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Is the AOTA NBCOT® Exam Prep Right for You?

I’ve written a few articles covering how to study for the National Board Certification for Occupational Therapy (NBCOT®) exam, including “How I Passed the NBCOT On My First Try (and You Can Too!).”

If you haven’t checked that article out and are studying for the boards, definitely hop on over to it to read about my most recommended NBCOT® study strategies. These include tips from when I was studying as well as suggestions from other OT students taking it recently. I’m mentioning this because in the article, I briefly covered AOTA’s NBCOT® Exam Prep while I was using it.

Since I didn’t fully dive in to it, I also wanted to write a separate article all about AOTA’s Exam Prep for anyone considering purchasing it. I want to note that all my opinions in this article are from my own personal use of the AOTA Exam Prep.

What is the AOTA Exam Prep?

If you aren’t yet familiar with the AOTA Exam Prep for the NBCOT®, it is a yearlong online paid NBCOT® exam prep subscription. The exam prep consists of downloadable PDF study guides that cover the main OT topics that will be on the NBCOT® (including hand therapy, pediatrics, work/ergonomics, neuro, burns, and more).

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The other part of the exam prep is the online multiple choice practice quizzes that you can take any time. You can choose whatever quiz topic you want, and you can track your progress each time you finish a quiz. You can always choose how many questions you want to do. So if you want to sit down for a quick 10 question quiz or a super long exam-like test, you can do whatever you have time for.

Each question will have a detailed explanation/answer after you submit the question, which I found really helpful. You can also do untimed or timed quizzes to help you prepare for the real timed exam.

My Experience Using AOTA’s Exam Prep

To start off, I want to mention that the AOTA Exam Prep wasn’t the only NBCOT® study resource that I used. I also used TherapyEd, reading one to several chapters a week while doing their three big practice exams once. TherapyEd covers pretty much everything you learned in OT school, so it is pretty dense.

When I had a harder time focusing on TherapyEd, I’d switch to AOTA’s Exam Prep. AOTA’s Exam Prep was my personal favorite study material, and it was what I used the most.

I found the AOTA study PDFs and online practice tests were much easier to sit down and do, since they were shorter but still covered a lot of important information.

I would do at least 20 online quiz questions a day (but often up to 50 questions), and I actually enjoyed trying to beat my overall average and previous scores. With how often I did the quizzes, I’m pretty sure I saw most of the 1000+ quiz questions and answers at least once.

Reading the the answers and rationales after each quiz also really helped seal in the information for me.

Is it Right For You?

Having positive experiences personally with AOTA’s Exam Prep, I do recommend it to students who are considering it. For AOTA members, the cost is $149 for OTRs or $99 for COTAs (non-members pay a bit more). It’s well worth it especially if you’ll be using it regularly.

If you already have multiple NBCOT® study guides, then it may not be an absolute necessity, but is still nice to have if it’s not going to break the bank for you.

If you’re still not sure if it’ll work for you, you can also try out their free OTR Practice Mode and Exam Mode or COTA Practice/Exam modes on their home page here. This can give you a good feel for how you like their testing format/platform.

They also have a sample performance page that shows you what it would look like once you start taking the quizzes.

Consider Additional Study Options As Well

While I definitely recommend using AOTA’s Exam Prep, as mentioned above, I used other NBCOT® study materials, and recommend others do the same. I don’t think anyone should just use one study guide, since there may be additional questions in the exam that maybe weren’t covered.

I recommend using at least two “official” guides, my recommended resource being TherapyEd’s study guide. I used these two materials exclusively and passed on my first attempt.

You can also certainly use the many great free study resources as an additional supplement, such as OT Miri, but I don’t recommend only relying on free resources that don’t have practice quizzes that test your understanding throughout your studying.

Final Thoughts

Whatever resources you choose, be sure you can actually put the time in studying. I totally get that after OT school, the last thing you want to do is study. But to truly succeed, you will need to commit to several hours a day for more than just a few weeks. After all, the NBCOT® is expensive, so do the most you can while preparing to minimize your chances of having it to retake it.

I also don’t recommend getting an OT job on a temporary license before taking the NBCOT®. I’ve heard from too many people that once they come home from their new jobs, the last thing they want to do is spend three hours a night studying. This really impacts the success of passing, so if you can, pass the boards first then get a job. Your sanity will thank you for it!


I hope this helped give you a bit more of a run-down of the AOTA Exam Prep for the NBCOT®. If you’re still on the fence and have any questions about my personal experience using it, feel free to leave a comment here.

For more in-depth questions, you can reach out to AOTA Exam Prep directly here or email them at

Best of luck with your studying!

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  • Catara Redmond August 8, 2021   Reply →

    Hi, I just want to start out by thanking you, the author, for creating this blog! I just failed my COTA Exam and I am searching for suggestions on how to move forward. After I pass I want to help others because it is a common situation.

    Thanks again!

    • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L August 10, 2021   Reply →

      You’re very welcome, and I wish you the best of luck with your exam!

      • Leslie Niederberger September 23, 2021   Reply →

        Hi! I am preparing to take my exam to become a licensed OT. I was debating between using the AOTA Exam Prep or getting tutoring services from the OT Help Desk. Do you think the AOTA Exam Prep would be as efficient as tutoring services?

        • Sarah Stromsdorfer, OTR/L September 28, 2021   Reply →

          I haven’t heard about the OT Help Desk but I think tutoring is a great idea if you think you’d benefit from that. If you’re leaning towards AOTA’s Exam Prep, I would get one more thorough resource as well. I used TherapyEd and found the two really helpful together. Good luck!

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