare for the NCBTMB Exam
You’ve come so far within the last year, and done everything right – you’ve picked the best massage therapy school for your needs, gone to class (I hope), studied hard and are getting ready to graduate. Congratulations, well done. But now there is one more thing you need to do, and your next big question to yourself is how to prepare for the NCBTMB exam in your state.
Wow, trust me, I know how you feel. It doesn’t matter how hard you’ve worked or studied, you always wonder if you’ve done enough to get you over this last hurdle so you can start your new profession in massage therapy. Well, my friends, there are strategies and tools you can use to help you prepare for the NCBTMB exam. Here’s a list of pointers, some resources and some advice that is realistic (and will hopefully help you lessen some of the stress that comes with this challenge)
1) It doesn’t matter how much you have prepared, it will always feel like it’s not enough.
This is an unfortunate truth in whatever you do. You may find yourself thinking “Maybe I shouldn’t have gone to the movie with my friends last Sunday afternoon” or “maybe I shouldn’t have gone home to visit my grandparents/Aunt Jo/Cousin Felix last weekend”. What I can tell you is this – life is short, and I think it’s better to spend time with people you love – it helps you connect with what is important in life. After all, isn’t that why you chose a profession like Massage Therapy?
2) If you’re still in school, ask the administration if a graduate who recently completed the NCBTMB exam can come in and speak to your class about his or her experience. This is a reasonable request, and most massage therapy colleges love to show off their success stories. If someone does come to speak to your class, don’t be shy, ask questions. Most graduates are more than happy to help out newbies.
3) Start early – let’s say a few months before your exam – and set a schedule.
You may have already done this if your final exams for school are coming up, and that’s great. Depending on the time frame, you need to set a realistic schedule and STICK TO IT. This will allow you some fun time, and it will also allow you some flexibility for unforeseen interruptions. Personally, I like tons of freedom within structure, so setting a schedule keeps me from being overwhelmed while allowing me to make tangible progress and have fun. (I’m all about the fun)
4) Make sure you have the right resources
Mosby’s has a great selection of books which, if you didn’t use them in school, will be a great resource in preparing for your NCBTMB exam and when you start working. Also, there are sample NCETMB, NCETM & MBLEx Practice Exams available which are a great investment, try them out. (Unfortunately, when I did the CMTO exams in Ontario, I didn’t have a tool like this, but it would have been really nice)
5) Study the hard or difficult stuff first.
Trust me on this one. The sooner you get to the tough stuff, the sooner you can identify any issues and address them (darn that Kreb’s cycle). Studying the easy stuff will be a reward, so break it up. If you are studying for 6 hours during the day, spend a couple of hours on the more difficult stuff, then “reward” yourself with subjects you enjoy. And then …
6) Get together with a study group and test each other…
Hopefully you will have found a study group or buddy who is supportive, structured and serious. (Note – it may not be a good idea to study with your friends, you may tend to socialize instead of studying). Get the sample questions for the NCBTMB to help you with this process. Realistically, if you haven’t understood something before, then hearing or seeing the question in a different way may be enough for the lightbulb to go on – trust me, 9 years after writing my exams, this still happens. And, one more thing, the best way to learn a subject is to teach it, so time spent helping someone else is never wasted.
7) Try to find a study partner whose strong points are your weak points.
My study partner in massage therapy school was really good at anatomy – he could memorize muscle origins and insertions like no one I’ve seen. My strength was physiology – I prefer to learn processes. He used to challenge me constantly, and while it was annoying at times, it really did help me remember.
8 ) Surround yourself with positive, proactive friends and study partners.
As a former instructor, there were always a few students who constantly (and I mean they were relentless) found fault with everything, and when they didn’t do well, it was ALWAYS someone else’s fault. I like to call this “swimming against the current”, and these folks wasted time and energy fighting the system when they should have been focusing on learning and taking advantage of instructor knowledge and availability. (side note: my aunt, who has her PhD and has been a teacher for years, calls this type of person a “crazy maker” – they are never happy unless they are stirring up crap, then they like to sit back and watch everyone else freak out. Don’t fall for it, please)
Incredible, really, but you have to choose how you want to live your life, and surround yourself with people who can get you there. So, get rid of the dead weight and the ‘crazy makers’ early on, you’re not responsible for anyone other than yourself. Make the choice to be with people who elevate you (mentally, spiritually and intellectually), not drag you down with them. Harsh, maybe, but so what? These “friends” won’t be paying your student loans, so you need to align yourself with people who have similar goals – which is to pass those exams and get working.
9) Take frequent breaks, completely get away from the books, and move your body. Adequate rest and sleep are really important as well.
My schedule used to go like this – study for 45 minutes, take a 15 minute break, repeat 2 times (that’s 3 hours) – then take an hour or two and step away from the books. Get outside, play with your dog, throw a baseball, get to the gym, do some yoga/pilates/weight training. It doesn’t matter. Reconnect with your body, it really does help.
10) Don’t o.d. on junk food – you will crash and burn mentally and physically.
Remember, junk in = junk out. You need to help your mind retain all of this information by giving your body good fuel – fruit, vegetables, protein, and yes, some fat. Get rid of the deep fried or packaged, sugary processed foods, and the soft drinks.
11) Sign up early so you can have your choice of exam times – you will know by this point when you are able to deliver peak performance, so schedule accordingly.
12) If you have to travel to take your exam, allow yourself time to get there in a stress free state. Stay someplace, or have access to, quiet so you can review before your exam, and where you can sleep well.
13) This is the hardest thing to do, but the night before your exam, don’t study.
Really. Take a break, go to a movie, go for a walk, have a nice dinner and a good sleep. Remember that alcohol can inhibit your sleep, and may make you “wonky” the next day, so you may want to forgo that beer or martini. Feel free to do whatever you want afterwards as a reward.
Best of luck on your exams, and welcome to our profession!