Testing Accommodations: Implications for Physical Therapy Educators and Students

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Background and Purpose.

Academic programs in physical therapy prepare students to assume clinical roles, assuming these roles require the students to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Nationally, more students with disabilities are graduating from these programs and requesting accommodations for the NPTE. The purpose of this article is to review learning disability issues within higher education, accommodations provided on the NPTE, and recommendations for academic programs, licensing boards, and clinical sites.

Position and Rationale.

One percent of NPTE candidates received accommodations between the years 2000 and 2009. The majority of those candidates tested with at least 2 accommodations. Extra time and testing in a separate room were the most frequent requests granted. Accommodated exams doubled during the 10-year study period, as did the total cost of providing the accommodations. The pass rate on the NPTE was significantly lower for physical therapist (PT) and physical therapist assistant (PTA) candidates who took the exams with accommodations. Documentation of a disability and the accommodations that were granted during physical therapist education programs will help support the need for accommodations when taking the NPTE. It will not, however, guarantee that the jurisdictional board will approve special accommodations when sitting for the NPTE. We believe that with the increasing number of students with disabilities, educators should have a proper understanding of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and be aware of the implications when providing special accommodations.


Physical therapy is a profession that promotes the abilities of people with disabilities, and as such, physical therapy educators should prepare PT and PTA students who have disabilities by using the accommodations that are likely to be provided on the NPTE. For those students who self-identify with a disability during the academic program, faculty need to encourage them to seek early testing and implementation of approved accommodations during the academic program.

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