Kent State Ashtabula Graduate Gets Highest Reported Score on Physical Therapy Licensing Exam

Recent Kent State University at Ashtabula graduate Courtney McCartney, ’16, set a universitywide record by receiving the highest score reported by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy on the national physical therapy exam for physical therapist assistants (NPTE-PTA).

The NPTE-PTA is a four-hour, 200 multiple-choice question exam that is divided into four, 50-question sections. The exam is designed to test entry-level knowledge after graduating from an accredited physical therapy assistant program, covering topics such as physical therapy data collection, diseases and conditions that impact effective treatment, physical therapy interventions, equipment and devices, therapeutic modalities, safety and protection, professional responsibilities, research and evidence-based practice.

McCartney says she was more than a little surprised when she received her results for the exam.

“I was shocked,” McCartney says. “I thought that there definitely had to have been some sort of error with the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy website, and I probably refreshed my screen about five times.”

McCartney says she owes her success on the exam to dedicated studying, hard work and instructors.

“After graduation, we had just under a month to prepare for the exam, so I started studying like it was my full-time job,” McCartney says. “I also purchased the Score Builders study guide and the Practice Examination and Assessment Tool from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy, which had several practice tests in each. I really think that the more practice tests I took, the better off I was.”

McCartney recognizes all of the support from the people who helped prepared her for the exam.

“I really just want to thank all of my instructors for everything they did for me during the program, and for always pushing me to excel,” McCartney says.

Tiffany Kiphart, an instructor in the Physical Therapy Program at Kent State Ashtabula, says that no one on the faculty or staff was surprised at the news that McCartney earned a perfect score. 

“Courtney is an excellent clinician, and any future patient of hers will be blessed to have her as their physical therapy assistant,” Kiphart says. “She was awarded our Student of the Year Award at graduation. The award goes to the student that we all feel encompasses all of the characteristics of an excellent student in the classroom, the clinic and the community — which she does.”

Now that she has her physical therapy assistant license, McCartney plans to find a full-time position with either a skilled nursing facility or a small hospital. McCartney offers this advice to future test takers: read the study guide, take as many practice tests as you can and go over the rationale for every single question. 

“The better prepared you are, the better you’ll perform on the exam,” McCartney says. “All the tools to succeed are there — you just have to know how to use them.”

Learn more about the Physical Therapy program at Kent State Ashtabula

UPDATED: Monday, February 26, 2024 09:42 PM
Abigail Winternitz