3 Tips to Prepare for the Physiotherapy Competency Exam
As many new physiotherapy graduates and international physiotherapists probably know, the final hurdle to full independent physiotherapy practice in Canada, passing the Physiotherapy Competency Exam (PCE), is stressful! As a physiotherapist, I've been there. Looking back, I can barely remember the specifics of what I studied, but I do remember how I prepared for the Physiotherapy Competency Exam. For what it's worth, it must have been enough, because I passed the exam and moved on to many exciting (and sometimes frustrating) opportunities in the healthcare industry. Although I am unable to give any content specifics, I want to give you 3 tips to help you prepare for the Canadian Physiotherapy Competency Exam.
1. Safety First
This seems so simple but is easily forgotten in a panic situation on the clinical exam. Make safety your number one priority at all stations. Know your precautions and contraindications. Be professional in all your mock patient interactions; it's an easy way to save marks.
2. Know the Format, Expectations and Rules
Knowing the content is one thing, but knowing what to expect with the format is another. Know the structure of the Physiotherapy Competency Exam; it can make all the difference between passing and failing! How many stations are there? How long do you have at each station? What type of stations (practical or written) will there be?
Although nobody can be fully prepared for all the exam content, you can prepare yourself for the exam structure. When you prepare for the exam structure you can focus on what's important: Reading the question properly and answering/performing what is asked of you accurately.
Check what documentation and equipment you need to bring to the PCE in advance and have it organized ahead of time so you're not fumbling for it the night before. Finally, be aware of the rules regarding cheating and confidentiality. The Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators (CAPR) takes cheating very seriously; this includes discussing the contents after the exam. As soon as you're done the exam, be done and don't duplicate or discuss any exam content with your peers. It won't change the outcome of the exam (besides, you already passed right?!)
You're done: Go celebrate and talk about anything but the PCE!
3. Practice with a Group of Peers
This advice seems obvious, but the easiest way to do this is to have already started working in a clinical position. Hopefully, by this point, many of you will have continued working from your placements, or secured other work as a physiotherapy resident. This gives you the opportunity to make studying for your PCE a habit and refine your patient interaction, assessment, and treatment skills daily. It provides a way for you to make clinical decisions in a real-life context, and expose you to peers and mentors to help guide your learning.
If you haven't started working, form a study group to meet with regularly. The majority of the written PCE can be studied solo, the practical component should be studied through hands-on scenarios. It will feel impossible at times to 'know it all' and to even know where to begin studying, so figure out what you 'don't know' by completing sample practice scenarios and focus your book learning from the gaps you identify in practice.
The CAPR also has 9 videos for Physiotherapy Competency Exam Candidates.
Here is their second video, which discusses the components of the PCE:
You can also check out their other candidate videos here.
If you're looking for other resources to help you prepare, the Ignite Blog has the Top 10 Best Resources to Prepare for the Physiotherapy Competency Exam.
In the end, be confident that you have done everything in your power to set yourself up for success. Remember - you have been getting prepared for the PCE over the last two years by attending lectures, tutorials, clinical placements and studying (probably constantly!). Remember, all the objective structured clinical examinations (OSCEs) you completed were in preparation for this exam. If you cared to get as far as you have, you will do well.
Once the Physiotherapy Competency Exam is done, you will have a lifetime of opportunity to continue to learn and grow into this profession.
If you found that 3 tips were not enough and would like even more tips (because you really, really want to pass this exam), check out Embodia's blog, 5 Easy Tips to Keep in Mind Before the Upcoming Clinical Component of the Canadian Physiotherapy Competency Exam (PCE).
The Embodia Team and community believes that you can do it!
Holly Mitchell BA, MSc(PT)
Holly is a physiotherapist and disruptive healthcare technology advocate with 10 years of clinical experience in both Canada and Australia. She graduated from McMaster University with a Master of Science in Physiotherapy and is on the Embodia Quality Assurance team for continuing education courses. Her area of interest is the connection between planetary and human health and the innovative potential health technology has in mitigating the environmental impacts of the healthcare industry. Holly currently consults with big employers on business opportunities for virtual injury prevention services and industrial sports medicine programs. Her free time is spent figuring out what exactly goes into the recycling bin, chasing her toddler son, figuring out adult ballet, kayaking, and camping in the great Canadian wilds.