Study and Pass the NBCOT

How to Study and pass the NBCOT exam in one shot

The average pass rate for the National Board Certification of Occupational Therapy is around 70%.

If you’re like me, you just want to get it over with, so you can start working to pay off those loans!

This quick guide should give you everything you need to know to study and pass the NBCOT, so you can start working.  

Studying for the NBCOT starts with mindset

Everything you’ve put into OT school is about the skills you’ve developed to help others.  Some of those skills include coping strategies and positive thinking.

Now it’s your turn.  

If you go into this exam with fear that you won’t pass, there’s a stronger chance you won’t pass.  Use those coping strategies to help you change a negative mindset.  

Post sticky notes with positive messages on your mirror or computer.  Write a gratitude journal.  

When you get started with the exam remember those breathing techniques.

Tell others in your class that they will pass too. This will help you and others adapt a more positive mindset.

Don’t compare yourself with other OT students

This can be challenging, but if you compare yourself with others you’ll only have more negative thoughts to discourage you.  If you hear that a colleague passed, avoid those thoughts of jealousy.  

Congratulate them and give yourself credit for boosting their morale.  Even if you don’t pass the first time, it’s better to know that you had the right mindset

NBCOT study Schedule

Create a schedule to prepare for the NBCOT

Create a schedule, and stick with it.  Get a full night of sleep and wake up early.  Remember when you learned in neuro that sleep helps consolidate your memories?  It really works.

Go to sleep early, wake up early, and study early.  After a week, your body and mind will be used to it, and you’ll be able to remember more.

1. Eliminate distractions

We all know how difficulty it can be to get off task.  Prepare your study area by removing distractions.  This may include putting your phone in another room, turning off notifications, studying without a computer, or in a location without internet.  

Find a quiet place where no one will bother you like your local public library.

2. Exercise

Schedule some form of exercise each day, and while you’re at it, make it occupation-based.  This will help keep those neurons firing.

Plan on at least 30 min of exercise in your day, and get out in nature. 

3. Bring flash cards

Take 50-100 flash cards while you run or work out.  

Take these flash cards with you while you eat.  

4.  Study by topic and use different methods 

Studying for the NBCOT can be overwhelming.  Make it less overwhelming by studying a single topic. 

Plan out what you will study for the day.  

For example, spend a day studying pediatrics and break your time up into different categories.

The NBCOT study guide will make this easier.

Don’t stick to only one method to study or you’ll get burned out. 

Ideas for different Study methods

  • Study the NBCOT study guide
  • Make flash cards
  • Take practice exams
  • Teach someone what you are learning
  • Teach an empty room of people.  

Using different methods of study and teaching what you learn will increase your attention and help the material stick.

5. Study and social participation

It’s great to study with others, but sometimes they can be a distraction.  Make it a point to stay on task, and realize that some study time needs to be spent alone.  

If you don’t have anyone to study with call a colleague and ask if they want to study over the phone or zoom. 

Find out what study methods are working for them, and any memorization techniques that are helpful.

The top 2 resources to study for the NBCOT

#1 Resource: Therapy Ed

The single most important resource for the NBCOT is the Therapy Ed NBCOT study guide.  I literally wish I bought this book before beginning OT school.  It’s expensive, but completely worth it. I think it’s an invaluable resource.  

If you buy it used, make sure you can still access the practice exams. 

I personally would say you can almost get by with this book alone.  

#2 Practice Exams

Practice exams are the next best resource to study and pass the NBCOT. These resources can be found in the study guide

I would take each exam from the NBCOT guide at least twice.  When you’re getting closer to your exam date you should be getting pretty good scores on each exam. 

Review each exam to see the questions you got right and wrong.

I was able to get by with the 4 exams offered in the OT study guide book, but I would recommend buying additional exams. The more exams you take, the more confident you will be.  

Free NBCOT resources

If you’re looking for free resources AOTA has a NBCOT facebook page called AOTA NBCOT Info Prep. If you click on the Files Page there’s tons of PDF and word documents to help you study.

If you’re tired of reading, check out Miri Lee’s YouTube channel. She has a lot of great content on some of the less obvious subjects.

Additional Resources

Click below for additional resources that may be helpful for your preparation.


To sum this up, stay positive, make a schedule, eliminate distractions and study like you’ve never studied before.  Your most important resources are the NBCOT Study guide and practice exams.  

Learn how to pass them on your first try, and you’ll pass the NBCOT.

Everything you learned in OT school has prepped you for this moment.  Stay positive and confident, you made it this far, and you can pass the NBCOT!  

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