Skip to main content

COVID-Proof and Improved: New Changes to the 2021 Physiotherapy Competency Exam Clinical Component
By: Nataliya Zlotnikov


Congratulations on passing the 2020 Physiotherapy Competency Exam (PCE) written component; the Embodia team is very proud of you! You have your results, took part in a socially-distanced celebration, and are ready to move on to the last step, the Clinical Component. 


This Year Won't Be the Same as Ever Before 

If you haven't heard yet, this year the Clinical Component is changing in order to provide a safer, more viable exam for COVID-times and accommodate candidates from 2020 as well as the 2021 cohorts. 

Keep reading below to find out how this year's exam will be different, as well as to see the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators' (CAPR's) answers to some common questions and doubts. 


How This Year Will Be Different (Summary)

Read the below summary which outlines the changes that will be affecting the 2021 PCE Clinical Component. Be sure to scroll further to see these three points explained in greater detail.  

  1. Exam Structure: No written elements;
    • Reduced Number of Stations: The number of stations has been decreased from 16 to 12; 
    • No Number of Stations Criterion: Candidates will no longer be required to pass a pre-determined number of stations to pass the exam.

  2. Delivery Method: Virtual exam experienced by candidates in a digital environment, The exam will be touchless - candidates will not be in the same room as standardized clients.

  3. Dates and Delivery Mode: Exams will be delivered with greater frequency to address the backlog created by the cancellation of 2020 exams in addition to typical demand (see the table in #3 below for greater detail);
    • Recording: Exam will be recorded to enable standardization and fairness.

We invite you to also take a look at this 26 October 2020 update from the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators which states the above points as well as goes into further detail about how the CAPR will maintain their commitment to validity and reliability as well their guiding principles. 


Physio Exam With No Touching? How the...

Before we tell you more about what the exam will look like, let's first address the biggest doubt that many of you are likely experiencing: How will a physiotherapy exam with no element of touch work?

The CAPR 2021 PCE Clinical Components FAQs address this question in the following manner (answers are paraphrased): 

Q: How will a virtual Clinical Component, with no element of touch, work?

A: The exam will still be an Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE). At each station, candidates will engage with a standardized patient while being observed by an examiner. Candidates will be assessed on their physiotherapy knowledge, professionalism and clinical reasoning and communication skills.

Q: How will the Clinical Component assess physiotherapy competency in the absence of touch?

A: The CAPR, through its consultations with physiotherapy educators and regulators, has determined that demonstrating communication skills and professional behaviour at an entry-to-practice level can be achieved without touch. 

The 2021 Clinical Component will focus on the application of clinical skills and knowledge at the top level (“Does”) of Miller’s pyramid (see figure below) and on the higher-order cognitive functions from Bloom’s taxonomy (see figure below).


How Do You Pass the 2021 Exam?

Q: As candidates will no longer be required to pass a pre-determined number of stations to pass the exam, how DO you pass?

A: The 2021 Clinical Component will have two passing criteria:

  1. The Total Score Criterion: Candidates must achieve a pre-determined total score across the 12 stations to pass the exam.

  2. The Critical Incidents Criterion: Candidates must demonstrate safe, professional practice across all 12 stations.

Q: Why is the Number of Stations criterion not being used for the 2021 Clinical Component?

A: For the 2021 Clinical Component, the Number of Stations criterion will not be used because it has been determined that using this criterion for a 12-station exam does not yield optimal reliability.

If you have further questions and concerns, take a look at CAPR's complete 2021 PCE Clinical Component FAQs.


How This Year Will Be Different (Detailed Version)

Now, with that behind us, let us move on and take a look at the 2021 Clinical Component in greater detail. 

1. Exam Structure

The 2021 Clinical Component exam will remain an Objective Structured Clinical Exam (OSCE) but will not have any written elements for any of the stations. Each 12-station Clinical Component delivered in 2021 will be built to satisfy the PCE Blueprint.

The Clinical Component will comprise six 10-minute clinical stations and six five-minute clinical stations. 


2. Delivery Method

The 2021 exam will be delivered virtually using a specialized health care simulation software platform and live, remote proctors. 

Within each virtual station, the candidate will interact with a remote Standardized Client and a remote Examiner. The candidate may participate from their home or another appropriate location.     

Full-size graphic available here


3. Dates and Delivery Model

In an effort to accommodate more candidates, improve test security, decrease the risk of technological failures, and allow for shorter more comfortable testing sessions, CAPR will offer 4 administrations of the 2021 PCE Clinical Component. 

Candidates will complete the six 10-minute stations on the Saturday of the administration and the six 5-minute stations on the Sunday of the administration.

Candidates who are unable to participate in a Saturday or Sunday administration for legitimate reasons may request an exception.


4. Candidate Prioritization 

To accommodate both the 2020 and 2021 cohorts of candidates, registered candidates will be prioritized based on the date their application was received.


5. Capacity 

The CAPR hopes to accommodate all candidates carried over from 2020 as well as all-new 2021-registered candidates by the end of 2021. 

The CAPR anticipates the following capacity distribution: 

The above information is also available on the CAPR website by clicking here


If you would like some additional reading, Embodia has some great blogs and tips on passing your PCE as well as on transitioning to professional life. Don't miss these great resources!

How to Pass Your Physiotherapy Competency Exam (PCE) Clinical Component, 5 Real Tips!

6 Ways to Prepare for the Transition from Student Life to Professional Life

We also invite you to check out some of our online physiotherapy courses by clicking below. We have a handsome collection of both free and paid courses.


Learn more with Embodia

We wish you the best of luck on the 2021 Clinical Component of the PCE and in your future professional endeavours. We look forward to working with you. 

In these times of change and uncertainty, remember: 

"The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings."
--Kakuzo Okakaura

Subscribe to Our Blog

* indicates required
What kind of emails are you interested in?
© 2022 Embodia