October 6, 2015

The Marital and Family Therapy Exam (MFT)

The majority of marital and family therapists will be required to earn a license before they can begin practicing. The public must be assured that these therapists are not only competent, but ethical too. Each state has its own unique licensing process, with different educational and practicum requirements. However, there is one requirement that is relatively consistent in each state. Therapists will be required to pass the Examination in Marital and Family Therapy (MFT).

The Association of Marital and Family Therapy Regulatory Boards (AMFTRB) designs this exam. Marital and family therapists can have diverse backgrounds and educational experiences. So, states can have a difficult time determining just how competent a therapist is in the field. They do not want to hand out licenses to individuals with sketchy educational backgrounds. The MFT exam was designed to give each state a consistent independent measure to gauge a therapist’s knowledge in the field.
Before you applied to undergraduate and graduate school, you probably had to take the SAT or GRE. The MFT is nothing like those standardized exams. This exam is a purely content-driven exam. The material being tested is used to gauge your knowledge about topics specific to marital and family therapy.

The MFT exam contains 200 multiple choice questions. The questions are designed to measure how much you understand and can apply entry-level concepts. If you are able to do this successfully, states feel you have enough knowledge to earn a license. The entire exam lasts about 4 hours.

The exam content is designed and validated by AMFTRB and experienced marital and therapy experts. Research is constantly being conducted to ensure the questions actually measure skills and knowledge needed into today’s therapy practices. The content is divided into 5 domain areas. These domains were identified as critical areas a marital and family therapist must be skilled in to successfully treat patients.

  • The Practice of Systemic Therapy (23%)
  • Assessing, Hypothesizing, and Diagnosing (16%)
  • Designing and Conducting Treatment (23%)
  • Evaluating Ongoing Process and Terminating Treatment (13%)
  • Managing Crisis Situations (10%)
  • Maintaining Ethical, Legal, and Professional Standards (15%)

MFT scores are based on the number of questions you answer correctly. If you decide to skip a difficult question, it will be counted as incorrect. So, you should attempt to guess if you are unsure of an answer. AMFTRB does not set a passing score. Each state can decide what the passing score will be. This is done because each state can have extremely different requirements when it comes to licensing. The passing score will be based on your overall performance. You are able to perform poorly in one content area and still pass the exam. Scores will be sent directly to the state licensing board.

The exam is a computer-based test and is offered at Prometric testing centers across the country. You do not need to have superior computer skills to pass this exam. As long as you know the basic functions of a computer and mouse, you will be fine. The MFT exam is only offered at certain times of the year. Three windows will open, lasting approximately 3 – 4 weeks. It is extremely important to pre-register as early as possible. You need to give yourself plenty of time to retake the exam if you end up failing it.

The only way to register for this exam is to contact your state licensing board. AMFTRB does not accept applications for the exam. Each state licensing board will have their own application process and fee structure. Many states will allow you to take the MFT once you have completed your education and practicum requirements and are at least a registered intern. This is beneficial because the concepts being tested are fresh in your mind.

To do well on the MFT exam, you will need to spend many hours studying and preparing. You are able to take the test again if you fail. However, state licensing boards will receive your scores whether you pass or fail. If you fail the exam multiple times, states may also require you to complete additional education programs in order to earn your license.

MFT Exam Test Taking Tips

Passing the Examination in Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) is necessary in order to earn a license. So, there is plenty of pressure to perform well. If you fail, you could have to wait months in order to sit for the exam again. The MFT exam is only offered during certain windows throughout the year.

Preparation is the key to earning a passing score on this exam. Reviewing terminology, theories, treatment procedures, and the history of the field will be essential. However, that isn’t the only thing you have to prepare for. Many people experience test day jitters or anxiety. They may know the material backwards and forwards, but their anxiety causes them to do poorly. Here are a few tips to help you lessen that test day anxiety.

  • Do a Dry Run – Know where you are going. Sounds simple, but many test-takers find themselves rushed on test day. They forgot to get directions to the testing center and find themselves lost. By the time they get there, they are so flustered it takes them a while to settle down. Prometric will provide you instructions on how to get to the testing center. Don’t wait until the day of the exam to use them. Spend some time planning out your route and do a dry run. This will let you know how much time you need to give yourself to arrive on time. This is a simple step that can save you plenty of frustration.
  • Take the tutorial – Most of you will probably have excellent computer skills. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of Prometric’s tutorial. This tutorial teaches you how to take a computer-based exam. Learn how to manage the computer’s timer clock, flip back and forth between screens, and flag questions. Why spend your valuable exam time trying to figure this out and wait for a staff member to come answer your questions? You can take the tutorial on your home computer in under 30 minutes.
  • Learn how to pace yourself – The MFT exam is a timed exam. You have just 4 hours to complete 200 multiple choice questions. So, you need to learn how to pace yourself. Many of the questions will provide you a scenario and you need to determine the right course of treatment. Spending 10 minutes on these types of questions will not help your score. Scores are based on the number of questions you answer correctly, which means you need to try and answer every single question. Take a timed practice exam and see if you are able to finish the exam within 4 hours. If not, develop some time management strategies until you are able to finish a practice exam within the allotted time. When you sit for the actual exam, you won’t be worried about whether or not you can finish it.
  • Understand the exam’s directions – This exam will have some general, basic directions. During your preparation, learn what these directions are. Understand them inside and out. This way you won’t have to spend actual exam time trying to decipher what the directions are. This will only save you a few minutes. However, you can use those few minutes to spend a little more time on those trickier problems.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice – If you go into the MFT exam cold, the likelihood of you passing the exam is slim. This is not an exam where you can guess and hope for the best. Specific theories and principles will be tested, not just general therapy concepts. Take a practice exam to see which domains you need to focus your preparation on. Practice sample exam questions until you are extremely comfortable with the material. Then, take another practice exam to see your progress. Apply to take the exam only after you are sure that your preparation efforts are working.
  • Never Panic – Hardly anyone ever gets a perfect score on the MFT exam. It is not unusual for a few questions to trip you up. So, don’t panic when you come across a question you are not sure of. Carefully examine each of the answer choices and pick the best one. Then, move on to the next question. Do not keep thinking about that tricky question as you are trying to answer other questions. You will begin to second guess yourself and start missing even the easy questions you should be acing.

MFT Scores

MFT ScoresThe Association of Marital and Family Therapists Regulatory Board (AMFTRB) designs the MFT exam, but they do not set the passing score. States across the nation use this exam as part of their licensing requirements. However, each state has different licensing eligibility requirements. So, states determine what the minimum passing score will be.

Even though this is a computer-based test, you will not immediately receive your scores. For each examination window, the testing group’s performance will be analyzed. AMFTRB’s Examination Advisory Committee and the Professional Examination Service (PES) will look at each exam question and see how many test-takers answered it correctly. This is done to ensure that the questions measure entry-level competencies. If 90% of test takers missed the same question, the question probably did not measure entry-level knowledge. The exam, to an extent, is graded on a curve.

You will receive points for each question that you answer correctly. If you pick multiple answer choices for a question, it will be marked as incorrect. You will also lose points for skipping a question. It is in your best interest to guess even if you aren’t sure of the answer.

Receiving Your Scores

PES will ultimately score the MFT exam. However, you will never directly receive a score report from PES. All exam scores are sent directly to the state licensing boards. Normative data is also sent to the licensing boards. This information is usually sent out approximately 4 weeks after the examination window period closes. Most state licensing boards will then send you a copy of the scoring report. If they do not, you should be able to request it.

It is possible to fail one of the domain areas and still pass the MFT exam. State licensing boards will look at your overall score, not your individual scores on the different domain areas. When you receive your scoring report from the state, you will also receive information about your performance in the different domain areas. This will help you design a study strategy if you need to retake the exam again. States will determine how many times you can retake this exam.

Interstate Reporting Service

Marital and family therapists may decide to move to another state. This does not mean that they will have to retake the MFT exam. The Interstate Reporting Service was established to maintain a database of MFT scores for each test-taker. At your request, they will send your score report and normative data to any state licensing board that you designate.

There is a small fee for this service. You will be required to complete the Interstate Reporting Service form and include your Examination of Marital and Family Therapy Identification number. Do not wait until the last minute to send in the form. Depending on the number of requests, it can take the Service a few weeks to process your form.

Rescoring Requests

You may be shocked when you receive your score report from the state. You failed the exam, even though you were certain that you aced it. The computer had to have made a mistake, right? If you think that you truly should have received a higher score, you can request to have your MFT exam be rescored.

You will have to submit an official request to PES to have your exam hand scored. Rescore applications are only available through your state licensing board. You will be required to pay a rescore fee. All requests must be received within 90 days of your examination date.

PES will pull your exam and hand score it. You will be informed of the results within a few weeks. However, PES does not provide you will much detail about the hand score results. You will not receive any details about your performance on specific questions. Keep in mind, that score changes are very, very rare. If you are just a few points away from the passing score set by your state, rescoring requests will not be the answer to your problem. You should schedule to retake the exam once again.

MFT Exam Testing Day Procedures

MFT Exam Testing Day ProceduresThe Examination in Marital and Family Therapy (MFT) is offered exclusively through Prometric testing centers. You will not be able to just call and schedule an appointment. You must wait for official confirmation from your state licensing board or PES (Professional Examination Services). Once you receive confirmation, you must schedule an exam appointment. Walk-ups will not be accepted.


You should plan on arriving to the testing center at least 30 to 40 minutes before your scheduled appointment time. Your appointment time does not build in any time for the check-in process. This process can take some time to complete, so you need to get there early.

Prometric is not required to seat you if you arrive after your scheduled appointment time. However, you will be given the opportunity to reschedule the MFT exam for another time during the window period. There will be an additional registration fee to reschedule. However, if times are no longer available in the window period, you will need to contact your state licensing board. The board may require you to submit another application form.

If you know in advance that you will not be able to make your scheduled appointment, contact the Prometric testing center. You may be able to reschedule (without paying another registration fee) if you give them sufficient notice. Failure to show up for your scheduled appointment may require you to resubmit your PES application and pay the entire MFT exam fee once again.

What You Need to Bring

You will need to bring identification and your “authorization to test” letter to the center. No one is admitted into the testing center without proper identification. Your identification should be a current, unexpired government identification card with your signature and photograph. Appropriate forms of identification include state issued identification cards, driver’s licenses, military identification cards, or passport books. The name on your identification must match exactly to the name on your application form. Otherwise, you will not be allowed to take the test.

Bring your authorization letter and confirmation e-mail you received once you made the appointment. In the rare event that the center lost your appointment time, these 2 pieces of paper could get you seated quicker. They could also prevent you from having to pay another registration fee.

Testing Room Conditions and Procedures

You will not be allowed to bring anything but yourself into the testing room. Security measures have been put in place to ensure that cheating cannot occur. Cell phones, pagers, purses, watches, calculators, briefcases, hats, food, drink, coats, and notepaper are not allowed inside the testing room. Testing center staff members may even ask you to remove large or bulky jewelry items. Yes, people have figured out how to sneak notes inside necklaces. Small storage lockers will be available at the testing center. However, the center is not responsible for any of your personal items. If in doubt, leave the items in your car or at home.

Most testing centers will have 16 different computer stations. However, you are not able to choose which station you want to sit at. A staff member will escort you to a station that has been randomly chosen for you. Noise reducing headsets are available if you feel you might become distracted by fellow test-takers. Make sure to request the headset before the exam starts. You don’t want to waste precious exam waiting for a staff member to bring you a headset.

You are not permitted to talk to other test takers during the exam. Movement around the room is kept to a minimum to prevent distractions. If you need to get up during the MFT exam, you will need to raise your hand. A staff member will dismiss you and sign you out of the room. You will be required to submit identification to re-enter the testing room. The exam clock will not stop when you take unscheduled breaks.

Staff members will not be able to answer any questions that are specific to the MFT exam. If you have a computer issue, alert a staff member immediately. Computer incidents that could significantly impact your score must be reported at the testing center. The center will need to send a report to PES. You will also need to submit a written statement to PES about the incident.

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