Tips to pass the MBLEx exam

11 Tips to Perform Better on MBLEx Test Day

Passing a licensing exam like the MBLEx can be a major obstacle for massage school graduates. Most states require that you pass the exam before you can apply for a massage license and start working as a massage therapist. Not passing the first time can be a frustrating experience, and will end up costing you more time, registration fees and delayed income. 

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to increase your chances of passing the massage licensing exam in 2024, even at the last minute. The purpose of this blog post is to share some tips you can use in the days leading up to the massage exam, and on test day.

If you do still have some time to keep preparing for your massage exam, be sure to include some MBLEx practice tests in your study plan.

MBLEx tips to pass the massage exam

1. Arrive well rested on test day

Routine is your friend when it comes to preparing for an event such as a comprehensive exam. It is important to be well rested on test day. Have a consistent sleeping schedule in the days leading up to taking the MBLEx. This will help you to get to sleep on time the night before the exam. Plus, even if you still don’t sleep well that night, at least you got plenty of rest from the previous nights, so you won’t be exhausted.

For most people, scheduling a morning test time is best. This is because your brain will be less fatigued early in the day. If you schedule a 9 am test time and plan on getting up at 6 am that day, then get up at 6 am consistently for the 3-4 days leading up to this. Also go to bed at the same time. This way your body will have time to get used to this schedule. In fact, during these days before the test, simulate test day as much as possible. This means eat the same breakfast at the same time, and then have a MBLEx review session for about 2 hours.

Having a consistent waking and eating schedule can also enable a consistent morning bathroom schedule (one more way to be more comfortable and relaxed during the exam). This consistency can help to reduce test anxiety and increase confidence on exam day, because it will feel like you’ve done this before. Also, practice staying off the Internet and social media in the mornings. This is a huge distraction and time-suck that will scatter your focus. Which leads us to the next MBLEx tip…

2. Fuel your brain

Eat a good breakfast. As mentioned in the first MBLEx tip, experiment ahead of time to determine your optimal breakfast. You don’t want to crash from a sugar high or have an upset stomach during the test.

Test anxiety alone can cause stomach distress. Don’t experiment with a new diet on the morning of the test. If you know something like oatmeal and yogurt works for you, then stick with that. And if you’re not used to eating fast food for breakfast, then definitely don’t stop at a drive through on the morning of the exam.

Avoid alcohol or other brain altering substances in the days leading up to taking the massage exam. You need your brain in peak state. Supplements like caffeine and ginseng may help. But again, don’t experiment with anything new on test day.

3. Avoid cramming the night before the exam

Cramming for an important test generally just leads to feeling overwhelmed and doubting your preparedness. It is much better to review your notes than trying to flip through a textbook on the morning of the test.

Prepare a few pages of study notes in the days before your exam that you will review during the hours before taking the MBLEx. If you can’t resist the urge to pull an all-nighter studying for the exam, do it a week before testing. Not the night before the exam!

Cramming for an exam several days ahead of time is a trick I learned in school. It wasn’t pleasant, but the intense, focused and long duration study sessions did work. Just be sure to allow your brain plenty of time afterwards to process all the new information.

4. Have a positive mindset

Do whatever you need to reduce any anxiety you may have. Remember, you don’t have to ace the MBLEx, just pass it. Thorough and disciplined preparation goes a long way towards building confidence. But mental preparation is also vital for success. Just like athletes that condition themselves physically and mentally for competition.

One strategy you can use on massage exam regardless of how prepared you actually are, is to review all your massage-related accomplishments in your mind. For a few minutes, focus on:

  • all the tests that you’ve passed in school
  • your hands-on massage experience so far
  • all the practice tests and quizzes you passed;
  • the classes you attended and paid attention to
  • all the articles, books and notes you’ve read.

Meditating on this will help you to walk into the test room with confidence instead of self-doubt. Be prepared mentally for sub-optimal testing conditions. The test room may be cold or hot. Or there may be someone sitting next to you who is fidgeting or smells bad. Meditation can help you stay focused despite distractions. Accept that you cannot control the testing environment but you can control what you choose to focus on.

5. Wear comfortable clothes and arrive early at the testing center

Dress in layers so that you can be comfortable whether the testing room is warm or cool. Make your test day as stress-free as possible. Having everything laid out the night before means one less thing to think about on test day. Also have your ID, Authorization to Test letter, and anything else you need ready to go.

If there are several things you need to do or bring, make a checklist ahead of time so you don’t even have to thinks about it. Save your brain for the test. Since we’re talking about being comfortable, arrive about 30 minutes early for your test. This will help keep your stress level down. Find out how to get to the Pearson Professional Center and see how long it actually takes to drive there from your home.

Keep in mind traffic issues for different times of the day and potential for road construction or accidents. If you have a long drive, make sure to fill up your gas tank the day before your test.

6. Increase your focus and concentration

Being able to focus during the exam is the most important thing. All of the MBLEx tips listed so far have been to get you and your brain in the best possible position to allow you to focus on the massage exam. Improved concentration is one of the benefits of taking as many full length simulated exams as possible. It will train your brain to focus on this information for about 2 hours.

Taking a 100-question simulated exam every other day during the final 2-3 weeks prior to your exam will help improve your stamina, pacing, and ability to relax and focus during the MBLEx. To avoid getting distracted, be selective about what you do and focus on before the test. Avoid getting online and spending time on social media. Ideally, just avoid monitors and screens altogether. Instead, focus on your last minute review notes. If you get distracted easily during tests, practice taking a couple of full-length practice tests at a public setting such as a café in the weeks before your exam.

7. Manage your time during the massage exam

You have 2 hours to complete 100 questions. That’s 1.2 minutes (72 seconds) per question. You don’t want to look up at the timer and see that you have 10 minutes left and are only on question #65. It is good to practice some full-length timed exams to simulate the actual test experience. This will not only help you learn the topics on the test, but how to pace yourself and build your ability to concentrate on this for up to 2 hours.

There will likely be a couple questions on the massage exam that are written in a way that you could justify more than one answer. In this case, re-read the question to make sure you read it right. If it still seems confusing, then take your best guess and move on. Remember that on the MBLEx you can’t skip an answer and go back to it later. This is because the MBLEx is a computer adaptive test (CAT).

This means that as you answer more questions correctly, the testing system will present more challenging questions. This is what you want, because your score is based on answering a certain number difficult of questions correctly. There may be a few questions that you simply don’t know the answer to. Keep calm and answer on. You will also find many questions that you are certain about and can answer quickly, making up any lost time.

8. Read every question carefully

Misreading the question is the most frequent source of errors on an exam (besides simply not knowing the answer). This will cause the student to misinterpret the question, and leads to selecting an incorrect answer choice. Read each question carefully and completely, even if you think you know where the question is heading.

Then read it again if you have any doubt about what the question is asking for. Most MBLEx question are fairly short, so it won’t take long to read them twice. When reading a question, ask yourself, “What is this question testing my knowledge of?” Then read each possible answer. Remember, you’re not just looking for a right answer, but the best answer.

Watch out for absolute terms like “always”, “never”, “is”, etc. These restrictive qualifiers are a red flag, so be sure to read the question carefully. Also be careful with: “Except”, “All of the above” and “none of the above”. Go into the massage exam with thorough review of massage terminology. In order to understand what an exam question is asking for, you must know the meaning of each term in the question and also the answer choices.

9. Watch for clues to the answers

The official MBLEx study guide from FSMTB states that they rarely use “not” in the question stem because it can make a question difficult to read. And the intent is not to trick the test taker. However if you do come across a question like: “Which one of the following is not…?”, read the question carefully. Then plug the answer that you think is correct back into the question to see if it makes sense.

You may come across some clues about which answer choice is correct. For example, a question that ends with “an” will have an answer that begins with a vowel. For example: A body of water with a high saline concentration is an:

  1. ocean
  2. river
  3. stream
  4. reservoir

In this example, even if you didn’t know that saline means salt, you could correctly guess “ocean” because it is the only option that could correctly complete the statement with correct grammar (using “an” before a word beginning with a vowel). Some questions may also indicate that the correct answer is either plural or singular. So again, it is a good idea of getting into the habit of re-reading the question with your answer choice in mind to see if it still makes sense. Be sure to check out our other article about multiple choice test taking strategies.

10. Eliminate wrong answer options

If you aren’t sure about the answer to a question, eliminate the 1 or 2 answer choices that you think are most likely to be wrong. This will increase your chance of getting it right from 25% to 50%. After you decide on which answer is correct, re-read the question to make sure your answer still seems like the best one.

Don’t look for patterns on the test. There are none! The answer choices on the MBLEx are ordered randomly by a computer. There can be 6 “B” answers in a row, or none at all. So be sure to read all the answer choices. When you’re ready, you can try some of out MBLEx free practice quizzes here.

11. Plan for a short break during the exam

Finally, if you think you will need a break during the exam, plan on taking one when you reach the halfway point. You may want to get up and stretch and get the blood moving, or take a minute or two to do some deep breathing if this helps you. Do whatever you need to stay focused.

A few other MBLEx tips you should know

The MBLEx is simply a “Pass” or “Fail” exam. Test candidates no longer receive a score after taking the massage exam. You will however receive a piece of paper from the proctor at the testing center immediately after finishing the exam that indicates whether you passed or failed the exam.

So even though there is no score or grade, it is still a good idea to do everything you can to ensure you pass the MBLEx. Because having to retake it would be a big pain in the gluteus maximus (but still not the end of the world).

Fortunately, you can absolutely improve your chance of passing in the last few weeks leading up to taking the MBLEx. And if it is the last minute for you, don’t panic. You can perform better on test day using the 11 tips listed above.

How do I prepare for the MBLEx?

The best way to prepare for the MBLEx is to start as soon as possible. There is no substitute for thorough test preparation well ahead of time. Studying daily over an extended period of time will increase understanding and recall far better than cramming at the last minute.

Your MBLEx study strategy should also include:

  • Take plenty of practice tests and quizzes
  • Take good notes in class, and then re-write and review them
  • Complete all your assignments in massage school
  • Participate in a study group

Be sure to also check out our Ultimate Guide to Passing the MBLEx.

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