The Top 10 Best Resources to Prepare for The Physiotherapy Competency Exam

Where Do I Start?

Preparing to take the Physiotherapy Competency Exam (PCE) is a big moment in any Canadian physiotherapist’s career. It’s the hurdle that stands between becoming a licensed physiotherapist and finally helping patients. Starting with the written component quickly followed by the clinical portion, passing the PCE is a stressful and daunting process for most applicants. And when you look at the breadth of information covered throughout your education it can be very overwhelming to know how to go about studying. Whether you choose to study as a group or fly solo, choosing the right resources for your exam prep is the place to start.
Here is a list of what ignitephysio considers the top 10 PCE prep resources available, online and in print. Read on for an account of the content covered by each resource, how to access them and how they can help you prepare.

Online Resources

1. Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators Website

The Physiotherapy Alliance website is one of the best resources at your disposal. With exam breakdowns, study tips and mock ups depicting the test-day process available for free in both English and French, the resources on this website will give you a clear idea of exactly what you can expect.

a. PCE Blueprint

Value: The PCE Blueprint is a document that outlines the testable and untestable areas that are fair game for the written component. It provides insight into the proportion of the exam that will cover each topic.

b. Essential Guide For Candidates To The PCE

Value: Arguably one of the most useful resources, the essential guide summarizes the purpose of the PCE, the registration process, criteria for passing, sample questions for the written component and sample stations for the clinical component both with detailed answers, study advice, exam content and exam procedures. Reference this resource first to answer most of your PCE questions.

c. PCE Candidate Video

Value: This video outlines exactly what you can expect on the day of the PCE clinical component. It outlines exam day security, registration, orientation and exam protocols. All candidates would benefit from watching this short video.

d. Online Testing Tutorial

Value: The online testing tutorial provides candidates with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the online program through which the PCE written component will be administered. Candidates with little experience completing tests online or those who are looking to gain some confidence using this specific program will benefit from this tutorial.

e. Common Mistakes

Value: This powerpoint presentation outlines common mistakes made on the PCE clinical component. This resource may help candidates avoid making these same mistakes, however the suggestions provided are very general.

f. Tips For Candidates

Value: This tip sheet gives candidates an accurate outline of what they should expect when completing the PCE clinical component. Details are provided regarding exam orientation, station organization and break times. Tips on how to approach each station, how to handle stations you are not confident with and communication strategies are also covered.

g. Reference List

Value: The reference list details specific resources and references used when creating the written exam questions and clinical scenarios in the PCE. This list covers a wide array of different physiotherapy fields including cardiorespiratory, exercise therapy, general medicine, geriatrics, modalities, neurology, orthopaedics, outcome measures, pediatrics, professional practice, rheumatic diseases and clinical practice guidelines. You may find this resource useful if looking for good quality references to a specific topic of interest, but searching for all of them isn’t recommended as the list is quite lengthy.

h. Lexicon Translations

Value: The lexicon is a quick reference resource for English to French translation of common physiotherapy terms. Candidates bilingual in English and French may find this resource useful. Unfortunately, the Alliance does not provide any other translation resources for other languages.

2. NPTE-PT Exam Prep 2015 App

Access: Available at AppStore for iPhone or iPad
Cost: Free basic version, $22.99 special version, $29.99 premium version
The NPTE – PT Exam Prep 2015 is an American app that helps candidates in their preparation for the PCE. The free app includes 25 practice questions and answers, a new \”question of the day\” feature and a test taking tip guide. If you are a satisfied user, you can upgrade to the special version for $22.99 or the premium version for $29.99. The upgraded version includes 450 practice questions with detailed answers, material references, the ability to create customized exams and access to priority email support.
Value: Practice fields covered are cardiovascular, pulmonary and lymphatic systems, gastrointestinal, genitourinary and system interactions, integumentary, metabolic and endocrine systems, musculoskeletal systems, neuromuscular and nervous systems and finally non-system related domains. With other features for study reminders and countdowns, this app can help organize your study sessions.

Print Resources

3. Physical Rehabilitation by Susan O’Sullivan

Access: Hardcover easily accessed on Amazon
Cost: $50.00 to $133.79
Value: An extremely helpful resource for neurological conditions. Additional valuable chapters include burns, amputations, prosthetics and orthotics, and wheelchairs.

4. Therapeutic Exercise by Colby & Kisner

Access: Hardcover easily accessed on Amazon
Cost: $64.00 to $98.58
Value: A valuable resource for orthopaedic and regional conditions, it covers topics like joint mobilization, stretching, resistance training, hydrotherapy and aerobic exercise.

5. Orthopaedic Physical Assessment by David Magee

Access: Hardcover easily accessed on Amazon
Cost: $138.00
Value: This resource provides a systematic approach to the assessment of neuromuscular and skeletal systems and their coinciding special tests. The book is divided by body region, and history taking and observation are detailed at the beginning of each chapter. It is clear and conceptual with excellent picture representations.

6. Musculoskeletal Assessment: Joint Motion and Muscle Testing by Hazel M.Clarkson

Access: Spiral bound easily accessed on Amazon
Cost: $105.50
Value: This provides step by step instructions for joint range of motion and manual muscle testing assessment, including pictures showing therapist hand position. This is a valuable resource to use within a clinical environment as it promotes a high level of standardisation between your assessments.

7. Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Physical Therapy: Evidence to Practice by Donna Frownfelter & Elizabeth Dean

Access: Hardcover easily accessed on Amazon
Cost: $129.39
Value: Covering anatomy, physiology, assessment and treatment for cardiorespiratory conditions, this textbook is an invaluable resource when preparing for the cardiorespiratory portion of the written and clinical components for the PCE. It includes clinical photographs to aid understanding.

8. Brukner & Khan’s Clinical Sports Medicine by Peter Brukner & Karim Khan

Access: Hardcover easily accessed on Amazon
Cost: $167.95
Value: This resource covers the practical aspect of sports medicine and clinical management organized by anatomical region.

9. Scorebuilders PT Exam: The Complete Study Guide by Scott M. Giles

Access: Order online from
Cost: $85.00 US + shipping/ handling
Note: Multiple product orders may be eligible for revised shipping fees
The scorebuilders complete PT study exam is a comprehensive academic review of all content covered throughout your physiotherapy program ranging from musculoskeletal systems to professional practice and ethics. Because this resource is American, some of the content is not applicable to your preparation for the Canadian PCE, but it nevertheless serves as an excellent outline for the topics you must cover.
Value: Great resource for multiple choice question practice as it includes 3 full length practice exams with detailed explanations of correct and incorrect answers.

10. NPTE Review and Study Guide by O’Sullivan & Siegelman

Access: Order online from
Cost: $85.00 + shipping/ handling
The NPTE Review and Study Guide is another comprehensive content review with excellent content for multisystem, pediatric, geriatric, therapeutic exercise foundations and modality topics. It is an American resource, once more making some content not applicable to Canadian PCE candidates. In addition to this paper resource review, International Education Resources offers a NPTE exam prep course. This course is an additional $265.00 and is offered throughout the year at numerous locations in the United States.
Value: Another great resource for multiple choice question practice with 600 practice questions. Useful critical reasoning rationales and study strategies provided as well.

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