Common Test-Taking Mistakes to Avoid on MBLEx Exam Day

Common Test-Taking Mistakes to Avoid on Exam Day

Successfully passing the MBLEx exam is a critical step for anyone wanting to become a licensed massage therapist in the US. As you prepare, you’ve probably focused extensively on studying the content from anatomy and kinesiology to ethics and client assessment. But are you aware of the typical mistakes that many candidates encounter on test day?

The best test results come after understanding and avoiding common mistakes that test-takers often make. Being informed about these errors and having strategies to prevent them can greatly improve your exam performance, giving you a better shot at passing on the first attempt.

In this test-taking guide, we’re going to shed some light on these common pitfalls, and offer strategies to avoid them. From misreading questions to mismanaging time, understanding these potential problems can be as valuable as mastering the material itself. By highlighting these mistakes, we aim to arm you with an added layer of readiness. After all, being forewarned is being forearmed. So, let’s dive into these insights and equip you with strategies to ace the MBLEx.

The Value of Practice Tests

For most successful test candidates, practice tests serve as a key component of their preparation for the Massage & Bodywork License Exam. Not only do they mimic the test-taking process and give you a feel for the actual exam, but they also provide immediate feedback on your performance. Mistakes made during these tests and quizzes spotlight any knowledge gaps, or areas needing more attention during study sessions. By using mock exams and quizzes, you get a clearer picture of where you stand.

Utilizing practice exams is an invaluable tool not just for familiarizing oneself with the MBLEx content, but also for pinpointing potential pitfalls that could surface on the actual exam day. For instance, during these mock tests, you might notice a pattern of misreading questions, a hasty inclination to choose the first seemingly correct answer without scanning all the options, or even a susceptibility to distractions. You may also notice a tendency to second-guess your answers frequently.

Recognizing these issues ahead of time gives you the chance to address and correct them. It’s always better to catch and counter these problems in a low-stakes environment rather than discovering them for the first time on the day of the MBLEx, allowing you to tackle the actual examination with greater confidence and precision.

Common MBLEx Pitfalls

Passing the FSMTB MBLEx requires both knowledge and strategy. Beyond content mastery, understanding common test-taking pitfalls is crucial. The comprehensive list below presents these mistakes and offers tips on how to avoid them.

1. Misreading the Question

When taking the MBLEx exam, it’s easy for test-takers to unintentionally skim over important details in the questions. One overlooked word, particularly exclusionary or negative terms such as Except, Not, or Doesn’t, can alter the meaning of the question entirely. For instance, an anatomy question might ask which muscle is NOT involved in a particular movement. Reading too quickly might cause a test taker to pick a muscle that is involved, rather than the exception. This can also happen if you assume you know what the question is going to ask before you finish reading the entire question.

Here are three other types of questions to watch out for:

  • Comparative Terms: Phrases like “most,” “least,” “greater than,” or “fewer than” require the test-taker to make a comparison among the options. For example, a question might ask which technique uses the “least” pressure, and misreading could lead to choosing the one that uses the most.
  • Order of Operations: Questions that ask for “first,” “last,” “initial,” or “final” steps can be tricky. In the context of the MBLEx, a question might ask about the “first” step in a therapeutic procedure, and misunderstanding could lead to selecting a step that comes later in the process.
  • Hypothetical or Conditional Statements: Questions that start with “If,” “Suppose,” or “Imagine” often set up a specific scenario that might not be straightforward. For instance, a question might present a hypothetical situation about a client’s response to a massage technique and ask how the therapist should adjust. Overlooking the conditional statement could lead to choosing an answer based on general knowledge rather than the specific scenario presented.

Paying close attention to these phrasings and taking a moment to fully understand the question’s requirements can significantly improve a test-taker’s accuracy. Careful reading is the key!

2. Not Considering All Answer Options

Jumping to select an answer based on a brief scan can lead to mistakes, especially when a particular choice seems right at first glance. Spotting a familiar term in the options might give candidates a false sense of recognition, leading them to select it impulsively. For example, a question about contraindications for a certain type of massage might list several conditions. While one might instantly recognize a commonly discussed massage contraindication, there could be another, more specific condition listed that is the most accurate answer.

Another scenario is when two options are very similar, differing only in subtle ways, such as the order of procedures or a slight variation in terms. By taking the time to carefully read and consider each choice and compare them against the question’s specifics, you can more confidently select the best answer and avoid the trap of familiarity. Always approach each available option with a critical mindset, weighing its relevance to the question at hand.

*MBLEx Tip: Since there can only be one correct answer for each question, if you see two answer options that are so similar that they mean essentially the same thing, then those are probably distractors, and you can rule them both out since they can’t both be selected.

3. Falling for Distractor Options

Distractor options are crafted to test the depth of a MBLEx candidate’s understanding. These distractors sound believable and relevant but are designed to divert attention from the correct answer. They often contain half-truths, overgeneralizations, or information that may be accurate in another context but not in relation to the question posed.

For instance, when evaluating the effects of deep tissue massage, an option might claim it “increases bone density.” While this statement may sound plausible to some, it isn’t a recognized benefit of deep tissue massage and is a classic distractor. Similarly, a question about essential oils might list “increased range of motion” as an effect of lavender oil – while lavender has many benefits, this isn’t one of them. To avoid falling for distractors, it’s important to critically analyze each answer option in direct relation to the question and lean on your training and knowledge rather than surface-level associations.

4. Overthinking

The MBLEx, like many standardized exams, is an entry-level exam that is designed to evaluate your foundational knowledge and comprehension. Falling into the trap of overthinking or over-analyzing can often lead to complicating simple questions, leading to incorrect answers. While it’s great to be thorough, pondering every possible implication of a question can be a trap.

Let’s say there’s a question about contraindications for a hot stone massage. If the options list “an open wound” and you start wondering about the size or severity of the wound, or imagining scenarios where it might be okay, you’re veering into overthinking territory. Instead, stick to your foundational knowledge: an open wound is a clear contraindication. Avoid creating intricate scenarios in your mind or getting bogged down with “what if” situations. In many cases, the questions are designed to test your recall and application of core principles, so trust in your training and keep your thought process grounded.

5. Time Mismanagement

Completing the MBLEx within the allotted time (120 minutes) requires a strategic approach. If you allocate too much time to a few challenging questions, you risk leaving others unanswered, which will result in an automatic failure. It’s essential to gauge the average time you can spend on each question (about 1 minute) and try not to exceed it.

For instance, if you’re stuck on a question related to muscle attachments and their functions, give yourself a set amount of time to ponder it. If you’re unable to pinpoint the answer within that frame, then eliminate one or two options if possible, and make your best-educated guess and move on.

It’s better to attempt all questions rather than leaving any unanswered because you ran out of time. Consider practicing with a timer during your study sessions to get a feel for the pace you need to maintain during the actual exam. This way, you’ll be better prepared to manage your time efficiently and tackle each question with confidence.

6. Second-guessing

The act of constantly re-evaluating an answer can be detrimental to performance on the MBLEx. Familiarize yourself with the subject matter and trust in your preparation. For example, if there’s a question about the benefits of sports massage and your initial thought aligns with what you’ve studied, such as its ability to reduce recovery time, stick with that response.

Frequently changing answers often stems from a lack of confidence rather than a lack of knowledge. Given that the MBLEx is a computer adaptive test, and doesn’t allow for revisiting questions later, it’s vital to trust your instincts. Hesitating and second-guessing can lead to unnecessary anxiety and potential mistakes. When faced with uncertainty, taking a moment to breathe and recalibrate before answering can be more beneficial than rapidly changing your response. As long as you’ve read the question and all answer options carefully, trusting your instincts often aligns with what you’ve diligently studied, increasing your chances of accuracy.

7. Forgetting Basic Test-Taking Strategies

Relying on foundational test-taking strategies for multiple-choice tests can be beneficial, especially when tackling the varied topics of the MBLEx. One core principle involves identifying terms that signal absolute conditions. While “always” or “never” might sometimes be valid in certain contexts, they often flag statements that might be exaggerating or oversimplifying.

For instance, a question suggesting that lymphatic massage “always” alleviates pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis might be misleading. While it can certainly help many individuals, no single technique guarantees universal outcomes for all clients. Recognizing these extremes and weighing them against real-world scenarios helps in discerning the most accurate answer options.

8. Mis-marking Answers

In a computer-based testing environment like the MBLEx, interface familiarity and precision are crucial. Mis-clicks can result from hurried selections or even a slight slip of the mouse or touchpad. For instance, while deliberating over a question related to myofascial release techniques, you may confidently decide that option three is correct, but an accidental or hasty click may select the adjoining option.

It’s essential not only to take a moment after making your selection to verify its accuracy on the screen but also to familiarize yourself with the testing interface beforehand, if possible. Regularly confirming your selection before submitting is a simple yet effective habit. Even though the CAT format prevents backtracking, ensuring each answer is accurate as you proceed can minimize careless errors.

9. Ineffective Elimination

Effectively using the elimination technique demands both knowledge and attention to detail. For instance, when confronted with a question about different types of massage strokes, a keen understanding of their attributes can help you filter out irrelevant or inaccurate options.

For example, if a given option describes a deep, gliding stroke, but the question specifically asks for a type of tapotement (a rhythmic tapping), that option can be confidently eliminated. It’s crucial, however, to be wary of misleading descriptors or terms that might sound appropriate at first glance. By continually refining your understanding of key concepts and maintaining a methodical approach, you can more reliably narrow down your choices, bringing you closer to the correct answer on the MBLEx.

10. Previous Questions Influencing Later Ones

A common pitfall when taking a comprehensive exam like the MBLEx is allowing the memory of previous questions to shape the interpretation of later ones. For instance, if you’ve just answered a question or two related to muscle attachment points, it can be easy to get stuck in a “muscle OIA mindset” when encountering a new, unrelated question about, say, areas of caution for massage. This can make you perceive links where none exist.

It’s essential to approach each question as its own entity, uninfluenced by previous content. Assuming that an answer from a later question provides hints for an earlier one can send you down the wrong path. By mentally compartmentalizing each new question, you can safeguard against false connections and maintain clarity throughout the test.

11. Not Confirming Your Answer

Taking a few extra moments to confirm your answer can be the difference between a correct or incorrect selection on the MBLEx test. For instance, if faced with a question about the contraindications of deep tissue massage and you choose an option, it’s a good idea to pause and read the question again. Does the question specifically ask for absolute contraindications, local contraindications, or just precautions? Did you select an answer that, upon second glance, only seems partially correct?

By habitually reaffirming your choices, especially for questions that may have multiple levels of interpretation, you confirm the accuracy of your response and ensure you haven’t misunderstood the question’s intent. Accuracy is essential in the MBLEx, and second-checking can be your ally.

12. Letting Anxiety Take Over

Test anxiety can cloud your judgement and memory, making even familiar topics seem unfamiliar. Imagine confronting a question about the circulatory system and its structures and functions. You’ve studied it thoroughly, yet under the weight of anxiety, the concepts start to blur. Rather than panicking, close your eyes for a moment and take a deep breath. Visualize yourself in a calmer setting or recall a mnemonic or memory aid you created for the topic.

Grounding techniques, such as focusing on your breath or tactile sensations like the feel of the chair beneath you, can also help pull you back into the present moment. By mastering these quick relaxation techniques, you can regain clarity and approach the question with a clearer mindset. Try to familiarize yourself with a few of these techniques before the exam day so they can be readily put to use when needed.

13. Assuming Familiar Patterns

It’s a mistake to think MBLEx questions follow a predictable answer pattern. For instance, if you encounter a series of questions about the divisions of the nervous system, and realize that the last few answers were all ‘B’, it’s a mistake to presume that this answer probably won’t be “B” as well. The order that answer options are displayed is randomized by a computer and is therefore irrelevant. It’s like flipping a coin. Just because you flipped five heads in a row, the odds of flipping another head is still 50/50.

Instead of seeking patterns, focus on the content of each question. Develop a habit of underlining or mentally noting keywords in questions to ensure you’re answering what’s truly being asked. Relying on actual knowledge, rather than perceived patterns, will always yield better results. Remember, the exam aims to assess your understanding of core information that massage therapists need to perform their job effectively and safely, not your ability to detect patterns.

14. Getting Stuck on Difficult Questions

Confronting challenging questions is inevitable in the MBLEx. It’s essential to approach these with a strategy rather than succumbing to panic. For instance, if you’re posed with a scenario-based question regarding the contraindications of cryotherapy that you’re not immediately certain about, start by breaking the question down. Then review each option and eliminate those you are sure are incorrect. If two choices seem viable, consider the context. Recall if there are any specific conditions or scenarios where cryotherapy might not be advisable or could worsen a patient’s condition.

Sometimes, thinking about the broader application or implications of the treatment can help pinpoint the answer. It’s also helpful to remember that not every question on the MBLEx will be ones you’re entirely sure about. Aim for your best-informed guess and then move on, ensuring you maintain a steady pace throughout the exam.

15. Relying Solely on Memorization

Many questions on the MBLEx go beyond simple recall. They frequently test your ability to apply and integrate knowledge. Let’s consider an example of applying massage terminology. While it’s crucial to remember the term effleurage refers to a specific type of gliding stroke used in Swedish massage, it’s equally, if not more, essential to understand when and why you would use effleurage in a massage session. Does it aid in relaxation? Is it primarily used at the beginning of a massage to warm up the tissue? And how does it contrast with other techniques, like petrissage or tapotement or trigger point therapy?

These conceptual understandings will better equip you for the range of questions on the MBLEx. To prepare effectively, while studying terminology, always accompany the term with its function, purpose, and relation to other techniques. This way, when faced with a scenario-based question, you can confidently choose the most appropriate technique based on its real-world application. It also helps to understand medical terminology, especially the prefixes, suffixes and root words.

16. Not Adapting to the CAT

Understanding the basic structure of computer adaptive testing (CAT) can help you navigate the MBLEx exam. This test format adjusts its level of difficulty based on your previous responses, aiming to gauge your competence accurately. With the CAT structure, you don’t have the option to return to previous questions, so it’s important to make sure that the answer option you select is your final answer before clicking on to the next question.

Recognize that a series of more difficult questions is an indicator that you’re performing well, as the system presents harder questions when you answer correctly. Try to maintain confidence and keep applying your test-taking strategies that you’ve learned when taking practice tests.

17. Mismanaging Stress or Fatigue

Tackling the MBLEx requires sustained focus and stamina. However, prolonged concentration can lead to fatigue, which could impede your ability to comprehend and answer questions effectively. To combat this, consider incorporating simple relaxation techniques during your preparation phase. Practicing deep breathing exercises or brief mindfulness sessions can help calm your nerves during the exam.

If you find your mind wandering or getting foggy, take a moment to close your eyes, inhale deeply, and exhale slowly. This can recenter your focus and reduce feelings of overwhelm. Another practical tip is to ensure a good night’s sleep before the exam day and to stay hydrated during the test, as dehydration can exacerbate feelings of fatigue. Remember, while knowledge is key, so is maintaining an optimal state of mind throughout the examination.

18. Over-relying on One Strategy

Depending solely on one strategy to approach MBLEx questions can be limiting. While process of elimination might be beneficial for questions with multiple plausible answers, it might not be ideal for scenario-based questions. For instance, in a section related to ethics, you might encounter a situation where a client has disclosed personal information. Instead of merely recalling facts, you’d need to assess the scenario holistically, considering the boundaries and confidentiality aspects of the therapeutic relationship.

In such cases, critical thinking and referring back to core ethical principles are crucial. It’s essential to diversify your strategies: use mnemonic devices for recalling terms, logic for scenario-based questions, and foundational understanding for application-based ones. Tailor your approach based on the nature and demand of each question to ensure appropriate and strategic approach.

19. Allowing Distractions

The Pearson VUE testing environment aims to minimize disturbances, but occasional distractions are inevitable. From a flickering light to the soft hum of the HVAC system, these distractions can divert your attention when you least expect it. For instance, while you’re concentrating on a question about the correct draping techniques for a massage session, the sound of someone clearing their throat nearby could potentially break your concentration.

It’s essential to develop techniques to quickly refocus. One effective method is to close your eyes for a brief moment, take a steady breath, and then reopen them to re-engage with the question. By preparing for these interruptions in advance, you can ensure they don’t derail your performance on the MBLEx.

20. Misinterpreting Graphics or Diagrams

Questions on the MBLEx that include graphics and diagrams can be a little confusing if not approached correctly. For example, if you’re presented with an image depicting muscle actions during a specific movement, like the wrist flexion and extension, it’s important to:

  • Determine the Perspective: Recognize if you’re looking from an anterior (front) or posterior (back) view of the forearm or wrist. This can impact how you interpret the muscles and their actions.
  • Look for Landmarks: Each bone has at least one easily recognizable landmark that will help you identify the bone and its orientation. These tell-tale signs will also help you determine if you are looking at a structure from the right or left side of the body.
  • Relate to Known Information: If you recognize a particular muscle, like the flexor carpi radialis in the wrist image, anchor your understanding with that. Knowing one component can help you make sense of the surrounding structures.
  • Take Your Time: Resist the urge to rush. While you don’t want to linger too long on a single question, ensuring you’ve interpreted the graphic correctly can prevent misinterpreting the image.

By refining these skills and practicing on diagrams related to kinesiology and anatomy especially, you can enhance your confidence and accuracy when encountering images on the actual MBLEx exam. Our MBLEx Course includes hundreds of images to help you learn to correctly identify individual bones and muscles.

21. Physical Discomfort

The 2-hour duration of the MBLEx can potentially cause physical discomfort in addition to mental fatigue, which could impact your performance. Before starting, ensure you’re seated comfortably with your back supported. Throughout the exam, maintain good posture to reduce strain.

Periodically relax your hand if you’ve been gripping a mouse, and occasionally stretch your legs under the desk or your arms overhead. Take deep breaths to release tension. If you start to feel too uncomfortable, consider taking a brief walk to the water fountain or restroom. In fact, as long as you are on or ahead of schedule with your pacing, it is a good strategy to plan to take a break about halfway through the exam. A short break can rejuvenate your focus, allowing you to tackle the questions more effectively.

22. Ignoring Intuition

Through rigorous massage training and study, you’ve probably developed a sense of intuition that can be invaluable during the MBLEx. This intuition, cultivated from classroom hours, hands-on practice, and countless study hours, can often guide you when rational analysis might falter.

If faced with a tricky question on client assessment for example, and a particular answer resonates for no apparent reason, don’t dismiss that hunch. Sometimes, your inner voice has picked up on a detail your conscious mind hasn’t. For another example, when faced with a question about setting treatment goals for a client who presents with multiple conditions and preferences, the best approach might not be immediately clear from the provided options. However, reflecting on similar scenarios from your training might provide subtle cues.

Even if you can’t pinpoint the exact textbook rationale, your intuition might lean towards one answer due to an ingrained understanding of best practices and prior experience. While it’s always essential to critically evaluate each choice, don’t discount the value of your intuition, especially when the typical analytical approach proves inconclusive.

23. External Pressures

The weight of expectations, be it personal aspirations or hopes of others, can be overwhelming, especially when it’s linked to significant event like passing the MBLEx needed to apply for a massage license. Fearing negative outcomes like missed employment opportunities can cloud your judgment on even straightforward questions. It’s vital to compartmentalize these pressures, focusing solely on the exam in front of you.

Here’s some strategies to keep negative thoughts at bay on test day:

  • Mindful Start: Before starting the test, take a few moments to ground yourself. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and set a clear intention to focus solely on the questions and the knowledge you possess.
  • Shift Perspective: Remind yourself that while this exam is an essential step, it’s just one phase in your long professional journey. Mistakes are learning opportunities, and there will be multiple chances to demonstrate your expertise.
  • Positive Affirmations: Develop a set of positive affirmations tailored to counteract your specific pressures. For instance, if you’re anxious about a particular job waiting on your MBLEx results, your affirmation could be: “I am prepared, I have studied, and this exam is a reflection of my current knowledge, not my potential or worth.”
  • Breaks: Utilize short breaks to reset. If you find your mind wandering to external pressures, step away for a moment, hydrate, and re-center yourself.
  • Focus on the Present Question: Whenever external thoughts creep in, gently redirect your attention back to the current question. Visualize placing external pressures in a box to be addressed later, allowing you to concentrate on the immediate task. *Focus on the task at hand.

Remember, you’ve prepared for the content of the MBLEx. With these strategies, you can also prepare for the emotional and psychological aspects of test-taking.

24. Allowing One Difficult Question to Affect Morale

Encountering a challenging question, such as one about the origins and insertions of the trapezius muscle, can be unsettling. However, it’s essential to remain grounded. The MBLEx covers a broad range of topics, and one difficult question doesn’t indicate the overall difficulty of the exam.

And since you can’t go back to change and answer anyway, dwelling on a previous question is counterproductive. Treat each new question as a separate opportunity to showcase your knowledge. During your preparation, tackle challenging areas head-on, so you’re better equipped on exam day. If faced with a tough question, take a deep breath, answer to the best of your ability, and move on confidently.

Recognizing these pitfalls and being prepared for them can be the difference between an effective exam experience and unnecessary challenges. Keep these in mind, and you’ll be better equipped for success on the MBLEx.


Successfully preparing for the MBLEx requires understanding the test’s structure, familiarizing oneself with common pitfalls, and developing effective study strategies. Recognizing these common mistakes and implementing proactive preparation techniques can elevate your chances of passing. Every test candidate faces challenges; however, with dedication and the right approach, you can confidently pass the MBLEx.

Incorporating practice tests into your study routine can serve as a powerful tool to sidestep the common testing mistakes listed in this article. These simulated exams recreate the challenges they will face on the exam, and practice their strategies to overcome them. By frequently engaging with practice tests, you can sharpen your ability to spot tricky questions, hone your time management skills, and reduce the likelihood of misreading questions. Over time, this consistent exposure helps in building a resilience against distractor options and aids in refining your test-taking strategies, giving you a competitive edge when the actual exam day arrives.

Need a MBLEx

Study Plan?

Start preparing for the MBLEx the easy way with this comprehensive and organized study plan. It's a great way to get started, and it's free

MBLEx Study Plan CTA Image - 2024

Get Your MBLEx

Study Plan

Download our free MBLEx Study Plan (PDF) to help organize and guide your study sessions.

2024 MBLEx Study Plan over Image on tablet

Your Study Plan Is On The Way!

Please check your email for your study plan.