What is MBLEx?

What is MBLEx
What is MBLEx? The Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination, or MBLEx test, is a nationally recognized exam for massage therapy licensure. The test is used by 44 U.S. states to assess a massage therapist’s educational background and understanding of key massage concepts. After passing the MBLEx, a massage therapist can obtain licensure in any of these states.

While there are a variety of national organizations related to massage, the MBLEx test is without a doubt the most widely used means of evaluating whether or not a massage therapist is eligible for licensure in any given U.S. state.

Who administers the MBLEx?

The MBLEx is administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, or FSMTB. The FSMTB was created in 2005, after the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) met with leaders in the massage field from two dozen states. The FSMTB set out to create a basic licensing exam that could be used throughout the United States as a standard for massage therapy licensure. The idea was to put together an exam that would thoroughly assess a practitioner’s understanding of everything that’s essential to effective massage therapy. This would in turn allow states licensing boards to align their guidelines for licensure, with a recognized, rigorous curriculum becoming the standard for massage therapists all around the United States.

In the vast majority of U.S. states, it’s now essential to have a thorough understanding of massage fundamentals in order to pass the MBLEx and become licensed. In the past, each state had very different testing requirements. Now, for the most part, massage therapy is somewhat standardized nationwide in terms of what practitioners are expected to know before beginning their practice.

What states use the MBLEx for massage licensure?

The MBLEx exam is used by 44 states and several U.S. territories in order to evaluate a practitioner’s grasp of the fundamentals of massage therapy.

You must pass the MBLEx exam as part of obtaining licensure in the following states and territories:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • District of Columbia
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • S. Virgin Islands
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

How do I sign up to take the MBLEx?

In order to take the MBLEx, candidates for licensure will need to apply through FSMTB. Applications can be submitted online or through the mail. You’ll need to have your massage therapy education program forward your information to the FSMTB, in order to confirm that you’ve completed the necessary educational requirements. Once FSMTB has received both your application as well as your educational records, it can take up to five days for them to process your application.

Once this is done, the FSMTB will send you an Authorization to Test, or ATT, notification via email. Your Authorization to Test notification will include instructions on how to sign up for a testing date, time, and location. You must take the MBLEx exam within 90 days of receiving your Authorization to Test notification via email.

How much does it cost to take the MBLEx?

When you apply to take the MBLEx, you’ll need to submit an application fee in the amount of $195 along with your application. This amount is applied to the processing of your application, and also counts as your testing fee. The total cost of taking the MBLEx, then, if $195.

When is the MBLEx offered? Where can I take the MBLEx?

After submitting your application to the FSMTB, you will receive an Authorization to Test, or ATT, via email. This Authorization to Test notice will contain information about when and where you can take the MBLEx in your area. Refer to this information to determine when and where you can sit for the MBLEx exam.

Why should I take the MBLEx?

As of this year, the MBLEx exam is the only acceptable prerequisite to massage licensure in 44 states and 3 U.S. territories. In the past, other exams and tests have been accepted. However, the MBLEx has now become the standard in the vast majority of states. If you’re looking to become a licensed massage therapist virtually anywhere in the country, the MBLEx is by far your best choice when it comes to a massage licensure exam.

What’s the difference between the MBLEx exam and National Board Certification?

This is a very common question for both those who are new to the massage profession, and those who are long time massage professionals. If you’ve taken the time to do some research on your own, or if you’ve been a massage therapist for some time, you’re likely aware of the fact that there are several organizations, boards, certifications, and tests available for massage therapists. In addition to the FSMTB, one of the largest organizations in the United States is the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, or NCBTMB. The NCBTMB has been around significantly longer than the FSMTB. It was originally created in 1992 by a network of massage professionals in the United States. Following its inception, the NCBTMB created what’s called the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, or the NCETMB. For over a decade, this test was central to achieving massage licensure in many states all around the country. As of 2014, though, the test was eliminated. In its place, the NCBTMB Board Certification Exam was introduced.

The NCBTMB National Certification Exam served as a kind of baseline measurement of competency for massage professionals, much in the way that the MBLEx test does. However, as the MBLEx test became increasingly common and popular amongst state massage therapy boards, the NCBTMB decided that their certification exam could serve a different purpose. So, rather than continuing to offer an exam which was qualitatively similar to the MBLEx, they decided to go in a different direction.

Now, the NCBTMB Board Certification Exam is available to massage therapists who are looking to differentiate themselves from the crowd. This exam builds upon the basic information that’s covered by the MBLEx test (and the fundamentals that were contained in the original NCBTMB National Certification Exam), and offers practitioners a means of distinguishing themselves in terms of their understanding of massage techniques. For massage therapists who want to stand out from other practitioners, the NCBTMB Board Certification Exam is a means of appending an additional qualification to their massage-related achievements (such as having passed the MBLEx and achieved state licensure).

The bottom line is this: if you reside in the vast majority of U.S. states, you’ll need to pass the MBLEx in order to become a licensed massage therapist. After passing the MBLEx and obtaining licensure, you have the option of sitting for the NCBTMB Board Certification Exam. Passing this exam will mean that you’re NCBTMB Board Certified, which sets you apart from other massage therapists who haven’t sought out this particular qualification. This certification is in no way mandatory. In order to obtain licensure in the majority of states, you need only to pass the MBLEx exam. MBLEx content has undergone recent analysis and revision in accordance with the findings of the 2017 Job Task Analysis Survey. The changes suggested by the profession will be incorporated into the examination effective July 1, 2018.

What subjects does the MBLEx exam test for?

The MBLEx exam is split up into seven individual sections. As of July 1, 2018 these sections include the following:

  • Anatomy & Physiology
  • Kinesiology
  • Pathology, Contraindications, Areas of Caution, Special Populations
  • Benefits and Physiological Effects of Techniques that Manipulate Soft Tissue
  • Client Assessment Reassessment & Treatment Planning
  • Ethics, Boundaries, Laws and Regulations
  • Guidelines for Professional Practice

Each of these sections contains a number of subtopics and subsections. The following topics may appear on the MBLEx exam:

Anatomy and physiology (11%)

  • Function and structure of systems
  • Repair and injury of tissues
  • Concepts of energetic anatomy

Kinesiology (12%)

  • Characteristics and components of musculature
  • Muscle contractions
  • Proprioceptors
  • Locations, attachments, origins, insertions, actions, and fiber directions of muscles
  • Joint structure and function
  • Range of motion

Pathology, special populations, contraindications, and areas of caution (14%)

  • Overview of pathology
  • Contraindications
  • Areas of caution
  • Special populations
  • Classes of medication

Benefits and Physiological Effects of Techniques that Manipulate Soft Tissue (15%)

  • Identification of the physiological effects of soft tissue manipulation
  • Psychological aspects and benefits of touch
  • Benefits of soft tissue manipulation for specific client populations
  • Soft tissue techniques
  • Hot/cold applications
  • Overview of massage modalities

Client assessment, reassessment, and treatment plan formulation (17%)

  • How to organize a session for massage therapy or bodywork
  • Evaluating and consulting with clients
  • Collecting written data from clients
  • Assessing clients visually: posture, general assessment, etc.
  • Assessing clients using palpation
  • Checking a client’s range of motion
  • Clinical reasoning

Ethics, laws, and boundaries in massage therapy (16%)

  • Ethical behavior and its foundations
  • Boundaries in the professional environment
  • Code of ethics violations
  • The therapeutic relationship: definition and understanding
  • Dual relationships
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Massage therapy and bodywork laws and regulations
  • Massage therapists and bodyworkers: scope of practice
  • How to communicate professionally
  • Maintaining patient confidentiality
  • Ethical principles in massage therapy

Guidelines for professional practice (15%)

  • Massage equipment and supplies: how to properly use and sanitize
  • Maintaining hygienic conditions for massage
  • Cleanliness and sanitation
  • Safety practices
  • Self-care for massage therapists
  • Technique for draping
  • Massage therapy business practices
  • Business and healthcare terminology

How can I study for the MBLEx test?

The MBLEx tests potential massage practitioners on an incredibly wide variety of topics. Considering the scope of what’s being tested for, in combination with the fact that the MBLEx is a standardized test, it’s important to take the right approach to studying for the MBLEx exam. If you take the correct approach to studying, passing the test is simply a matter of investing an adequate amount of time. If you study in an unproductive or inappropriate way, though, no amount of time will be enough to prepare you for the test.

Remember, studying for standardized tests is different from other tests. You can’t just review the material that’s going to be covered and expect to score well as a result. On the contrary, doing well on a standardized test is a combination of knowing the information being tested for on the one hand, and going through the motions of taking a standardized test on the other. In fact, the best way to study for a standardized test like the MBLEx is to take as many practice tests as possible.

Remember, though: you want to ensure that you’re taking the right kinds of practice tests. It’s important to verify that the practice questions you’re using are similar to those that will appear on the actual MBLEx test. You only have so much time each day to devote to studying for the exam. If you use that time preparing for the test with study materials that are outdated, inaccurate, or significantly different from the test itself, you won’t be doing yourself any favors. And, to some degree, you’ll actually be putting yourself in a worse position to pass the actual test.

To put it simply: reviewing the material that’s going to be tested is important. This is a great way to prepare yourself for the test. However, the best way to actually prep for the test itself is to take practice tests. Remember that the MBLEx is a standardized test, which means it’ll be presenting information to you and asking you for responses in a specific format. If you’re prepared for and familiar with this format, taking the test will be easy. If you’re not, it could prove to be significantly more challenging.

MBLEx summary

By understanding what the MBLEx is, identifying whether or not it applies to you, signing up for it, scheduling your test, and preparing for it appropriately, passing the MBLEx can be easier than you think. If you have any questions about the MBLEx exam or our study materials, don’t hesitate to contact us.