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PCE Candidate FAQs

NOTE: In January 2022, CAPR discontinued the administration of the Clinical Component of the PCE. Please disregard any reference to the Clinical Component on our website and in our resources as we update this information. If you have successfully completed the Written Component of the PCE, please contact your regulator for details about the process they require for you to become fully licensed.

 

What is the purpose of the exam?
 What does the exam do?
 What does the exam do for physiotherapy regulators?

Who takes the exam?

Applying for the exam
Why did you return my application form?

Exam Results
Why did you place my exam results on hold?

Computer-based test format for the Written Component
When will the exams be offered?
Can I take the computer-based written exam on my computer at home or at work?
Do I need to be experienced or proficient with computers?
Are individuals with documented needs accommodated in the exam?
How long will it take to receive exam results?

Pre-Exam
What documents will I receive and what should I bring to the exam?
What are the exam times?
What if I arrive late for the Written Component of the PCE?
Does CAPR offer an exam resource to assist with exam preparation?

During the Exam
What happens if there is a loss of internet connectivity or computer has technical issues during the exam?
What happens if I have login issues?
What kinds of questions will be used on the computer-based written exam?
Is the exam available in English and French?
Can I check a question in English if I do not understand the question in French?
During the exam, can I skip questions and return to them later?
Can I review or change my answers?
Can I increase and decrease the font?
What are the features on the computer-based testing interface?
Can I use scratch paper or make notes?
Are there bilingual proctors in all the testing centres?

About the Exam
What if I have other questions about CAPR’s computer-based written exam?
How do you set passing scores for the written component?
I failed the exam. What do I do now?
How do I apply to take the exam again?
I failed the Written Component. Why can’t I try again on the next date for the Written Component?
Why do I have to pay the fees to take the exam again?

Rescoring
I think my score is wrong. How do I request rescoring of my exam?
What happens in rescoring?
How long does rescoring take?

Administrative Reconsideration
What is administrative reconsideration?
What do I have to send for an administrative reconsideration?
When should I send my administrative reconsideration?
What if I was sick?
How long does administrative reconsideration take?

What are the psychometric features of the exam?
What is validity?
What evidence is there that the results of the PCE are valid?
Content Aspect of Validity
Construct Aspect of Validity
Structural Aspect of Validity

How well do candidates usually do on the exam?
How and why do graduates of different Canadian physiotherapy programs perform differently on the exam?
Why is the pass rate lower for internationally-educated physiotherapists?
Why don’t you adjust the pass rate so the same percentage of candidates passes each time?
I heard that you use a “bell curve” to mark the exam. Is this true?

How do you set exam fees?
What is the money used for?
Why do I have to pay extra for additional feedback?
Why do exam fees go up?

Who does what for the exam program?
Written Test Development Group and Written Item Generation Teams
Exam Steering Group
Evaluation Services Committee
Do you decide whether a candidate can be registered or licensed to practice physiotherapy?

How do you translate exam materials?
Who participates in the translation process?
What are the steps in translating and checking exam questions?
Do you compare exam scores for French and English candidates?
How do you review the Written Component?
What translation reference material do you use

 

What is the purpose of the exam?

The Physiotherapy Competency Examination (PCE) helps provincial and territorial physiotherapy regulators know that you are ready for independent practice.

 What does the exam do?
The Physiotherapy Competency Examination tests whether qualified exam candidates have demonstrated a minimum standard of practice. The PCE ensures that members of the public will be safe when they interact with physiotherapists. It fairly and accurately evaluates the competencies you need to have to practise physiotherapy. Most physiotherapy regulators in Canada include passing the PCE as part of their entry-to-practice process.

The PCE tests the essential competencies of physiotherapy practice – the essential knowledge, skills and abilities. It tests history-taking, physical examination, data interpretation, clinical problem solving, treatment techniques, ethics, safety, interviewing and communication. The exam covers musculoskeletal, neurological, and cardiovascular-respiratory areas of practice. The PCE is a reliable and valid assessment tool that fairly evaluates candidates on many competencies.

Passing the PCE means that you have demonstrated the minimum standard of knowledge, skills and abilities. Failing the PCE indicates that you have not yet demonstrated the minimum standard of knowledge, skills and abilities.

What does the exam do for physiotherapy regulators?
The provincial and territorial regulators must protect the public. They can do this best by using a consistent and legally defensible standard for all candidates who want to register to practise physiotherapy, no matter where they have completed their physiotherapy program.

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Who takes the exam?

Canadian-educated and internationally educated graduates of physiotherapy programs take the Physiotherapy Competency Examination (PCE), regardless of their experience. Most regulators in Canada include passing the PCE as part of their entry-to-practice process.

If you are an internationally educated graduate of a physiotherapy program, CAPR must evaluate your credentials before you can take the PCE. The Educational Credentials and Qualifications Assessment will determine whether your education and qualifications are substantially equivalent to those of a Canadian-educated physiotherapist.

Applying for the exam
When you apply for an exam, you need to fill in the application form completely, and you need to include all the required documents with your application.

Why did you return my application form?
If you do not fill in the application form completely, or if you do not include all the required documents, we will return your application. We send a memo with the returned application so that you can correct the problem. Some of the common problems with applications are:

  • your name on the application does not match the name identity document
  • you have not completed one or more sections of the application
  • you forgot to include your payment

Exam results

Why did you place my exam results on hold?
Before we release your exam results, we check your file to make sure everything is up to date. We need to be sure that we have all the required documents, and all payments.

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Written Component

When will the exams be offered?
See this webpage and the Exam Registration Guide for administration dates.

Can I take the computer-based Written Component on my computer at home or at work?
Yes, if your home or workplace meets certain environmental and technological requirements. You have the option of completing the Written Component via remote proctoring. For more information and resources about this exam delivery modality, visit our page titled Remote Proctoring of the Written Component.

Do I need to be experienced or proficient with computers?

No. The computer-based written exam is very user-friendly. Prior to the exam day, you can experience the testing environment by scheduling a practice exam through the Prometric site at www.prometric.com. The practice exam allows candidates to walk through, on a practice basis, all check-in and testing procedures that occur on exam day, as well as experience the testing platform – the practice exam uses the recently updated Written Component practice questions.

You can also access a “What To Expect On Test Day” video on the Prometric site at https://www.prometric.com/en-us/Pages/home.aspx

Are those who have documented needs accommodated?
Yes. Candidates who have documented needs will be accommodated. Candidates should review the Alternative Accommodations webpage for information related to Alternative Accommodations. All requests must be submitted using the Alternative Accommodation Request Form by the stated deadlines.

How long will it take to receive exam results?
Official exam results (Pass/Fail) will be available within approximately six weeks from the exam.

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Pre-exam

What documents will I receive and what should I bring to the exam?
Once you apply for the Written Component, you will receive confirmation of registration (your Registration Notice) via email from CAPR. This email will include your Client ID and a link to where you can schedule your exam on the Prometric website.

Once you have scheduled your exam through Prometric, you will receive a confirmation email with the following information:

  • Exam date and time
  • When to arrive at the test centre/be ready to log on
  • Driving directions to your chosen test centre if applicable
  • A reminder to bring your valid, government-issued photo identification that matches the name you provided on your application. You must bring one of the following pieces of identification to the exam (test centre or remotely proctored):
    • Canadian or foreign passport OR
    • Canadian driver’s licence OR
    • Canadian permanent resident card

What are the exam times?
The computer-based written exam is administered in one session, either from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. or 12:30 to 5 p.m. (local time). The Prometric confirmation email will outline the session for each exam.

Plan to arrive/login 30 minutes in advance of your scheduled appointment time. This is a timed exam, and any breaks you take during the test session are at your discretion; you will not receive any extra testing time to make up for those breaks.

What if I arrive late?
Any candidate arriving more than 30 minutes after the scheduled start time will not be permitted to take the exam and will forfeit their exam fee.

Does CAPR offer an exam resource to assist with exam preparation?
Yes. CAPR, through Prometric, offers candidates the opportunity to take a Practice Exam for a fee. See the Prometric website for details.

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During the exam

What happens if there is a loss of internet connectivity or computer has technical issues during the exam?
If you experience loss of internet connectivity or have technical issues with the computer, please do not panic. Raise your hand as soon as this happens, and the proctor at the exam site will address this issue. All answers submitted up to that point would NOT be lost. Also, NO exam time would be lost. In the event you feel you did lose time, CAPR will investigate your claim.  Further actions will be taken on a case-by-case basis.

What happens if I have login issues?
If you experience login issues on exam day, please do not panic. Raise your hand as soon as this happens and the proctor at the exam site will address this issue.

What kinds of questions will be used on the computer-based written exam?
The exam questions are multiple-choice, with four answer choices and one best answer. Some questions are part of vignettes (associated with short scenarios) and some are stand-alone multiple-choice questions.

Is the exam available in English and French?
Yes. CAPR’s computer-based written exam is available in English and French.

Can I check a question in English if I do not understand the question in French?
Yes. You will have the ability to view the alternate language version of your exam at any time during the exam, at any site.

During the exam, can I skip questions and return to them later?
Yes. Questions can be flagged and returned to at a later point in the exam.

Note: Be sure to answer all questions, as only answered questions are scored.

Can I review or change my answers?
Yes. An answer can be changed at any time during the exam.

Can I increase and decrease the font?
No. You can not increase and decrease the font of the test questions.

What are the features on the computer-based testing interface?
Some of the key features in the computer-based written exam include the ability to:

  • move to the next question or go back to the previous question
  • flag a question to come back to later
  • highlight text within a question
  • strike out incorrect responses
  • change the appearance/theme of the exam for ideal visibility.

There is also an exam progress bar indicating percentage of completion.

Are there bilingual proctors in all the testing centres?
No. Proctors are not bilingual in all testing centres. Proctors in French-speaking regions (Quebec, New Brunswick, and certain parts of Ontario) may be bilingual.

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About the exam

What if I have other questions about CAPR’s computer-based written exam?
These questions can be directed to CAPR’s Client Services Coordinator via email at csc_exams@alliancept.org or by phone at 416-234-8800  during the outlined phone hours, provided for your reference below:

  • Monday: 9:00am EST to 11:00am EST
  • Wednesday: 2:00pm EST to 4:00pm EST
  • Friday: 1:00pm EST to 3:00pm EST

How do you set passing scores for the Written Component?
The scoring system used in the Physiotherapy Competency Examination (PCE) is different from a percentage scoring system.

The passing score for the Written Component is a specific point set on a scaled score scale. The Board of Examiners and the Evaluation Services Committee set the passing score for the Written Component.

I failed the exam. What do I do now?
If you fail an exam you have several options.  You can:

  • apply to take the exam again
  • request rescoring of your exam
  • request an administrative reconsideration

Details about rescoring and administrative reconsideration are available in the Registration Guide. You should request everything you want at the same time. If you wait to submit a request, you may miss the deadline date.

How do I apply to take the exam again?
We include information about repeating the exam in your results package if you fail the exam. You will need to submit a new application form and fee.

I failed the Written Component. Why can’t I try again on the next date for the Written Component? 
We include information about applying for another exam in your results package. This package includes the date of the next exam that is available to you. Sometimes the next exam date on the calendar is no longer available because the application deadline has passed.  We cannot accept applications for an exam after the application deadline for that exam.

Why do I have to pay the fees to take the exam again?
We set exam fees to cover the costs to administer each exam. If you fail an exam, you must send the full exam fee with your application to repeat the exam.

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Rescoring

I think my score is wrong. How do I request rescoring of my exam?
We check exam scores carefully before we release results. If you still think your score is wrong, we can rescore your exam.

You can request rescoring on the form that we include in your results email. Please read the form carefully and make sure you send it to us before the deadline. We cannot accept a rescoring request after the deadline.

What happens in rescoring?
For Written Component, we download your exam responses and check them against the answer key of the exam, ensuring you got credit for all your correct answers. We then validate the score you received against the second check.

If your exam outcome changes after rescoring (i.e., if your results change to a pass), we will refund your rescoring fee, and we will refund any fees you have paid to take the exam again.

How long does rescoring take?
We complete rescoring requests as they are received. We will send your rescoring result by 4 weeks after the rescoring deadline for the Written Component.

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Administrative Reconsideration

What is administrative reconsideration?
Sometimes something happens that makes it harder for you to do your best. For example, you might be sick before or during the exam, you could have a family emergency, or something could be wrong with the administration of the exam. If these kinds of problems affect your exam, you might want to ask for administrative reconsideration.

Details about circumstances and criteria related to administrative reconsideration can be found in the Exam policies.

You should read the information in your results email carefully, and make sure you send your request for administrative reconsideration before the deadline. We will not process an administrative reconsideration request after the deadline.

What do I have to send for an administrative reconsideration?
You must send the administrative reconsideration application form, your payment, and a letter outlining the reasons for your request. You should include supporting documents, where applicable. If you are not sure what to send, contact our office.

When should I send my administrative reconsideration?
You must send your request by the deadline date on the application form. If you do not have all your supporting documents, send the request and your payment before the deadline. In your letter tell us what documents you are waiting for and when you expect to send them.

What if I was sick?
There are special rules if you were sick on the day of the exam. You must email us within seven days of the exam date – you cannot wait until you get your results. If absent from the examination due to illness, you must provide a Candidate Medical Certificate, verifying that you were examined at the time of the illness. The date of the certificate must be appropriate for or match the examination date.

How long does administrative reconsideration take?
It depends on how complicated your request is. If we have all the information, we can usually send our decision quickly. If we have to wait for documents, or if we need to contact people to investigate your request, it may take longer. We will tell you if we need more information, or if your request will take longer than usual.

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What Are the Psychometric Features of the Exam?

What is validity?
The validity of exam results is the extent to which the scores measure what we want to test. In the assessments used for licensure decisions for health care professionals, we measure the competence of individual practitioners entering practice. In other words, do candidates who successfully complete the PCE have the competence to perform at the desired level of proficiency? Also, do candidates who are not successful fall short of the necessary level of proficiency?

What evidence is there that the results of the PCE are valid?
Validity is built into an exam program. In licensure testing, this is done by thoroughly reviewing the competencies a candidate needs to have to practise safely and competently (the Analysis of Practice). These competencies determine the content domain – the areas of study – from which the exam will be built. Decisions that are made based on the exam scores can be considered valid when an exam has been built by sampling from the specified content domain according to a pre-determined formula (also known as the exam blueprint).

Establishing the validity of exam inferences (the decisions that are made based on exam results) is a process that takes place by accumulating evidence over time. Evidence that supports the validity of the decisions made based on PCE results includes the following:

Content Aspect of Validity

  • Analysis of Practice 2017
  • The Blueprint for the PCE (2018)
  • An extensive local and national consultation process to develop and review exam items
  • Processes for translating and verifying translation for all exam items and stations
  • Standardized quality control of exam administration

Construct Aspect of Validity

Structural Aspect of Validity

  • Support by external testing and measurement services for the development and administration of the Written Component
  • Standardized quality control of exam scoring and results processing
  • Verification of the quality of the multiple-choice questions through statistical analysis
  • Verification of borderline results
  • Documentation of all procedures
  • Standardized communication of exam information to candidates

For the Written Component, we use the Cronbach alpha coefficient to assess the reliability of test results. The Written Component consistently achieves acceptable Cronbach alpha values.

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How well do candidates usually do on the exam?

Candidates perform very well on the exam and exam results have been quite consistent over time. Canadian-educated candidates tend to do better than those who did not receive their physiotherapy education in Canada.

How and why do graduates of different Canadian physiotherapy programs perform differently on the exam?
The performance of graduates of Canadian physiotherapy programs varies slightly from one exam to another. Overall, the performance of Canadian educated candidates is very consistent from year to year, and from program to program.

Many factors could explain why the performance of graduates of a particular university program might vary. It would not be fair to publish the pass rates of physiotherapy programs without information about these factors, especially since these changes in performance are very small.

CAPR provides confidential feedback about exam performance to the Canadian physiotherapy programs. The programs use this feedback in their program evaluations.

Why is the pass rate lower for internationally-educated physiotherapists?
The internationally-educated physiotherapists are a very diverse group from many different countries. Many factors affect their success on the exam, including language of education and language of clinical practice, years since graduation, and practice patterns in the country of education (whether they are similar to Canada or different).

Familiarity with the exam format may also affect the pass rate. In other words, candidates who have experienced multiple-choice during their physiotherapy education program may perform better than candidates who have not experienced these types of exams.

Why don’t you adjust the pass rate so the same percentage of candidates passes each time?
The leading psychometric standard-setting body, the American Educational Research Association (AERA), specifically recommends that credentialing tests do not use a norm-reference approach – that is, adjusting the passing rate to pass a specified percentage of candidates. Standard 14.17 says

  • The level of performance required for passing a credentialing test should depend on the knowledge and skills necessary for acceptable performance in the occupation or profession and should not be adjusted to regulate the number or proportion of persons passing the test.12
12American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, National Council on Measurement in Education. (1999). Standards for educational and psychological testing. WashingtonDC: American Educational Research Association.

I heard that you use a “bell curve” to mark the exam. Is this true?
No. CAPR does not use a “bell curve” to mark the exam. Bell curving means assigning scores according to a pre-determined frequency. This approach controls the passing rate and is not recommended by testing experts (see above).

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How do you set exam fees?

CAPR is a non-profit organization. The money we need to administer the PCE comes from the exam fees you pay. The fees must cover all the expenses related to the exam program. We do not make a profit from the exam and we cannot operate the exam at a loss.

You pay the same fee to take the exam no matter where in the country you take it.

We set exam fees in advance so that you can budget for the expense. If something happens to increase our costs, we do not charge you more.

What is the money used for?
Exam fees cover many different kinds of expenses:

  • Direct costs for the exam program. These include exam sites and personnel, exam consultants, and special needs costs.
  • Committee costs for development of exam items, and for exam scoring decisions. These include the written test development groups.
  • Research and quality assurance activities. These include research projects like the Analysis of Practice, and quality assurance reporting.
  • Operating expenses for rent, salaries and office supplies.
  • Indirect expenses associated with CAPR activities. These include meeting expenses for the Evaluation Services Committee and the Executive Committee. These committees spend some of their time on exam activities.

Not included in these costs is the significant number of volunteer hours contributed by physiotherapists from across the country who spend time on committee activities related to the exam. These include members of the test development groups and members of the Evaluation Service Committee  These individuals are not paid for the hours they work on exam activities.

Why do I have to pay extra for additional feedback?
The exam operates on a break-even basis. You must pay the costs of any additional services that you request.

Why do exam fees go up?
We pay careful attention to exam expenses and revenue. We sometimes have to adjust exam fees to cover increasing costs. When this happens, we publish the new fees in advance so that you can budget for these expenses.

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Who does what for the exam program?

Many individuals and groups are involved in the exam program. Most of them are volunteers who use their clinical, management and measurement skills to provide advice to CAPR. Some of the groups are listed below.

Written Test Development Group and Written Item Generation Teams

Physiotherapists from across Canada who develop and revise questions for the Written Component.

Exam Steering Group

The National Chair of the Written Test Development Group and CAPR’s National Director of Evaluation Services who provides advice and guidance on the operation of the exam program.

Evaluation Services Committee

A group of physiotherapists, measurement experts and credentialing experts who provide oversight for the credentialing and exam programs. The Evaluation Services Committee is responsible for setting and monitoring standards for the credentialing and examination programs and assuring the effective delivery of these services.

Do you decide whether a candidate can be registered or licensed to practice physiotherapy? 
CAPR does not decide who can be licensed to practice physiotherapy because it is not a regulator. We provide exam results to the physiotherapy regulators. The regulators make decisions about who can and cannot register to practice.

The regulator’s role is to protect the public. Regulators do this through various processes, including registration requirements. Some regulators in Canada require successful completion of the PCE as a condition of registration. Some regulators will allow you to work under a temporary certificate of registration while you are waiting to complete the PCE. Each regulator has different processes and rules that apply if you fail a component of the exam.

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How do you translate exam materials?

We have a multi-staged translation process to ensure that each exam question is accurate in both languages.

Who participates in the translation process?
French-speaking and bilingual physiotherapists and physiotherapy faculty members participate in the translation process. Here is a brief explanation of the main contributors involved and their primary responsibilities:

Name of group Members Responsibility
Exam Steering Group
  • Chair of WTDG
  • CAPR’s National Director of Evaluation Services
Oversee translation requirements for the exam.
External translators Individual translators or translation services contracted by CAPR Prepare and check translations.
Physiotherapists Bilingual physiotherapists who speak French as their first language Verify translations and physiotherapy terminology
CAPR staff Assist with preparing and checking translations.

What are the steps in translating and checking exam questions?
We translate new questions for the Written Components of the PCE in several stages. Here is a brief explanation of the major activities during each stage:

Step 1: Identify new or changed questions for translation

  • Request translation of new or changed items (WTDG or CTDG)
  • Remove the changed items from the active item bank so they won’t be used for exams (staff and exam consultant).

Step 2: Translate the items

  • Translate the new or changed items (external translator).

Step 3: Check the translation

  • Check each translated question for accuracy and completeness (bilingual physiotherapist)
  • Proofread the translations (bilingual physiotherapist).

Step 4: Update item bank with new translations

  • Import the translated questions into the exam software (staff and exam consultant). Questions are now ready for upcoming exams.

Step 5: Prepare exam administration

  • Select exam questions according to the exam blueprint (staff and consultant)
  • Approve the English exam (WTDG chair )
  • Confirm that a French translation exists for all questions selected
  • Check the translation of all exam questions (bilingual physiotherapist)
  • Review corrections (CAPR staff)
  • Approve the translations of all exam questions (bilingual physiotherapist)
  • Import corrections into the exam software (staff and consultant)
  • Proofread the final draft of exam materials (CAPR staff).

Do you compare exam scores for French and English candidates? 
After each exam, we review the French and English exam scores (when the numbers allow this) to confirm the fairness and accuracy of both French and English exams. Here is a brief description of that process:

  1. Analyze the scores from the French and English Written Component of the PCE (completed by exam consultants)
  2. Identify any significant differences between the average scores for the French and English exams
  3. Identify any items that have an unexpected response pattern (completed by exam consultants).

Exam items identified in steps two and three receive careful scrutiny.

How do you review the Written Component?

  1. Review the exam questions that we identified in steps two and three above and check them for accuracy (bilingual physiotherapist, the Chair of WTDG and Physiotherapist Advisor of exam program).
  2. Meet to discuss identified questions. This may result in
    • deleting the question from the exam score; or
    • accepting other correct responses.

What translation reference material do you use?
Our translators use a variety of translation reference materials when they translate and check exam questions. In addition to French translation resources (dictionaries), we also use leading medical translation materials. Here are just a few examples:

  • Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators. (2022). Lexicon of Terms/Lexique de termes. Toronto: Author.
  • Lussier, A. and Dionne, S (Eds.). (1990). Vocabulaire de sémiologie de l’appareil locomoteur Volume I: signes cliniques/Vocabulary of Signs and Symptoms of the Musculoskeletal System Volume I: Clinical Findings. Ottawa: Canadian Government Publishing Centre.
  • Lussier, A., Beauregard, G. and Dionne, S. (Eds.). (1992). Vocabulaire de sémiologie de l’appareil locomoteur Volume II: signes d’imagerie médicale/Vocabulary of Signs and Symptoms of the Musculoskeletal System Volume II: Medical Imaging Signs. Ottawa: Canada Communication Group.

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