If you are graduating from massage school, moving to a state that requires you to take a licensing exam, or jumping back into the massage profession after hiatus- you might find yourself in the position of taking the MBLEX this year (Remember, the NCETMB is no longer an option).
July 1st, 2014, the FSMTB implemented a few changes to the MBLEX. Many test takers were not prepared for these changes. Massage schools were also not prepared to help students adjust to the new format and changes. It is hard to believe that years later, I still see students that are not being given updated information about the MBLEx.
According to the FSMTB Annual Report, 23,647 people took the MBLEX between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015. Of those, 15,038 (or 64%) passed.
From July 1st, 2015 to June 30th, 2016 there were 32,079 MBLEx attempts with a pass rate of 66.3%. The first time pass rate was 72% and the retake pass rate was 42.9%.
The annual pass rate report for July 2016 through June 2017 was released in September of 2017. There were 30,711 MBLEx attempts in that time period. Of those 24,478 were taking the MBLEx for the first time and 72.8% of them passed. There were 6293 repeat attempts. These are people that are taking the MBLEx for the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th+ time. Only 42.8% (or 2693) of those attempts resulted in a passing score. This brings the average pass rate of the MBLEx for this time period to 66.7%. As you can see, all of these numbers look very similar to the last annual report.
So in order to be prepared for the MBLEx in 2018, let’s review the changes from 2014 and 2017.
In 2018, the FSMTB announced a change in content to the MBLEx exam. The early 2018 exam will look the relatively the same as it has since late 2014. But after July 1st, 2018 things will change. Below are the content changes that will take place AFTER July 1st, 2018.
The section entitled Overview of Massage/Bodywork Modalities, History and Culture will no longer be a separate section.
Overview of Massage/Bodywork Modalities will be reassigned as a subcategory under the section entitled Benefits and Physiological Effects of Techniques that Manipulate Soft Tissue AND History and Culture subcategories will no longer be tested. That means you should have to know who is credited with creating each modality in the year 1846 or who wrote the Book of Massage, but you should still know about the various types of bodywork modalities for the exam.
The distribution of topics tested will be as follows:
Anatomy & Physiology changes from 12% to 11%.
Kinesiology changes from 11% to 12%.
Pathology, Contraindications, Areas of Caution, Special Population changes from 13% to 14%.
Benefits and Physiological Effects of Techniques that Manipulate Soft Tissue changes from 14% to 15%.
Client Assessment Reassessment & Treatment Planning remains unchanged at 17%.
Ethics, Boundaries, Laws and Regulations changes from 15% to 16%.
Guidelines for Professional Practice changes from 13% to 15%.
We have updated our simulations on Massage Exam Academy to prepare for this change.
There are a few other changes you should be aware of.
The first change the FSMTB has posted for 2017 did not concern content on the actual exam. Previously, the FSMTB did not have educational requirements for MBLEx applicants. This change occured July 1st, 2017. The FSMTB website now states:
“Effective July 1, 2017, candidates seeking access to the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) will be required to substantiate enrollment in or having received their education from a massage therapy educational program that is approved or recognized by the state board or agency authorized to regulate massage therapy in the state in which the school is located. In the event the massage therapy board/agency does not approve or recognize education programs, approval or recognition from the relevant state department of education or like agency, in the state which the school is located, shall apply. In the event of a conflict between the state board/agency and department of education, the approval or recognition of the massage therapy board/agency shall prevail.”
The second change is that the FSMTB will no longer post recommended/reference reading list for the MBLEx content. This means the exam content can come from multiple texts and sources. Truthfully, I think it always did. The prior exam content was not explicitly bound to just the FSMTB’s recommended reading list.
There is one more change I want you to be aware of in 2018. There is no longer a numeric score given at the end of the exam, such as 630. The exam now is PASS/FAIL. The report will show pass/fail and how the candidate performed in each of the exam content areas (good, borderline, or poor). You can learn more about my thought on this here.
How can you prepare for the MBLEX in 2018?
Give yourself time to study and prepare.
This is not a high school anatomy exam. This is a professional licensing exam and you should not start studying for a couple days or two weeks before your scheduled date. Before you schedule your exam, come up with a strategy and study schedule.
Give yourself enough time to study each of the eight areas you will be tested on, and time for a general review right before the exam.
Bonus: How to Avoid the #1 MBLEx Study Mistake – Free Lesson and Practice Quiz
Review your texts.
Even though there is no longer FSMTB recommended reading, these texts will still be very helpful as you prepare. You will also use them as references in your massage practice. Dust them off if necessary, and get a feel for how much information you have retained and what you need to relearn.
Develop your critical and clinical thinking skills.
This seems to be one of the most frequent struggles I hear from people that have not passed the MBLEx. They were not prepared for questions where they would need to use clinical reasoning skills.
Massage therapists are health care professionals, so be prepared for the clinical reasoning-type questions every other health care profession is tested on during their boards.
You will probably not see a lot of questions like this: Which muscle or muscles adduct the arm?
You are more likely to encounter some questions involving clinical assessment with a dash of kinesiology. Such as:
A 16 year old girl with comes in after seeing her doctor after experiencing an arm injury after falling during horseback riding lessons a few weeks ago. A range of motion examination indicates that she cannot adduct her arm without pain. Which of the following muscle(s) is likely involved with this adduction pain and dysfunction?
A. Teres minor and Pectoralis minor
B. Teres major
C. Latissimus dorsi and Teres major
D. Infraspinatus and Deltoid
The correct answer is: C
Both Latissimus dorsi and Teres major adduct the arm.
Review multiple choice strategy.
In the above question, option B was also true. But, was it the most true? I have a separate post on helping you work through the multiple choice structure of the MBLEx.
Take practice quizzes and exam simulations.
Exam simulators are a great way to reduce test anxiety, because they allow you to get a feel for the length and pace of the exam. While exam simulators do not offer the exact questions that are on the MBLEx, removing doubt about how quickly you should be answering questions.
Practice quizzes are a great way to target weak spots in your topical knowledge. If you’re scoring very well in Anatomy, Physiology and Kinesiology, but struggling in Client Assessment, it only makes sense to focus your efforts on strengthening that area.
If you would like to learn more about the Massage Exam Academy, which includes MBLEx simulations and practice quizzes, you can do that here.