The Journey of a Music Therapist: Passing the CBMT Exam (part 2)

Kenzi Podell, a music therapist, is fresh off of passing her board exam to become a licensed music therapist. She learned a lot through the process of becoming a music therapist, and she wanted to share that hard-earned knowledge with others who are coming behind her in the process. Whether you’re just getting started on your own journey to becoming a music therapist, you know someone else who is, or you’re just curious as to what music therapists have to complete in order to practice music therapy, this blog series, “The Journey of a Music Therapist” should be helpful. 

Just tuning in? Be sure and read previous posts: Internship 101; and Passing the CBMT Exam (part 1).

Last week, I shared my pro tips for preparing for the CBMT exam. But now that you’ve studied hard and your test is coming up, what should you know?

You will need two forms of ID: I brought my driver’s license and passport, but you can also bring your social security card. When you take the test, you will get three hours, a piece of paper and a pencil, and they sometimes have ear plugs (depending on your center). Wear clothes that will keep you warm, but NOT a jacket/sweatshirt (they aren’t allowed) because they keep it fairly chilly in the room. Don’t bother bringing your phone or smartwatch in to the center; you can’t have it. You’ll sign some papers, and off you go!

Here are my tricks for taking the test:

1. Easy, medium, hard.

After you’ve already written your “cheat sheet” on your scratch paper (see last week’s post), save some room to make three columns that are labeled “easy, medium, hard.” When you come across a question that you know the answer to almost immediately, it’s easy. Answer it, and then put the number of the question under the “easy” column.

If the question takes you a second, but you know you can figure it out: answer it, and assign it to the “medium” column. 

If you know you can figure it out at some point, but just not right then because you shouldn’t spend too long on each question, put it under medium, circle it, and write out “ABCD.” Then scratch out the letters you know are incorrect, and come back to it later.

If it is too difficult, if you’ll just be guessing, or if it’ll take way too long to figure out, it goes under “hard.” If it is one that you think you can figure out with extra time, circle it! 

Once you’ve made it through every question once, go back to any circled number, and figure it out. Start with the circled numbers under “medium,” then try the hard ones. 

2. Read each question twice.

Make sure you read it fully, especially those long ones. If you don’t already know the answer, write down the diagnosis, the goals, the problem, and what the question is asking. It is very important to read the last sentence CORRECTLY. There are usually CAPITALIZED WORDS THAT ARE VERY IMPORTANT AND COULD CHANGE WHAT THE CORRECT ANSWER IS. Do you get my point? Those words are usually BEST, FIRST, NEXT, etc. 

3. Take breaks.

Every 25 questions, roll your head around, close your eyes, look anywhere BUT the screen. I even went to the bathroom every 25 questions. Every 50 questions, get up and go drink some water. You get up to five minutes each break. I drank two cups of water and did two sets of 10 jumping jacks. This gets your body moving and blood flowing back to where it is supposed to be! This also can help with pacing the test. It definitely helped me keep a positive train of thought about how much more I had left in the test. I would tell myself “only two more sections, one more break, etc.” to help keep me focused!

4. Have a mantra.

Not going to lie, I sang “Hakuna Matata” before I started the test and during every break. The people that worked there looked at me like I was crazy. Find a song that you either like, has a good encouraging chorus, or just gets you feeling hyped. Listen to it on the way there (along with other music you love).

5. Go with your gut.

While keeping the Code of Ethics in mind, also go with your gut. You didn’t just go through all of that schooling for nothing! You graduated because you know what you’re doing. Don’t forget that. Try not to overthink the question. Most of the time, the answer is written in the question!

Be sure to eat a healthy breakfast and get lots of sleep the night before. Make sure you’ve had plenty of water in the days leading up to the test as well. The morning of, do what relaxes you. I would suggest lightly reviewing your cheat sheet, but that is it! Do not overthink or over-study. 

Remember, it is just a test, and the score does not define your skills or who you are. If you pass, congratulations! If not, you have more skills and knowledge now to know exactly what to expect the next time. Do not beat yourself up over it. Use that energy towards the next test (which would be in a minimum of 30 days). You can do it!

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