Academic difficulty and program-level variables predict performance on the National Physical Therapy Examination for licensure: A population-based cohort study

Daniel L. Riddle, Ralph R. Utzman, Dianne V. Jewell, Stephanie Pearson, Xiangrong Kong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background. Several factors have been shown to influence first-time pass rates on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). It is unclear to what extent academic difficulty experienced by students in a physical therapist education program may affect NPTE pass rates. The effects of institutional status (public or private) and Carnegie Classification on NPTE pass rates also are unknown. Objective. The aim of this study was to quantify the odds of failure on the NPTE for students experiencing academic difficulty and for institutional status and Carnegie Classification. Design. This investigation was a retrospective population-based cohort study. Methods. Quota sampling was used to recruit a random sample of 20 professional physical therapist education programs across the United States. Individual student demographic, preadmission, and academic performance data were collected, as were data on program-level variables and data indicating pass/fail performance on the NPTE. A generalized linear mixed-effects logistic regression model was used to adjust for confounding factors and to describe relationships among the key predictor variables - academic difficulty, institutional status, and Carnegie Classification - and the dependent variable, NPTE performance. Results. Academic difficulty during a student's professional training was an independent predictor for NPTE failure. The odds of students who had academic difficulty (relative to students who did not experience academic difficulty) failing the NPTE were 5.89 (95% confidence interval=4.06-8.93). The odds of NPTE failure also varied depending on institutional status and Carnegie Classification. Limitations. The findings related to Carnegie Classification and institutional status should be considered preliminary. Conclusions. Student performance on the NPTE was influenced by multiple factors, but the most important, potentially modifiable risk factor for poor NPTE performance likely is academic difficulty during professional training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1182-1191
Number of pages10
JournalPhysical therapy
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2009


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

Cite this