Most occupational therapy assistant students get overwhelmed at some point when preparing to take the COTA® exam. There is a lot at stake. After all, passing the exam is the final hurdle to starting your career as an OTA.
That fact, along with the depth and difficulty of the COTA® exam, can make studying seem daunting. Many students overanalyze and overcomplicate their approach to the COTA® exam, which can lead to procrastination and prolonged stress. When you don’t know where to begin, it can be tough to get started, and when you don’t know if your approach to studying is effective, it can be difficult to stay on course.
That's why we’ve put together a list of six things you should prioritize when preparing to pass the COTA® exam. Simplify your approach by focusing on these six pieces of advice, and you’ll gain the knowledge and confidence you need to pass the most challenging (and rewarding) test you’ll take on your path to becoming an OTA.
1. Start early and block out time in your daily schedule to review material
Begin reviewing the core concepts that will be covered on the test using TherapyEd’s COTA® Exam Review & Study Guide—some students start as early as six months before the exam. This will give you plenty of time to go over all the chapters in the book and refresh your memory on topics and concepts you learned early in school. Then, two to three months before your test, start dedicating about three hours a day, six days a week to focused study sessions. One of the best techniques to help you learn is to study intensely for short periods of time, and then back off and let your mind rest.
Your goal when studying for the COTA® exam should be to refresh and solidify the body of knowledge you’ve built during OTA school. Through consistent review, most of the basic content covered on the test will become second nature, making it easier to work through problems that require more complex thought and critical reasoning during the test.
2. Analyze your performance and focus on weak areas
Go through practice problems and take a full practice test early on in your test preparation so you can identify the areas you’re struggling with upfront and spend more time reviewing them. Isolating topics that continuously challenge you is the first step in designing a study plan that hones in on your problem areas.
Once you’ve identified gaps in your knowledge, review those topics in detail, and then revisit the questions you answered incorrectly the first time. If you’re still having trouble, spend more time analyzing where the limitations in your knowledge or critical reasoning skills exist, and consider asking an instructor or fellow student for help. We recommend enrolling in the TherapyEd COTA® Exam Prep Course because it provides additional guidance and helps you prepare for the exam efficiently, effectively, and successfully.
Analyzing your performance, identifying personal weaknesses, and making continuous adjustments is a a great way to optimize your study time.
3. Take three practice tests
If you reach out to a friend or another student who has already taken the COTA® exam, they’ll likely tell you that answering practice questions is very helpful. At TherapyEd, we recommend taking three full practice tests in the months leading up to your exam. Work through the questions on the practice exams until you’re confident in your knowledge and know why the correct answer is right, and the incorrect answers are not.
TherapyEd’s COTA® Exam Review & Study Guide is a great resource for practice tests and includes three rigorous tests modeled after the COTA® exam. Students tell us these questions are the most like those on the actual COTA® exam and working through them will familiarize you with the exam format and limit surprises on the test.
4. Apply what you learn to the real world
Soon, you’ll spend your days applying the concepts you learned in school to your interactions with real patients. Every day, you will diagnose conditions, design care plans, and treat patients based on the knowledge you’re building right now. Try not to lose sight of that big picture as you prepare to pass the COTA® exam.
During clinicals, take advantage of the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills you’re building in a real world setting. Make connections between the work you’re doing and the scenarios presented in practice questions. A real world experience will undoubtedly stick more firmly in your memory than a theoretical one.
5. Build support systems
You’re not alone in your mission to pass the COTA® exam. Organize a group study session with your peers to work through problems together. In a group setting, you’ll be able to collaborate, bounce ideas about how to approach different problems off of one another, and develop strategies to tackle the most difficult concepts.
Enrolling in a prep course is also a great way to engage with experts who have been in your shoes. TherapyEd’s COTA® Exam Prep Courses are taught by experienced, enthusiastic instructors who are responsive to student needs. They understand that preparing for the exam can be a stressful process and provide students with both the proven strategies and the confidence they need to pass the COTA® exam. To learn how our instructors have helped other students, take a look at our testimonials.
As soon as you’re enrolled in a TherapyEd COTA® Exam Prep Course, you also have access to online office hours every Wednesday from 7-8 PM EST where you can engage with experienced instructors and other students to answer questions and better prepare yourself for the COTA® exam.
6. Keep yourself motivated and trust the process
The key to maintaining your motivation leading up to the exam is staying positive. Reward yourself for intense study sessions. Remind yourself that no student is perfect, and mistakes are essential for learning. The test may seem intimidating now, but if you follow this advice and maintain your study plan, you will be successful.
Start preparing today. You can learn more about TherapyEd’s COTA® Exam Review & Study Guide and OTA Exam Prep Course here.