Resources for Educators

Teaching Tip

From the Teacher’s Aide Newsletter

2015 June

Preparing Students for MBLEx (Summary)

This month’s Teaching Tips focus on the things we learned during the “Preparing Students for the mblex” discussions in last month’s web conference. We had our largest attendance yet with several hundred participants.This topic was very timely for teachers in our massage and bodywork programs. Mary O’Reilly, Exam Director for the Federation of Massage Therapy Boards, joined us for a discussion of the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam. Mary shared a lot of valuable information regarding some recent changes in the testing process, and many participants have asked for a summary.

In addition, we have asked Mary to answer some of the questions we did not have time to address on our call. We will get those answers to you as soon as they are available.

General mblex Information

  • The mblex is a practice-based exam, not a curriculum-based exam: “The content of the mblex reflects the broad spectrum of knowledge and core competencies identified by the profession for safe and competent entry-level practice. Proficiency in the content areas is based on sound education standards; however, the mblex is based on practice and did not evolve from a curricular base.”
  • The competencies were identified by the profession through two “Job Task Analyses”, to make up the content outline which can be found by clicking here.
  • The test procedure now uses Computer Adaptive Testing (cat). The program adjusts which questions are presented, depending on the correct or incorrect answering of the previous question. Test-takers must answer every question, in the order they are presented, and cannot go back to review previous answers (research shows that they will most often change it to a wrong answer anyway). Mary says the content has not changed, just the way the test is administered through the cat process.
  • The candidate handbook explains the application process and exam policies, and includes the content outline and reference list. A pdf is available from the fsmtb website. You can also send an email request to to have free hard copies sent to your school.
  • Not having proper identification is still the biggest test-day problem. Follow the guidelines for identification in the candidate handbook.
  • A helpful video to show students, called “What to Expect During Your Exam,” at the fsmtb‘s website.
  • Test-takers receive their score report on the day of the test, and fsmtb sends scores to their State within 24 hours.
  • School pass-rate reports are available from the fsmtb office, but must be requested, they are not sent automatically.

See below for more information from the call, and a list of the questions that we sent to Mary.

Additional MBLEx information referenced in the Teaching Tips section of the June 2015 Teacher’s Aide Newsletter


  • In states that just switched to the mblex: Some schools may need to send a transcript to fsmtb with the first applicant’s application, if fsmtb is unfamiliar with the school. In general, transcripts go to the state board (which is responsible for issuing licenses), and not to the fsmtb (which is responsible for administering the test).
  • An official fsmtb Study Guide for the mblex is currently being developed; there is no date of release as of this writing.
  • The test uses the word “practitioner” instead of “massage therapist.”
  • The test uses the word “client” instead of “patient.” “Patient” is only used when referring to a physician or medical condition.

    Sample: A practitioner must make special considerations for transplant patients because of the long-term compromise to which system?

  • The test uses the word “physician” instead of “doctor.”

The following were other questions that teachers asked during the conference, but we ran out of time to answer. We have sent them on to Mary O’Reilly, Exam Director for the fsmtb, for further comment and we are waiting to hear back.

  • In the future will there be a way for schools to mass register a group of students and pay online?
  • Can we get a definitive availability date on the hardcopy study guide? Will the study guide include case scenarios to help with preparation? Will there ever be an online study guide?
  • Does fsmtb recommend any particular website for test simulation/practice?
  • Does the fsmtb plan to prepare a detailed core competency preparation guide for educators, similar to other healthcare professions such as Nursing?
  • Are you saying that the test adapts harder or easier based on the answer to a previous question? If a student answers wrong as to what the cardiovascular system does, for example, what would the computer adapt to do? Ask another one about the cardio?
  • How does the item-writer team deal with questions that have different answers in different textbooks (i.e. questions such as origins and insertions that may be inverted)?
  • Compared to the older test has this one increased in difficulty? We are seeing lower test scores across our schools. Is the Federation seeing lower test scores as well?
  • I would like to know when information is updated. As research changes how and when we treat, do the board questions reflect these changes?