Preparing for a comprehensive exam like the MBLEx can be stressful. It is important to have a solid study strategy can help you to decrease any anxiety about the test and increase your ability to pass the massage exam in 2023.
Many students also tend to procrastinate when it comes to working on a big project, whether it’s writing a term paper or studying for a final exam. It can easily get overwhelming to try to organize and review a large volume of information. A good study plan will give you a systematic approach to review the most important information you need to pass the test. This will save you a ton of time and build your confidence for test day.
The following is a list of seven MBLEx study strategies that can help in the days and weeks leading up to taking the MBLEx. However it is best to start preparing for the massage exam as early as possible. For students still in school, these are effective strategies to help you to prepare for your school exams.
1. Optimize your stress level
Having a little stress about an upcoming event is not entirely a bad thing. It can actually help. Good stress, or eustress, can be an energizing force that helps you to overcome procrastination. Eustress occurs when you think about something as a “positive challenge” rather than a “negative threat”.
Try to stay focused on your own compelling reason why you want to pass the massage licensing exam. This positive mindset can turn overwhelming fear and anxiety into hopeful anticipation. In other words, develop the right mindset about the MBLEx and it can drastically change your outcome.
As mentioned earlier, procrastination is a problem for most students at one point or another. Especially when it comes to tackling a big project like preparing for a licensing exam. Overcoming procrastination will do wonders for your stress and anxiety level. Try not to wait until you feel like studying. Take a disciplined approach to it by establishing a habit of daily studying. Setting aside just 1 hour per day is enough to establish a good habit, and is a great MBLEx study strategy.
Find ways to keep yourself inspired. Stay positive and optimistic. You CAN improve your chance of passing the MBLEx in a short period of time. Even if you barely made it through your massage program and have scheduled to take the MBLEx a few weeks from now. Three to four weeks of diligent and focused study is often enough for someone to pass the test. Especially with the right study plan and system (link to salespage).
2. Take practice tests and quizzes
Taking practice tests and quizzes is one of the most effective and efficient ways to study for a comprehensive exam like the MBLEx. Our practice tests are efficient and build confidence because they involve studying in the same format as the actual MBLEx.
Test taking is a form of active learning because you have to focus your mind to answer the question correctly. It is very easy to let the mind wander when watching videos or reading long passages in a textbook.
Using practice tests as a method to improve ability to recall learned material is known as retrieval practice. Research shows that this method enhances recall and improved test performance by what’s known as the testing effect or test-enhanced learning.
Studying well-written practice tests will also give you an idea of what kinds of questions could be on the test. You will get an idea about the expected difficulty level of the questions. You will also get some extra practice completing multiple choice exams. For the MBLEx, test candidates must have a solid understanding of the subjects massage vocabulary that a new therapist needs to know to provide a safe and effective treatment. You don’t need to know trivial factoids or expert level detail.
3. Review your performance
As previously mentioned, an excellent ways to prepare for a test is to take practice tests and quizzes. However a frequently overlooked and important component of using practice tests is reviewing your results. After every test, look up the questions that you missed and try to figure out why you missed it. The practice tests and quizzes on this website offer rationales or explanations to justify the correct answer. But it is still very beneficial to do a quick review of your notes or Internet search for a more complete understanding of the subject.
Try to figure out every incorrect answer. Ask yourself:
- Did I misread the question?
- Did I misinterpret what the question was asking for?
- Did I not look at all the possible answers carefully enough?
- Do I need more time studying this content area?
Make a list of topics that you are still weak on, and focus your study time on these areas. Also, review questions that you correctly guessed the answer for, but may not have a solid understanding of yet.
4. Focus on your weak areas
People usually want to focus on areas they are already good at and avoid confusing subjects. It feels good to get the answers right. It’s much more fun and instantly rewarding to go over information we know well and get questions right. But focusing on content areas that you struggle with will improve your test performance the most.
Mastering the kinesiology, anatomy and physiology sections are great, but together they only account for 23% of the MBLEx. In fact, these two sections are the most interesting to the majority of massage students, but they are actually the smallest content areas on the test.
If you have plenty of time before your scheduled licensing exam, you could focus on 1 subject each day of the week, since there are now 7 content areas on the test. If you are in the last couple of weeks before your exam, you would see the most improvement in your score by focusing your study on your weakest content area(s).
5. Summarize and simplify
Summarizing content from textbooks is a great MBLEx Study strategy to increase understanding. Especially when reading about a concept or process. Although this is a good study strategy, it is a fairly slow process. It is best to apply this strategy early on, ideally when you are first learning the content.
To apply this strategy, when learning new material, stop every paragraph or two and summarize or paraphrase the information you just read to yourself. You can write your summary down, or just verbalize it out loud. Make it as concise and precise as possible. You can put your summary in whatever format seems right: tables, lists, diagrams, etc. Color-coding your notes or creating flashcards can help keep your notes organized in a way that makes sense to you. You can even combine your summaries to create your own study guides, which will be useful closer to test day. Check out our review of muscles of the upper limb for ideas.
The key is to pretend that you are explaining what you just read to a 6 year old. Make it super simple. If you can’t simplify it then you probably don’t fully understand it. If this is important information that you really need to know, then don’t move on until you do understand it.
This technique works well for MBLEx topics like physiology processes, pathology and contraindications, and more abstract topics like ethics and boundaries. Being able to make complicated concepts simple will also be useful for you when you begin your massage career and need to explain massage therapy benefits, treatments and contraindications to your clients who may have no background in health. Check out our comprehensive massage exam prep course.
6. Spread out your study sessions
Cramming may work for a short quiz on a narrow subject, but there is far too much information covered on a licensing exam like the MBLEx to hope to pass by cramming. A much better approach to learning a large volume of information well is a process known as spaced repetition.
Spaced repetition involves learning in short bursts over time, and frequently testing yourself. This method results in improved long-term recall. Sleep is an important part of the learning process (not the book-under-the-pillow osmosis thing…unfortunately that never works). Sleep and resting your brain is when it processes and stores new information.
The spaced repetition study strategy also considers a person’s limits in ability to concentrate. It is better to have six 1-hour study sessions than one 6-hour study session. Especially if those study sessions have several hours between them to let the brain process the information.
A marathon study session will exceed your brain’s capacity to focus and assimilate new information. So you will be less productive after the first hour or two. Learn more study and testing strategies in our Guide to Passing the MBLEx in 2023.
7. Ask questions, answer questions
Is there an area on the MBLEx that is still a little confusing? Something that you never fully understood in massage school? Maybe it’s the client assessment process, or the physiological effects of certain treatments. Or maybe it’s learning the difference between muscle fibers, filaments, and fascicles.
Ask questions. If you’re still in school or recently graduated, then contact your massage instructors. Study groups can also be a great place to ask questions. Or try online forums, but verify anything you read on a forum. Teaching others can be a great way to learn too, which is another great reason to join a study group.
Odds are, when you take the time to figure out a few key areas that have had you stumped, other things will start to make more sense too.
If there’s something that you struggled with in school that is beyond the scope of the MBLEx, then don’t waste time with that. Some anatomy and physiology programs may have had you learn the Krebs Cycle or details of cellular biology. This is good foundational information, but it will NOT be on the test. So don’t waste your time with this now. The closer you get to taking the test, the more you should focus only on content that is likely to be on the test.