Taking an exam is serious business—especially when your livelihood depends on it. Licensure requirements to practice massage therapy and bodywork vary from state to state, so the first step is to learn what your state requires.
Once you determine the requirements in your state, including which exams are accepted and eligibility requirements, it is important to consider the different exam options. Some states provide their own exam, while other states might accept such exams as the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork or Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination.
Take into account where you've been and where you want to go. Make sure the exam you choose tests the knowledge and skills covered in your educational coursework.
When you have selected the right exam based on your career desires, the next step is to set a target date for taking the exam. Keep in mind, there is a 90-day window in which to schedule and take your exam after you receive your approval. Read the entire candidate handbook for the exam you plan to take (yes, even the small print!), and submit your application. Once you receive approval, you can then schedule your exam appointment. Experts recommend 90 days of preparation.
Thoroughly familiarize yourself with exam policies and the exam content outline. A content outline tells you what type of material might be presented on the examination. Review each topic and do a self-assessment. Which areas are you most comfortable with? What are your weakest areas? By using these answers, you can then develop your own, unique study plan.
Create a timeline based on your exam date. Make the commitment to study 30 to 90 minutes each day, focusing on one subject each time. For example, study the bones today, the muscles tomorrow, the digestive system the next day and so on. Review the content areas you struggle with.
In preparation, use different study sources, such as study guides, classroom materials, online practice exam, etc. Texts used during your formal education will be helpful. You should be able to answer all of the questions at the end of each chapter of your textbooks. Generally, candidate handbooks provide a list of references that can also be helpful. Check to see if your school has a library or will let you borrow additional texts to focus on your areas of weakness.
There are a variety of study aids to help familiarize you with different testing formats. If you are not familiar with multiple-choice tests, take some sample tests online so you know what to expect. Even if you are not familiar with computer-based testing, don't worry. You don't need extensive computer experience to take the exam. An exam tutorial is usually provided for you at the testing site.
Most massage exams are administered at Pearson Professional Centers, which has more than 230 testing centers nationwide. If your preferred date and time is not available, choose an alternate—but it is sometimes worthwhile to call back to see if your preferred time has opened up. To schedule your test date and find the closest location, call Pearson at (888) 699-1808 or visit pearsonvue.com.
Along with test preparation, there are other aspects to consider. Make a point to drive by the testing site prior to your scheduled exam so you know the exact location. Plan to de-stress yourself the day before your exam. Put your books away, get a massage, avoid alcohol and go to bed early. Don't pull an all-nighter trying to cram before your exam. Instead, get a good night's sleep so you are rested and ready. According to TestTakingTips.com, eating a good meal before your exam will give you energy and help you stay focused. However, the site cautions against eating heavy foods that could make you feel groggy.
What to Expect on Exam Day
Arrive to the testing center 30 minutes before your scheduled exam to complete the admission process. If you arrive late, you will lose your appointment to take the exam. Also note that visitors are not allowed at the testing center and child care is not provided.
Be sure to bring a government-issued ID. The identification must match the information you provided on your application. You will be photographed and a test center administrator will take a fingerprint or palm scan for identity purposes. A locker will be provided to hold your personal items while you test; most testing centers do not allow you to take anything with you into the test area.
Once in the test area, you will be assigned a desk with a monitor, keyboard and mouse. Test-takers are given a pencil and paper or a white board with a marker. Then, it's time to take the exam.
In most cases, you will receive an official score report at the testing center after completing the exam. With the right kind of preparation and commitment to your studies, you should expect good news.