Failing the National Massage Certification Program

What to Do if You Fail the National Massage Certification Exam

by Greg Mattison on May 17, 2012

Online educationAfter graduating from an approved massage therapy school program, you may be eligible to sit for the NCETM/NCETMB (National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork) exam. Approval is the result of 500 hours of massage training (including 100 hours of classroom-based anatomy and physiology coursework; 200 hours of massage theory; 2 hours of ethics; and additional training in pathology, business, and alternative medicine).

The 160-question test covers your knowledge of massage therapy skills, laws, and modalities to ensure that you are prepared to enter the profession with the right training in place. The questions include those directed at:

  • Body Systems
  • Anatomy, Physiology, and Kinesiology
  • Pathology
  • Massage & Bodywork Assessment
  • Massage & Bodywork Application
  • Professional Massage Standards, Ethics, Business & Legal Practices

Graduates can expect to pay a $225 testing fee, which is non-refundable even if you don’t get a passing score. These scores are based on a “scale score” method based on question difficulty level, with a 300 required to pass. Scale scores range from 100 (low) to 400 (high).

Failing the exam can and does happen—and to graduates from all different types of massage programs. The good news is, you can take the test again, and the NCBTMB does its best to help you succeed the next time around. Upon failing, you receive your scores and a breakdown of the score report. You’ll see exactly which areas were a struggle for you (and where you can spend more time studying), and where you were the strongest.

If you failed the exam, you have 60 days after receiving your scores to contact the NCBTMB and indicate your wish to re-take the test. You typically have three months to prepare and pay the testing fee again. Use this time to beef up on the areas you were weakest in, and continue to review your areas of strength. Many massage schools offer courses to help you study, and you’ll find plenty of books and resources designed to get you the passing score you need.

Although it can feel like the end of the road to not pass your massage licensure exam, there are plenty of avenues open to you in the future. As long as you continue to hone your skills and learn your trade, you can succeed in the field of massage and go on to enjoy a long and fruitful career!


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