Changes to MBLEx Result Reporting

Effective July 1, 2017, the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) result received by a candidate at a testing site will only be reported as PASS or FAIL. Numeric scaled scores will not be available; however, candidates who do not pass the examination will receive diagnostic information that shows good, poor or borderline performance in each of the exam content areas.

Purpose of the MBLEx

The FSMTB developed the MBLEx to assess entry-level competence. The examination assesses an individual’s ability to practice safely and competently on the public by testing her or his knowledge, skills and aptitude. If a candidate achieves a passing score, this means that she or he has met a passing standard. If a candidate fails, it means that she or he has not succeeded in meeting the minimum standard.

Reasons Numeric Scores Are Ineffective

Beyond reaching the passing standard, receiving a higher numeric score on the examination does not benefit the candidate in any way, nor does it automatically signify greater competence in massage or bodywork therapy. Since looking at numeric scores can be misleading, we are eliminating the possibility of misinterpretation, particularly where consequences are significant for education, licensure and employment.

The possibility for misinterpretation of numeric scores arises because Computer Adaptive Testing (CAT) precisely pinpoints a candidate’s ability by presenting increasingly difficult questions when questions are answered correctly. Therefore, the more able candidates will receive more difficult questions. Conversely, a candidate who cannot meet the passing threshold will be presented with easier questions. Getting more items correct at the easy end of the spectrum is not better than getting fewer items correct at the difficult end of the spectrum. What matters is meeting or exceeding the competence threshold to pass, not how many items were correct – hence, pass or fail is the best indicator.

In the profession, numeric scaled scores are often analogized with the A – F grading system common in other forms of education. This parallel interpretation is misguided.  Some miscalculate the numeric score as a percentage, which is also mathematically and conceptually wrong and misleading. It is not appropriate to utilize numeric examination scores to evaluate the capabilities or level of expertise of a massage professional.

Additionally, this perceived numerical hierarchy can subject licensed massage therapists and/or MBLEx candidates to undue and unfounded competition. All individuals who pass the MBLEx can use their passing designation to support their state licensure application. There is no differentiation in the licensure process for someone who scores higher on the MBLEx than another applicant. In a profession focused on healing and well-being, massage professionals should not divert attention away from these values in the pursuit of a “more competitive” examination result.

Furthermore, numeric examination scores are not an adequate measure of a massage school’s curriculum or effectiveness. Educators should not use numeric student scores to determine teaching effectiveness – the MBLEx was not designed for this purpose.

If you still have questions about CAT, please view this helpful video that explains the principles of adaptive testing in more detail. MBLEx support team members on FSMTB staff are also available during regular business hours if you need further assistance.