Your Next Step: Prepping for NBCOT

by Cheryl Hall on December 25th, 2021

You have been prepping for this moment for the last 4 or 5 years of OT observations, coursework, and fieldwork, yet somehow you feel totally unprepared! Studying and sitting for NBCOT may be one of the most stressful events in your young OT career. Instead of putting your energy towards worrying, concentrate on creating a comprehensive strategy for success. Use all 7 tips below or pick and choose the ones that you feel will work best. If you have a strategy I haven’t included – let me know!

Studying for NBCOT is now your job. Most OT students will need to commit 6 to 10 weeks and 30 to 40 hours a week studying for NBCOT. So, this is not only a job, but a full-time job! Set your daily hours, find a space to do the work, and stick to a schedule. If you don’t have a quiet, defined space at home, head to a library. Heading out each day to study also makes the effort feel more like a real job.

Create a schedule. A good schedule will guide you to spend adequate time on all topics, make sure you don’t overlook any areas, and will keep you from focusing on your comfort zone. OTs are great about sharing what worked for them, including their study schedules, so search online or one of the Student, NBCOT or OT Facebook groups. Mix and match ideas to create a schedule that works for you.

Pull together resources. You have been collecting great OT material since you started your studies, now is the perfect time to weed through and organize those resources. Once you are organized, check out AOTA PDFs, NCBOT Study Pack, OT Miri, or the Purple book to see if they offer anything that enhances your collection. OT podcasts and YouTube videos are also a great way to review material.

Manage your tendency to procrastinate. Half the challenge for me is just getting started. If you dread getting started and find yourself procrastinating, try chunking your time. Set a timer for 1 hour, follow your schedule and just start. Once the timer goes off, take a 10-minute break, and then go for one more hour. I find it easier to face one hour at a time, and once I am in the rhythm of a task it is easier to keep going.

Create a visual. Seeing your progress can also boost motivation. Post a giant calendar, including key events and cross off each study day you accomplish. Or find two jars and fill one with beads or marbles equal to the number of days in your schedule. When each day is done, move a bead to the other jar.

Mix up your study methods. Reading and rereading material is not enough. So, write out summaries, take quizzes, and listen to material. Forming a study group or finding a study partner allows you to present topics out loud and quiz each other. Try to partner with a fellow OT student who has a different area of interest or has worked in different FW placements.

Practice self-care. This advice is everywhere these days, but somehow, we still forget that taking good care of yourself positively impacts mind, body, and spirit. So, eat well, get plenty of good quality sleep, move your body, take time to be in nature every day, and once your studying is done for the day, leave it behind and have some fun. Being healthy and strong will help you pass your exam.

I wish you the best of luck with NBCOT and your future as an OT. You have chosen a wonderful profession and your impact will be never ending!

  • About Me

    Cheryl Hall
    Occupational Therapist
    Maryland, United States

    Welcome to a site devoted to sharing experience, knowledge and resources to make your job of being a great therapist a lot easier.

    I have been an occupational therapist for more than 30 years. I graduated from San Jose State University with degrees in Occupational Therapy, Gerontology, and Early Child Development. My passion is working with adults and children in home health but I have also worked in rehab, sub-acute rehab, hand therapy, transitional living for TBI, and hospital-based outpatient settings.

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