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University of Southern California
University of Southern California
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Studying for the NBCOT!


September 28, 2020
by Daniel

Life Hacks

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The last couple of weeks have been busy, to say the least. The start of OTD residency, having class, and studying for the NBCOT exam have filled up my entire schedule. I would be lying if I said it’s been easy. There are days when I don’t even want to look at another paper of information after a long day of residency. Usually, I find myself studying 3-5 hours per day after 5PM, depending on how busy the week is. I have given myself about 6 weeks to study and will soon be sitting for the exam in 2 weeks! There are many challenges that I have faced with studying, and one of the challenges I want to share with you all is NBCOT study resources and tips to hopefully make your preparation a little better when the time comes for you to take this exam. 

Study Tips

1. Choosing study materials that work for you
Everyone has a different learning style and there are a lot of options to choose from. This can be overwhelming because study materials cost money and you want to make sure you are getting what you need to pass this exam! I consider myself more of a visual learner and below I share the resources that worked for me.

    This has been my main study resource as it includes PDFs for OT topics that may be on the exam. This also offers hundreds of practice questions and clinical simulations which are super helpful. Each question provides a rationale for the correct answer and the incorrect answers. The rationales are the most valuable component because it has helped improve my clinical reasoning.
  • NBCOT Study Pack
    Personally, I have found these practice questions the most challenging, but that has helped me problem solve and understand how to answer questions. Most importantly, it includes practice exams with a time limit similar to the actual NBCOT, providing a score at the end to see where you are at. This study pack also includes flashcards and matching games to practice different topics.
  • TherapyEd
    This book has a lot of information, so it could be overwhelming at times. However, it includes many exam hints, testing tips, and rationales to help you prepare. It also includes practice exams and clinical simulations.
  • OT Miri (free)
    This has been one of my favorite study methods because Miri helps you understand concepts in a very fun way! She uses lots of visuals, mnemonics, and helps you apply the information into your personal life. Her style has helped me apply the information in a way that text may not be able to. She is also very honest about her experience studying for the NBCOT, not passing, and then re-taking the exam.
  • OT Rex (free)
    This is a great video resource to learn topics in a very concise manner. The OT that makes these videos is great at organizing all of the information into one piece of paper that you can follow along and copy it for yourself to study.
  • OT Exam Prepper (free)
    This podcast helps you learn mnemonics and find fun ways to help remember important concepts that you may need to know for the NBCOT. His examples include using Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. He also provides handouts with all the information to help you study!
  • OT Exam Audio (free)
    This podcast is another option to listen and review important concepts. My personal preference is listening to this podcast while running.

2. Create a schedule
Creating a schedule to follow was really helpful for me in order to keep myself accountable. As you begin to plan your own schedule, you will find many templates from friends or online to help you study. This will depend on your study style, study materials, and study time. You can always modify an existing schedule and apply it to meet your needs. Below is a sample of the study schedule I used. This is a modified version of a template one of my classmates sent me.

NBCOT schedule

3. Maintain a positive attitude/mindset
Build a positive mindset and attitude when preparing for the NBCOT exam. Yes, it is probably one of the most important exams of your life! And the thought of not passing comes to mind and you don’t want to even imagine that feeling. But, you have not taken the exam and you are doing the best you can to prepare! Finding ways to OT yourself and address this thinking pattern will be beneficial. Don’t let this exam defeat you before you even take it. Remember, you got into OT school, you have learned so much, and you have been able to make it this far. YOU have made this possible! Focus on the things you can control, prepare, put in the work, and remember that YOU are more than capable of passing this exam.

4. Take breaks
There are going to be many times when you may not have time to study, you may not feel motivated, or simply feel over it. In order to balance this time and take care of your mental health, make sure you take breaks! Whether this is exercising, watching a show, getting some food, find ways to treat yourself. YOU are working hard and doing the best you can.

“We are not perfect human beings, nor do we have to pretend to be, but it is necessary for us to be the best version of ourselves we can be.” — Satsuki Shibuya