If you’ve recently graduated from massage therapy school, you’re probably already studying for your licensing exam — which, in most states, is the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx).
Even if the information in your head is solid, you may be wondering what else you can do to prepare for the day of the test.
That’s the kind of question best answered by someone who’s been there. So we asked our closed Facebook group of massage therapists to share their best tips and strategies for passing the MBLEx. Here are the top 7:
1. Study! But Don’t Over-Study
Nothing beats the test jitters like knowing you’ve learned the material. Make sure you have a quiet place to do your studying, and schedule your study sessions just like you would any other important appointment.
It’s also important to study in the way that you learn best. Jimmy Gialelis, a massage therapist and CE provider, shares his strategy for learning anatomy using an unconventional study guide.
“Get butcher paper and cut into 3-foot sections. Create a 3-foot body outline image for each system,” he said. “Upon each section, draw the organs and pathway depicted per system. Within the body image, record the functions of each organ and tubeage. Outside the body image, record the major pathologies of the system.”
Almost as important as studying is knowing when to stop studying and give your brain a break. Massage therapist Nanci Wallace recommends ending your study time 48 hours prior to the exam.
“Stop studying 48 hours before the test. If you don’t know it by then you’ll never know it,” she said. “Get a massage the day before the test; take yourself out to lunch or a nice dinner. Go for a hike. Anything and everything that will take your mind off of the test.”
2. Take a Practice Exam (or Two)
You can obtain free (and premium) study guides and practice tests from various organizations and companies, including the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), which administers the MBLEx; Massage Study Buddy; and one of MASSAGE Magazine’s partners, Bamboo, which sponsors the MBLEx Review Resource Center on massagemag.com.
Practice tests are set up to mimic the real thing and give you a feel for the types of questions you’ll encounter, as well as test your knowledge.
“When taking practice tests, don’t worry about the questions you got right,” noted Michael McGillicuddy, a massage therapist and CE provider. “Notice the questions that you got wrong and ask, what did I not understand about the question.”
3. Know Where You’re Going
Massage therapist Kimberly Rogers recommends finding your test site the day before, “especially if you are traveling to a city you don’t know your way around,” she said. “You’re stressed as it is — you don’t need to add navigation to it, too.”
4. Be Good to Your Body — Especially the Night Before
“The night before the exam, go to bed early,” Wallace said. “No alcohol; it will blur your vision the next day whether you get drunk or not.”
5. Eliminate Distractions
The MBLEx is a computer-based exam containing 100 multiple-choice questions. You can’t skip questions and revisit them later, so it’s important to keep focused throughout the two-hour time frame.
The testing software includes a timer that counts down to show how much time you have left, but according to the FSMTB you can toggle this timer on and off so it doesn’t break your concentration.
6. Break Down Tough Questions, and Other Strategies to Try
“Your body is your cheat sheet and you will have it with you always,” said Suzann Bacheller-Mullennix, a massage therapist. “When studying, use your own body to visualize your IOA [insertion, origin and action]. “Also … focus on the prefixes, suffixes and base words for the medical stuff separately; then no matter what comes up you can break it down to figure it out.”
Rogers suggested, “before you read the question, look at the answers first. Then go back and read the question.”
In their study material, the FSMTB notes that the test is very straightforward — meaning no trick questions — so be careful not to talk yourself out of what seems like an easy answer. “Read the questions, but don’t overthink them,” says massage therapist Julia Hester.
7. Prepare to Pass the MBLEx!
You’ve studied. You’re well-rested. You ate a healthy breakfast. Now what?
“When you get in there,” Wallace said, “the very first thing you should do is close your eyes, take a deep breath — and know that you’ve got this.”
About the Author
Allison M. Payne is MASSAGE Magazine’s associate editor. Her recent articles include “MTs Ask: What is Asymptomatic Transmission of Coronavirus and What Does It Mean for My Practice?” and “Make the Right Match: Top 7 Topicals for 7 Types of Clients.”