I'm so excited to announce that last week I passed the board certification exam! Many of you are looking forward to taking it yourselves in the near future. If you are at all like me, you will be a nervous wreck. I want to make this blog post helpful to those of you taking it for the first time. There is a lot of information to relay, so I will try to make it as organized as possible.
To read more about why I was freaking out about the test and why you should not, READ MORE...
My emotions about the test and why you should NOT feel this way
Each of us remembers a small handful exams that have helped to shape our lives over the years. For me, it was the MWA, FCAT, ACT, and SAT tests that were most important in determining my academic future. My thoughts going into the CBMT test were this: this is the most important test of my life because it is the first step in determining my professional career.
Don't let that scare you! That was a really extreme view to take, and it was catastrophic thinking. So what if I failed the first time? I can take the test again and it certainly doesn't make me any less of a music therapist. Failing a test doesn't take away all the knowledge that I have accumulated over the years. It simply means a test is a test, and I need to find a better way to relay the information that I already know.
Advice from me and fellow MTs
The number one piece of advice I have heard from fellow CBMT test takers is DO NOT overthink the questions. Answer exactly as the book would answer. Yes, as therapists we learn to adapt to all situations, but this is not how we should approach the test. Given only the information they give you in the question, how would you act?
MY best advice after taking the test is to read every question thoroughly. For example, this is a question straight from the practice test:
"A music therapist with basic guitar skills wants to accompany a song written in the key of Ab major, using Ab, Db, and Eb7 chords. To allow for the use of all first position chords and only minimally affect the song's vocal register, the song should be transposed to the key of"
a) B major
b) D major
c) F major
d) G major
Did you do the same thing I did? After transposing the chords to other keys, I was confused when there were two keys in the available answers with only first-position chords. But when I reread the question, it was clear that I had to choose the answer that only "minimally [affected] the song's vocal register." Thus, the answer is d) G major.
How to study for the exam
That being said, the practice test is WORTH IT! This was the only thing I did to study before the actual test. It was extremely helpful. Besides giving me practice, it let me see the areas I was struggling with and also revealed the reason behind each answer.
Still, if you want more practice than taking the practice exam, or choose not to pay the $59.95 fee (although I think the price is worth the piece of mind), then there are other resources you can study.
Music Therapy Exam Secrets goes through important information from all areas of the test and gives helpful tips toward getting the right answers.
The CBMT website itself has information that you can look over, like the CBMT Board Certification Domains and the Candidate Handbook. In the handbook you will find a handful of practice questions.
And I don’t think this is the best study method by any means, but if you google “cbmt practice quiz” you will find a few quizzes with actual questions from the practice test.
How to apply for the test
The Candidate Handbook is especially important because it tells you exactly how to apply to become eligible to take the test. Included in the handbook is an application that you must fill out and send in (see pages 12-14 or A-C if you’re viewing from Adobe).
After a couple weeks you will be given a window in which you must take the test (you will lose your payment if you don’t take it within this window). Once you are eligible you will be provided a number that you must give when you call AMP to set up an exam appointment. The appointment can be made in as little as three days from that phone call.
What my testing center was like
The Tallahassee testing center is at H&R Block, the company that helps prepare and file your taxes. The person who greeted me was very sweet. I had to sign a couple papers and hand over my purse. She gave me a pencil and sheet of scrap paper and led me to the testing room. The testing room was small with four computers. There was another woman in the room taking another test (not the CBMT exam). Before starting the exam, I had to take my own picture on the computer’s camera. There were a couple of practice questions to get me familiar with the test format (it was nearly identical to the format of the practice test).
During the test, I was distracted by music outside the room. I never spoke up. If this is a real problem for you, someone might be kind enough to turn it down in volume.
After the test, I had to answer a short survey (on this, I did answer that the testing center was distracting). I left the room to meet with the test proctor and within two minutes I had my score.
The test itself
I was given three hours to take the test. I finished the test in two hours, but used every minute of the third hour checking my work. You can flag any questions that you want to return to later.
Update (2/20/17): There are 150 questions on the exam, including 20 pretest questions that are scattered throughout the exam. The 20 pretest questions are thrown out prior to scoring. In order to pass the exam, you must correctly answer 95 our of 130 test questions. Note: these numbers may change slightly from year to year, as the pool of questions change annually on April 1st.
My thoughts on the exam… it was hard. Much harder than the practice test. I didn’t feel confident about many of my answers. I was stressed, frustrated, and disappointed all the way through the questions. I did not know what to expect when I got my score back. But I tell you this only to say that you should not stress the way I did. I got my score back and realized that I actually scored HIGHER on the actual exam than I did the practice test, even though I perceived it to be much harder.
Hopefully this post was helpful to you. If you have any more questions, please please leave a comment. If you are reading this and have any advice, leave a comment. Most importantly, get the test done and don’t stress too much! If you don’t pass right away, I promise it’s ok. Yes it costs a little more money, but once you get past this hurdle you never have to take the CBMT exam (for the first time) again. Good luck!!!