2020 was so strange. Right? And the thing is, January 1st, 2021 is a new year, but we should expect our new 2020 lifestyle to follow us into the new year. The good news is a world pandemic and shelter-in-place order do not mean you need to give up on your goals in the massage field, or plans to take the MBLEx. You may just need to adjust them a little.
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 a hiatus- you might find yourself in the position of taking the MBLEx in 2021 (Remember, the NCETMB is no longer an option).
If passing the MBLEx and getting licensed are part of your goals for the year, I want to help you get there – pandemic or no pandemic. To do that, I think you need to know a little more about the newest changes to exam content, pass rates, and fee changes.
Why it is important to know about exam changes.
Massage Exam Academy opened its virtual doors in 2011 to help students pass the MBLEx. Since then, I have witnessed many changes to the MBLEx. Back in 2014, the FSMTB implemented a few changes to the MBLEx. The FSMTB annual report showed that pass rates dropped. 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 provided with the updated information about the MBLEx.
What is the current MBLEx pass rate?
Pass rates from July 2018 through June 2019 are based on 22,148 MBLEx attempts according to the latest FSMTB report. Here is a breakdown of the numbers (which are nearly identical to the previous report).
- First-time test-taker pass rate is 73.4%
- Repeat attempt pass rate is 40.0%
- Overall pass rate is slightly lower at 67.0%
This means almost 33% of test-takers fail their MBLEx.
So far, for 2021, there are no new changes announced from the FSMTB for the MBLEx. But there were some in 2020. Now, let’s look at the recent changes to the MBLEx so you can prepare and PASS your exam.
2020 MBLEx Changes
MBLEx fee Increase
In April of 2019, the FSMTB announced one of its most controversial changes. For thirteen years, the fee to take the MBLEx remained unchanged at $195 per attempt. On April 1st, 2020 the NEW fee for the MBLEx was scheduled to change to $265 per attempt. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, the FSMTB announced the fee would remain $195 until October 1st, 2020.
Bonus: Learn exactly WHAT and HOW to study for your exam with my free MBLEx Starter Pack
COVID-19, Coronavirus, and Testing Centers
Wonder if your center is open, how testing has changed, or how the virus may affect your new career in massage therapy? I dedicated a whole other article to just those topics. You can read that here – Taking the MBLEx During the COVID-19 Pandemic.
2018/2019 MBLEx Changes
In 2018, the FSMTB announced a change in content to the MBLEx exam. Below are the content changes that took place AFTER July 1st, 2018 and will remain for the time being.
Massage history is history.
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 not 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.
All subjects are not created equally.
The distribution of topics tested will be as follows:
Anatomy & Physiology changed from 12% to 11%.
Kinesiology changed from 11% to 12%.
Pathology, Contraindications, Areas of Caution, Special Population changed from 13% to 14%.
Benefits and Physiological Effects of Techniques that Manipulate Soft Tissue changed from 14% to 15%.
Client Assessment Reassessment & Treatment Planning remained unchanged at 17%.
Ethics, Boundaries, Laws and Regulations changed from 15% to 16%.
Guidelines for Professional Practice changed from 13% to 15%.
I have updated our study guide, practice tests, and simulations on Massage Exam Academy to prepare for this change.
2017 MBLEx Changes
There are a few other changes you should be aware of from 2017. I know this may seem outdated for some of you, but there are many people that are not aware of these changes.
New MBLEx educational requirement.
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. 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.”
No more recommended reading lists.
Next, the second change is that the FSMTB will no longer provide a 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.
Pass/Fail: Changes to the MBLEx passing score.
Lastly, there is one more change I want you to be aware of before your exam. I still get emails asking, “What is the MBLEx passing score?” There is no longer a numeric score given at the end of the exam, such as 630. The exam now is PASS/FAIL. The final score 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 thoughts on this here.
How can you prepare for the MBLEX in 2020?
Now that we are aware of all the recent changes, it is time to move forward with your MBLEx preparation.
Give yourself time to study and prepare.
This is not a high school anatomy exam. This is a professional licensing exam. Do not start studying a couple of 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 seven areas you will be tested on, and time for a general review right before the exam.
Review your texts.
Even though there is no longer a FSMTB recommended reading list, 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 failed the MBLEx. People that fail often do not prepare for questions that test clinical reasoning skills.
Massage therapists are health care professionals, so be prepared for the clinical reasoning-type questions every other healthcare professional is tested on during their boards.
You will probably not see a lot of questions like this: Which muscle or muscles adduct the arm?
Now, you are more likely to encounter some questions involving clinical assessment with a dash of kinesiology. Such as:
At the advice of her medical doctor, A 16-year-old girl comes in after experiencing an arm injury from a fall at 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 article on helping you work through the multiple choice structure of the MBLEx.
Take practice quizzes and exam simulations.
Exam simulators are the best way to reduce exam anxiety (a very real and common problem. Exam simulations 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, they remove doubt about how quickly you should be answering questions as you answer similar questions.
Practice quizzes are also 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 that subject. Our “Plan to Pass” is designed to help you determine your weakest spots and improve comprehension and quiz scores in 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. 2020 and 2021 can still bring MBLEx success as well as positive life and career changes.