Surviving the State Board Exam

I had the pleasure (no, not really) of taking my PTA license exam last week amid great angst and drama only a serial anxiety-prone test taker can truly reach. Throughout my SPTA experience, I excelled at the practical “hands-on” aspect of the program and struggled pathetically with the multiple-choice-questioned tests. I vividly remember one test that consisted of only multiple-choice answers (“What, no essay?”) with more than one correct answer. My instructor’s words still ring in my ear, “Be ready for questions like this on the state board, folks.”

Studying for the boards in general has been a monumental undertaking for which I was not prepared. To say the least, my study ethic has fallen short, working nine-hour days and coming home to two children, a husband, two dogs and 35 chickens (and a couple of turkeys). Yet, somehow I persevered. I studied every night for an hour and every weekend day. I stopped cooking meals, which meant my husband was caretaker of duties. Translation: Takeout pizza, Mexican and barbequed steak at least twice a week.

As my test date approached, I desperately turned to the Internet for cold comfort courtesy of DOH statistics, PT message boards and emails to former classmates who were living life “on the other side” of taking The Test. Without compromising anyone’s ethics, I asked general questions like, “Was the test harder or easier than you thought?” “Does it compare to any of the study-aid tests?”

Speaking of the “study-aid tests,” I spent hours obsessing over the (many) questions I would get wrong. By my actual test day, I was nervously pessimistic – yet I had hope. I kept in the back of my mind that I had been a working PTA for over six weeks now. I still had that experience (albeit, inpatient) in my corner.

After taking the big test, I was numb. I cried on the way home, certain of failure, furtively looking up answers to questions I wavered about on the test. Luckily my husband drove me to and from the testing facility (getaway driver – highly recommended, by the way). Once at home, we arrived to the scene of a minor fire in our basement that had inexplicably snuffed itself out hours before – but caused extensive smoke damage throughout our home. It was precisely at this point that my brain stopped processing any more information. I quietly ignored the negative omen this fire could symbolize to my success.

In the end, it was a long week. I went through the four stages of grief: anger, denial, depression and sadness. I was resigned to the fact that I had failed the test and would have to take it again sometime (inconveniently) in the middle of summer. After a few days post-test, I found myself in the middle of a workday checking my license status online (the quickest way to check for a pass on the test).

Incredulously, my license indicated “Active” – as in you passed The Test! I admit that I turned and declared “I passed!” through the rehab gym (OK, it was more of a scream). The PTs, PTAs and patients alike gave me a round of applause. At that moment, I truly felt that I was where I was meant to be and this was only the beginning.

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