What You Need Before Taking the MBLEx
Preparing for the MBLEX: Your Guide to MBLEx Requirements
Striking out on a new career path isn’t easy. Regardless of what field or occupation you choose to go into, there are always challenges to overcome and hoops that you’ll need to jump through. This is especially true when the job in question involves specific educational and licensing requirements, as is the case with massage therapy.
Have you decided to become a massage therapist? Maybe you’re still in the process of researching schools and massage programs, and you’re trying to educate yourself about all of the requirements involved in becoming a professional bodyworker. Or, you might be finishing up school right now and feeling ready to get going with your new career.
In the vast majority of states here in the U.S., you’ll need to sit for the MBLEx exam before you can become a licensed massage therapist. Simply graduating from a massage therapy program isn’t enough in and of itself. Are you ready to take the exam, though?
Some massage therapy students assume that simply doing well in school and attempting to retain the information presented to them will be enough to achieve a high score on the MBLEx test. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. Without a dedicated MBLEx study guide (such as the FSMTB study guide) and an adequate amount of time spent with MBLEx practice tests, achieving a good score can be quite a challenge.
There are other things to consider besides simply studying for the test, though. For example: who administers the MBLEx? How do you sign up for it? What are the educational requirements associated with it? And then, of course, you’ll want to know if there are any particularly useful ways to study and prepare for the MBLEx. While the FSMTB study guide can be a helpful start, it’s not free, and it’s likely not enough to prepare you for the test on its own.
If you’re looking to have all of these questions answered, you’ve come to the right place! In this guide, we’ll cover:
- What the MBLEx exam is
- What the FSMTB is and how it works
- Educational requirements associated with the MBLEx test
- How to sign up for the MBLEx
- How to approach studying for the MBLEx
- What content to expect on the MBLEx test
- The important of MBLEx practice tests
By the end of this guide, you’ll have a good sense of everything you need to do in order to sign up for and pass the MBLEx. Let’s get started.
What Is the MBLEx Test?
In the United States, massage therapy is generally regulated at the state level by individual state licensing boards. In order to determine a massage therapist’s competency and ability to perform safe and effective massage therapy services, 44 U.S. states (along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) use what’s called the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination, or MBLEx test. The MBLEx is a nationally recognized exam, and demonstrates to your state’s massage licensing authority that you have mastery over the basic skills and knowledge required in order to be a massage therapist.
Some states such as New York and Hawaii administer their own, specialized licensing exam for bodyworkers. However, the MBLEx is by far the most widely used test in the country, and it generally transfers well from one state to another in the event that you move and need to relocate your practice.
Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards
Because the MBLEx is used by so many state massage therapy boards, the exam is actually put together and administered by a national entity rather than any one individual state. This organization is called the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, or FSMTB. The FSMTB was founded in 2005 with the aim of creating a standardized licensing exam that could be used all across the country for the sake of evaluating the competency of massage therapists. Following collaboration between leaders in the field of massage from 48 states, the MBLEx was eventually created.
As a result of the MBLEx, nearly all U.S. states have been able to make their requirements for licensure quite similar. Before the MBLEx existed, it was difficult for one state to hold its massage therapists to the same sort of quality standards as any other individual state, due to the fact that each state was using entirely different licensure requirements. Now, with the exception of a handful of states (such as Hawaii and New York), massage therapists have considerable mobility throughout the country if they decide that they want to move their practice somewhere else.
The FSMTB also offers its own MBLEx study guide. The FSMTB study guide can be a good place to start when you’re initially preparing for the exam. However, as we’ll see below, it’s important to also devote a considerable amount of your time to practice tests if you want to achieve the highest possible score on the MBLEx test.
MBLEx Educational Requirements
When it comes to your eligibility to sit for the MBLEx, things can vary somewhat from state to state. As of now, there isn’t a national organization that regulates all massage therapy programs nationwide. Instead, massage education programs are generally approved (or not) by the state licensing board in the state where they’re located.
As a result, the FSMTB MBLEx candidate handbook explains that in order to sit for the MBLEx test, a candidate must demonstrate that they either:
- Are enrolled in and are receiving education in an approved educational program which covers all of the MBLEx test’s subject areas, or
- Have graduated from an approved massage therapy program.
In this case, “approved” refers to whether or not the state massage licensing board (or other approval agency) where the school is located has recognized and approved the school’s education program.
Signing Up for the MBLEx
Before you can take the MBLEx, you’ll have to sign up to take the exam. In order to do this, you’ll need to submit an application through the FSMTB website. If you wish, it’s also possible to submit an application via standard mail.
In addition to submitting your application directly to the FSMTB, it’s also important to have your massage school forward a copy of your records to the FSMTB. This will allow the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards to verify that you have completed (or will complete) an approved massage therapy education program.
After the FSMTB has received your education information and application, they’ll begin to process your application. Once your application has been processed, you’ll receive an email notification from the FSMTB with an Authorization to Test. This Authorization to Test will include detailed information on how you can sign up for a testing time, day, and location. You’ll have 90 days from the time you receive your Authorization to Test to sit for the exam. Sitting for the MBLEx itself costs $195, which includes the cost of processing your application.
Studying for the MBLEx
Studying for a comprehensive standardized test like the MBLEx is a major task. It’s important that you acknowledge the amount of work you’ll need to do ahead of time, and that you dedicate an adequate amount of time to preparing for the exam.
There are two distinct approaches to studying for the MBLEx, and it’s a good idea to use both simultaneously rather than simply relying on one or the other. First, you’ll want to use a good MBLEx study guide to ensure that you’re prepared for the scope of content that the exam will cover. Additionally, though, it’s important to use MBLEx practice tests in order to review the material in question while also preparing yourself for the test’s format, time limit, and structure.
As mentioned above, the FSMTB study guide can be helpful when it comes to your initial preparation for the exam. Additionally, Bamboo™ offers a variety of review courses (in addition to our practice test offerings) that can help you take a deeper dive into certain massage-related topics.
We recommend starting out by reviewing the material on the exam, and then moving on to spending as much time as possible with practice tests. In order to ensure that you’re adequately reviewing the material that will be tested, though, it’s important to first understand exactly what’s covered on the MBLEx.
What’s Covered on the MBLEx?
The MBLEx is comprised of seven test sections, including:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Pathology, special populations, contraindications, and areas of caution
- Soft tissue techniques
- Client assessment, reassessment, and treatment plan formulation
- Ethics, laws, and boundaries in massage therapy
- Guidelines for professional practice
Up until July 2018, a section called “Massage & Bodywork Modalities, History, and Culture” was also present on the test. However, this section has now been removed, with some of its content being combined with other sections of the test. To learn more about the changes made to the MBLEx in July 2018, click here.
Each of the seven sections above contains content that falls under specific subtopics and subcategories. The subcategories include:
Anatomy and physiology
- Body system function and structure
- Tissue injury and repair
- Energetic anatomy concepts
- Musculature: characteristics and components
- Proprioceptors and muscle contractions
- Muscles: fiber directions, actions, insertions, origins, attachments, locations
- Range of motion
- Joint structure and function
Special populations, areas of caution, pathology, contraindications
- Pathology overview
- Contraindications and areas of caution
- Special populations
- Medication classes
Techniques for soft tissue manipulation
- Physiological effects of soft tissue manipulation
- Touch and psychological benefits
- Soft tissue massage techniques
- Heat and cold in massage therapy
- Benefits of soft tissue massage for specific populations
- Overview of massage and bodywork modalities
Assessment, reassessment, and treatment plans
- Organizing massage therapy sessions
- Consulting with and evaluating clients
- Collecting client data
- Assessing clients’ posture
- Using palpation
- Checking range of motion
- Using clinical reasoning
Boundaries, laws, and ethics in massage therapy
- Foundations of ethical behavior
- Professional boundaries
- Violating code of ethics
- Therapeutic relationship
- Dual relationships
- Ethical principles
- Patient confidentiality
- Professional communication
- Scope of practice for massage
- Laws and regulations for massage
- Sexual misconduct
Professional practice guidelines
- Proper use and sanitization of massage supplies and equipment
- Hygienic conditions
- Sanitation and general cleanliness
- Draping techniques
- Business practices for massage therapists
- Healthcare and business terminology
A good study guide will cover all of the topics above. Be sure that whatever guide you’re using — whether it’s the FSMTB study guide, or another guide — does a thorough job of reviewing each of these topics. The MBLEx is fairly evenly divided between each of these topic areas, meaning no one section of the test is dramatically larger than any other (with the “client assessment” section being the largest at 17%, and the “anatomy and physiology” section being the smallest at 11%).
The Importance of Practice Tests
Some massage therapy students assume that they can prepare for the MBLEx the same way that they prepared for exams in massage school. They read through their notes from school, review their textbooks, and use a study guide to go over the material that they think will be covered. Once all of this is done, they feel ready to sit for the actual test.
As it turns out, though, this is potentially a major mistake for many massage students. That’s because the MBLEx is an entirely different test from the exams that you took while you were in massage school.
As a standardized test, the MBLEx has more in common in some ways with the SAT, GRE, and other standardized exams than it does with the tests you took as part of your massage education (at least when it comes to formatting). For this reason, using the same techniques to study for the MBLEx that you used when studying for tests in school can produce less than optimal results.
Instead, we highly recommend using MBLEx practice tests in order to study for the exam. Research shows that practice tests are by far the most effective way to study for a standardized test like the MBLEx.
With Bamboo, studying for the MBLEx with practice tests has never been easier — or more affordable. Our practice tests are accessible on your mobile device, and testing opportunities are unlimited. Plus, your test questions are customized based on the areas you need the most help with. To learn more about Bamboo and our affordable pricing plans, click here.