Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Taking "The Test"


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.

Good luck!!!
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!!!

35 comments:

  1. Congratulations Michelle! Quite an accomplishment. Welcome to the club =)

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  2. Congratulations, Michelle! Enjoy writing that MT-BC after you name :-)

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  3. Congratulations, Michelle! I was just as freaked as you were and really had nothing to worry about! Such a relief when it's over, right?!

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  4. Thank you for posting this!!! Im currently preparing for the exam.. you've given me a much better idea of what to expect! Congrats on your board certification =)

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  5. Thank you all for the nice comments! Kathleen... good luck!!

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  6. I failed this exam 4 times. I don't think I can pass it because I do not do well with standardized tests.

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    1. i have taken it twice and have not passes it either :(

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  7. I'm sorry to hear that. Are you seeing your scores improve each time you take it? There is definitely something to be said about test taking. Question and answer tests just aren't made for everyone. Meanwhile, keep trying! I hope you haven't lost heart with the system.

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  8. Hello Michelle! I took the test two days ago and I'm still waiting for the score. I am very stressed out, so reading your post helped me so much to calm down! I can only advice people as well to do the practice test, as it helped me much too to see where I stand. After all I must say that the actual test was much harder and I don't have the best feeling waiting for my score. Hopefully things turn out fine, just like they did with you! Thanks for revealing which score one has to achieve in order to pass the exam, I have been looking for this information desperately! Much luck to you and thanks again for this post! Corinne

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  9. Thank you for your post. I have actually read it before and I came back to it again. I failed my test today and was completely heartbroken. I felt like a failure and that I was not as smart as I thought I was. I think a big part of it is my embarrassment. Nobody wants to fail a huge test like this. I have all sorts of plans for work and moving that I may have to shift around. I will find out in the morning if my place of work with let me work through a probationary period until I pass. But reading this made me feel better. You are right, I can always take it again. It doesn't mean I am not smart, it means I need to find a better way to study. Still trying to figure that out though! I studied the practice exam, the scope of practice, and the music therapy secrets book and I still didn't pass. Not sure how else to study besides going back through every music therapy book from school!

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    1. This happened to me as well! I know it's years later for you but this experience is still so raw for me. I've never failed anything in my life and always excelled! It's been really tough do you have any tips that you may have learned now?

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  10. I'm preparing to take the exam. Is it worth it to purchase the practice exam? $60 is really pricey for my budget right now. Did you get your LCAT? :)

    Congrats!

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  11. Hi Michelle, thank you for positing this. I am taking my cbmt exam in 3 days...Every depressing word you can name to describe human emotions, that's exactly where I am and how I am feeling right now. I've been studying with Intro to Music Therapy text book (white thick text book 3rd edition) and Suzanne Hanser's Hand book for Music Therapist, CBMT scope of practice, standard of practice, and code of ethics. I also took $75.00 practice exam on cbmt website. I spent 1 month preparing for the exam, studying 5 hours each day. My brain is now worn off, and if I fail the actual exam, I really don't know how to study for it anymore...and the embarrassment.. :-/ I feel so lame to feel this way, taking such big deal out of that exam... However...at least I found out there were other candidates including you,,who felt or feeling the same way as me...(pretty sure I am the most freaked out one.lol) Well. Wish me a good luck! Your posting and the comments are very helping at this moment. I hope your career is blossoming!!

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  12. Would anyone even recommend me retaking the boards? I graduated in 97 and failed the test two times! Gave up and now i would like to try to take them again. Do you think I could still pass after all these years of not bein in school and not ever having passed?
    My youngest just started school and i have stayed home with her since she was a baby. Now i need somethin to do while they are in school and was wondering if it has changed too much or if i would still have a good chance of passing.

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  13. I failed the test and was devastated because I thought I prepared for it adequately and also have a master's degree. The colleges aren't adequately preparing students to take this exam and in order to pass, you need to know exactly what you're supposed to study. However, I plan to take it again and now have a general idea of what's on the test after wasting $280.00.

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  14. In preparing for the CBMT exam, make sure you have the recommended books. You can call the CBMT office and they will give you a list of books to study. "Defining Music Therapy," "The New Music Therapist's Handbook," "MT Code of Ethics," et cetera. Good luck everyone and don't give up hope!

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  15. I took the exam yesturday and failed by three points. I was sure that I was going to pass. I did so well on the practice exam. It was really hard to deal with knowning that I was so close. The worse part is I had several job offers lined up that now can't offer me a job until I pass the second time. Its a relief to see that I'm not the only person struggling with passing. It's a little easier to deal with and I don't feel as embaressed.

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    1. This happened to me too! To a tee! Do you have any tips now? I had to travel to take mine because my testing center closed and I wanted to pass it faster and then I failed. Horrible!

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  16. I've taken this test 3 times. I give up. i have emailed the cbmt board, and they will not help me. I am heart broken to have gone to an expensive school and can not work with music.....cause of this test. I can't afford to pay for it anymore and my heart aches I have to quit my job cause I can't pass this test. :'(

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  17. Do you get partial points for the second best answer for each question?

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  18. I am immensely proud to say that yesterday morning, after much hard work, I passed the Certification Board for Music Therapists Examination! It was my third time taking the exam. In my first attempt to pass the exam, I missed the passing score by 2 points. I was disappointed and frustrated. I waited the required three months between my first and second attempt, and in September, I didn't pass again by a few points. At this point, I was not only disappointed, I was discouraged. I thought it wasn't meant for me to be a music therapist and it was especially hard for me to see my other peers passing the exam on their first attempts. Nevertheless, as I returned yesterday to re-take the exam, I approached it in a different way, and as I was waiting for my print-out (my heart literally beating out of my chest), I saw that I had finally passed. Please, for those of you who are not passing the test on your first try, don't become discouraged!

    Some helpful tips for first-time and returning exam takers: 1) Re-read the Intro to Music Therapy text ( and if you're a visual learner, make flashcards of the glossary terms), 2) Re-read Suzanne Hanser's New Music Therapist's Handbook, 3) Print out the AMTA and CBMT documents suggested in the CBMT SAE Bibliography and familiarize yourself with those documents.

    If you know you are not a good test-taker or are taking the exam for a second or third time, order Music Therapy Exam Secrets. I am convinced this is the book that helped me pass this exam. Although it is formatted in the same way as the Hanser text, it is "fluff-free" and addresses specifically what will be on the exam.

    Lastly, if you don't pass the exam the first time, don't think of yourself as a failure or inadequate. We are lucky because we can take this exam as many times as we wish, unlike other professional fields that are only granted a few attempts. The first time you don't pass, do not immediately go back to studying. Pamper yourself that week, you have been through a huge mental challenge. For me, I got a bottle of my favorite wine, ordered some of my favorite take-out food, and bought some chocolate. So indulge!

    This exam is important to our wonderful field, but it isn't the end all, be all. I was actually offered my current job during the time I was trying to pass the exam. So don't lose faith and know that you picked the right field, we have the honor of helping and touching people every day! Best wishes!

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  19. That's great! Thank you so much for giving us a glimmer of hope. I know that I was taught the necessary skills to be a music therapist, I want it so bad. I am so lucky to work currently with children using music.

    This is my fourth time taking the test and I really hope I pass it. I ordered the flash cards, Music Therapy Secrets, and am going through old resources.

    Wish me luck! For all the anxiety ridden test takers out there, WE CAN DO IT and DON'T GIVE UP!!

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  20. Ref: Exam Secrets book and flashcards. Buyer Beware! You can't put 4 years of education on a set of flashcards or in one book. If you are going to purchase books to prepare, buy legit Music Therapy books which you will use again.

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  21. Reading through some posts by folks who didnˊt pass the exam and eventually led to having given up practice made me felt heartbroken. I just totally donˊt think a personˊs hard work in education should be judged upon one exam. Good there are helps out there, but are they really helpful?

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  22. I just took this test again today and failed it by eight points. I studied all of the required text books. I now realize you can't study for this test because most of the questions aren't even in these books. Most of the questions are clinical questions interspersed with a few guitar questions and a few questions on music theory and secondary dominants. There should be one book to study from to pass this test.

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    1. I just took the exam, 1st time, last month and studied all of the materials mentioned plus more. I missed it by 9 points. Since I had to work full time during my schooling, it took me quite a few years longer than most to finish, but Summa Cume Laude. So I've gone back and ordered more current textbooks, materials, etc. thinking that I have older info. By the looks of all these comments in this post, and comments from some medical professionals I've talked to, many of these types of exams are set up to have at least 20% of people fail. I also understand the exam changes when taking it again.

      One of the questions I had, there is no way to answer correctly, as there wasn't enough info in the question to properly choose an answer i.e. if you were in a hospital and your supervisor wanted you to gather research data to back the program would you: Hire a researcher that knew how to go about getting research, recruit another MT, or get research on the internet? 4th question was out. Because no funding was listed in question, hiring a researcher would be out, does the music therapist have research experience, or we can get reputable research from the internet i.e. papers, etc. What was it? I could guess, that's about it. It is subjective, because of the lack of detail in the question. So for me, there were many questions like this.

      One post I read stated "not to overthink the questions". I'm just going to have to go into it again with that thought in mind. I don't know what else to study. All the scenarios that they give us can be quite subjective depending on who you work for, what professor, what experiences, were you corrected in a specific manner, etc., etc. I do feel slightly better after reading all of these, but will still have major butterflies and sleepless nights until I hopefully pass this exam. Thanks to all!

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    2. I know this is an anonymous writer but, if you see this we made a study group on facebook called MT-BC study group and we do daily video chats with whoever is available. I feel this same way. I have failed it once by 13 points and the second by 12 points. I would loooove to chat with you!!

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    3. I know this is an anonymous writer but, if you see this we made a study group on facebook called MT-BC study group and we do daily video chats with whoever is available. I feel this same way. I have failed it once by 13 points and the second by 12 points. I would loooove to chat with you!!

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    4. Thanks so much for your responses! I will check this out.

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  26. I took this test twice. I think
    1) there are many questions are not clear nor have tight logic, especially with clinical experience, some questions and choices are not making sense theoretically or clinically;

    2) unlike other test, such as LMHC. There is no way to prepare for it, at least for me, not even after reading all the textbooks or practice test. As a standard test, it should have clear instructions to prepare for it, since we went to different schools and work with different populations.

    3) After two cycles of preparation, I don’t feel like have better understanding of music therapy itself or become a better clinician. Almost have to give up because of failing this test.


    A classmate I know, prepared super well, and a good clinician with experience. Tried 2 years and 6 times didn’t pass it. The biggest problem for passing the exam, at least for me, looks like based on luck not hard working.

    I love music therapy, and want to continue work as a music therapist.
    However I am hesitating if I should take one more time. People I know, or even on this blog either pass it the first time, or tried many times and couldn’t pass it. I am not complaining, just feel the design of this test cannot reflect the qualification of the candidates.

    I emailed to CBMT ask for concrete suggestions of preparing the test. Didn’t get reply yet.

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  27. The passing score for the exam is currently 95 correct answers out of 130 scored questions. I was told the passing score may change on April 1st of each year.

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  28. I've taken this test 9 times and still have not passed it. I'm not a quitter and plan on taking it again. I have studied and have done everything I could so to pass it. I'm frustrated and need help. I really truly want this next time to be my last time. I am at my wits end and don't know what else to do. Lord please help me. I've had so many job opportunities but has to turn them down because I'm not certified. I have my masters degree in MY but cannot utilize it because if the exam. I u understand that we need the certification but please provide a structured way to study. Other disciplines have actual study quides why don't we? It's heart breaking and frustrating. Something should be done about this. There are ppl who really are frea t MTs but cannot practice because this test is extremely hard. Yrs. It is harder than the practice test. I need help and prayer.

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