10 Steps to Conquering Massage Therapy National Certification Exams

Massage Therapy Program

Tina Simunek, Massage Therapy Program Chair

Tina Simunek has learned a few things as the new shepherd of our massage therapy program here at the Sioux Falls campus. She took over the role about three quarters ago and has worked with our graduates, like Shauna Allmon and Krysta Knudson, to improve their pass rates on the national board certification exams.

Tina believes that one true measure of our program is the ability of our students to pass the national board in order to be licensed in the state of South Dakota and be employed in the field of massage therapy.

Tina surveyed past graduates and together they developed a 10-step program to conquering the National Certification Exam. Here is how we moved our pass rate from 50-60 percent, to our students passing the exam nearly 100 percent of the time.

1. Know what it all means and what is right for you.

Know your facts. Abbreviations are everywhere, but what do they mean?  Why are there different tests?  What is best for you?  Knowing this information and the expectations will help you take the exam that is right for you.  Research your state’s licensing requirements; gather information so you can make the best decision for a successful future.

2. Know your abbreviations:

  • NCETMB – National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork
  • NCETM – National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage
  • MBLEx Licensing Exam – The Massage and Body Licensing Examination is governed  by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB).  It is designed to provide a standard for an entry-level scope of practice for massage therapists.
  • MBLEx Tests – Test questions included benefits and effects of massage techniques, massage history, professional practice guidelines, and anatomy and physiology.
  • FSMTB – Federation of State Massage Therapy Board.

3. Which test is for you?  MBLEX vs. NCETMB

MBLEX exam cost is $195.00

NCETMB exam cost is $225.00

MBLEX has 125 multiple choice questions; to pass a scaled score of 630 out of 900 is needed.

NCETMB is 160 multiple choice questions and a scaled score of 300 is needed.

According to the NCETM/NCETMB or National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, the certification exam is used to measure the skills and knowledge acquired by the massage student in their approved massage school or course work.  An approved school or course consists of at least 500 hours of massage training.  Included in that is 100 hours of classroom training in anatomy and physiology, 200 hours of massage theory and application and two hours of massage ethics.

What exactly does the exam consist of?

The breakdown of the massage questions on the NCETM and the NCETMB is as follows:

  • 25 questions on Body Systems: 16%
  • 42 Questions on Anatomy, Physiology and Kinesiology: 19%
  • 18 questions on Pathology: 13%
  • 30 Questions on Massage & Bodywork Assessment: 18%
  • 35 questions on Massage & Bodywork Application: 22%
  • 10 questions on Professional Massage Standards, Ethics, Business & Legal Practices: 12%

massage program4. Practice, Practice, Practice

There are quite a bit of study guide materials out there that you can practice from.  Some may be at a cost to you, but worth it if it heightens your understanding of the material you already have.  Some suggestions would be:

  • Peterson Career Resouces: Master the Massage Therapy Exams, 1st Edition.  Peterson’s Publishing
  • Massage Therapy Review, Passing the NCETMB, NCETM, and MBLEx.  2nd Edition. Laura A Abbott
  • Complete Review Guide.  For State & National Examinations In Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork.  Patrick Barron, N MD.
  • National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork

Massage therapy graduate Krystal Knudson shares her words of wisdom:  “Study actively, not passively.  Find games or puzzles, re-write your important notes, make songs or jingles or random accents to help remember words or information.  But most of all when the day comes, put all your energy and focus into passing the boards and actually believe that you WILL pass.”

5.  Do not try to cram before the exam.

Study in advance to give yourself time to prepare.  If you don’t know the material by now, studying the night before will not help you.

Massage graduate Shauna Allmon shared her advice and expertise: “Preparing for the Boards is a big task; the subject matter covers a wide spectrum of knowledge and skills. Understanding this means a lot of studying. I studied every day and every chance I had. I brought my Kinesiology cards with me everywhere I went and if I had down time waiting in a line, working or at the bank, I would review. I typed my own study sheets with questions and answers in the far right hand side of the paper so I could use them as flash cards. These sheets I put in a binder and also took it everywhere I could and looked at it in any moment of the day that allowed me to do so.

“I took every online free practice test there was available. I printed them and would take them, grade them, study more and then take them again. I ordered the Review for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork Exams (LWW Massage Therapy and Bodywork Educational Series) Joseph Ashton, Duke Cassel and read it cover to cover, took notes and took all exams in the book and online

“Learning is different for everyone, find what works for you, but mostly have faith in you, love what you do, if you want this you can do this even if if take you longer than the person next to you believe and achieve regardless of the road you have to travel to get there just put one foot in front of the other and you will move forward to success.”

6. Be sure to read the entire massage question. Read the question completely at least two times and formulate the correct answer in your mind before you answer. Pay attention to words like “always,” “never” “except” or words that put limitations to a potential answer.

7. Double Check your answers.

8. Eat and rest well before your test day.

9. Study groups.  Participate in your school’s massage groups and use it to refresh your knowledge in certain areas. Other students may have the insight to help an idea or technique click for you.

10. Breathe.  You can do this! You have the foundation and knowledge to become a successful massage therapist. Relax and go for it. We hope this helps! But remember: Hope is not a strategy! Follow these 10 steps and you can do it!

Interested in becoming a massage therapist? Learn more about massage careers on our website.

Submitted by Tina Simunek, Massage Therapy Program Chair, Globe University-Sioux Falls