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PCE Update: September 29

Throughout the pandemic, the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta’s Council has closely monitored the continuing disruptions to the delivery of the Clinical Component of the Physiotherapy Competency Examination (PCE) administered by the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators (CAPR). 

Since the cancellation of the CAPR virtual clinical component on September 14, 2021, the Council and staff of the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta have worked to develop a phased approach that will provide registrants on the provisional register with an opportunity to attempt a clinical examination in the coming months.    

Phase 1: November

The Council of the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta has approved a second administration of the Post-Graduate 2021 Clinical Evaluation as a temporary alternate clinical competency examination to fulfill the registration requirements established by Section 3(C) of the Physical Therapists Profession Regulation, for individuals who meet the eligibility criteria established by Council. It will be held November 12-14, 2021.

In total, 161 individuals will be eligible to complete this examination, representing 53% of the Physiotherapist Interns currently on the Provisional Register.

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible to participate in the November alternate examination, candidates must have:

  1. Been on the Provisional Register on or before December 31, 2020.
  2. Been registered on the Provisional Register continuously until their attempt at the alternate exam.
  3. Be fully vaccinated by October 18, 2021. Candidates will be required to show proof of vaccination to gain admission to the examination facility.


  1. Not previously attempted and failed a Clinical Component of the PCE administered by CAPR or the Post Graduate 2021 Clinical Evaluation administered in June 2021.

Exclusion Criteria

The following candidates will not be eligible to participate in the November alternate examination:

  • Those who have attempted the Clinical Component of the PCE administered by CAPR or the alternate Post-Graduate 2021 Clinical Evaluation administered in June, and who were unsuccessful in their attempt.
  • Those involved in a current conduct investigation of their physiotherapy practice or who have a history of a conduct investigation which resulted in an investigation and recommendations, facilitated resolution, or conduct findings. 
  • Former registrants who have exceeded the permitted time-period of two years on the provisional register or number of examination attempts permitted for the completion of the Clinical Component of the PCE.

Registering for the November Examination

Physiotherapist Interns meeting the eligibility criteria will be individually contacted by the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta via direct email on October 6, 2021, with further information regarding the alternate examination, including how to register if they are interested in pursuing this option.

Questions regarding individual eligibility to complete the alternate examination should be directed to the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta’s Deputy Registrar, Joyce Vogelgesang (jvogelgesang@cpta.ab.ca).

Phase 2: January

Planning is currently underway for a third examination administration tentatively scheduled for January 15 & 16, 2022.

Details regarding this examination administration, including logistics and inclusion and exclusion criteria are currently being finalized and will be communicated once they are available.

At this time, we anticipate that anyone registered between January 1, 2021, and September 13, 2021, with no prior unsuccessful examination attempts will be eligible to participate in this examination administration. It is also anticipated this examination administration will include registered physiotherapists with one failed attempt at a clinical examination.

We estimate that 146 individuals will be eligible for this examination administration, representing 47% of the Physiotherapist Interns currently on the Provisional Register.

Phase 3: Timing to Be Determined

The Council of the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta is engaged in discussions to address the needs of those who have had their practice permits cancelled either due to two unsuccessful clinical examination attempts or due to exceeding the maximum allowed two-year period on the provisional register.* 

*In reference to the two-year period, please note that the individuals within this group include only those who had exceeded the two-year period and had been removed from the Provisional Register before March 2020 when examination disruptions arose and have not exceeded CAPR’s exam attempts.

Addressing the needs of individuals in this group is complex. A solution for individuals who have failed the clinical component two times and have been removed from the register requires even more time to assess alternative options. The College of Physiotherapists of Alberta is exploring options for those that were once registered in Alberta and were removed from the Alberta register due to failing the clinical component twice or exceeding the two-year period on the provisional register. Council will further discuss solutions for this group at the Council meeting in November but has opted to focus their current energies on addressing the needs of the majority of candidates through Phases 1 & 2 recognizing that the learnings from the June and November examinations will help to inform our further actions with this group.

November Exam Eligibility Criteria Rationale

Exam capacity is limited for the November date; therefore, the 308 registrants on our provisional register needed to be separated into groups. The criteria selected mean that 53% current Physiotherapist Interns will be eligible to complete the alternate exam in November with the remaining 47% eligible in January. 

In establishing the inclusion and exclusion criteria for the November exam, the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta is making a distinction between candidates who have not previously had the opportunity to participate in a clinical examination, and those who, through a past post-graduate clinical examination, were unable to demonstrate their skill and competence.

The College of Physiotherapists of Alberta acknowledges that the selected exclusion criteria result in a group of individuals who remain ineligible to complete the first available alternate clinical examination, and that this is frustrating for those affected.

Additional time is required to address the assessment needs of this group. If a registrant of the excluded group were to fail the alternate examination, those who had failed a combined total of 2 clinical examinations would be removed from the Provisional Register and would be unable to work as a Physiotherapist Intern as per section 7(3) of the Physical Therapists Profession Regulations. The mechanisms to address individuals who were unsuccessful at a combined total of 3 clinical examinations are unclear at this time.

Given the gravity of the potential outcome of an unsuccessful alternate clinical examination attempt for individuals in these groups, the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta requires additional time to develop policies and solutions that ensure that the public protection role of the College is fulfilled.

The College of Physiotherapists of Alberta is actively working to address this issue.

Phase 1 (November) Examination Details

The College of Physiotherapists of Alberta has contracted the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine Continuing Professional Education Unit of the University of Alberta (the CPE Unit) to administer this alternate examination.

The CPE Unit will administer an Objective Structured Clinical Examination to candidates who meet the eligibility criteria. The examination will:

  • Be an in-person, hands-on clinical examination.
  • Include content domains based on the CAPR PCE examination blueprint.
  • Consist of 12 stations that will be assessed by a global rating of pass/fail and incorporate safety and professionalism flags, similar to the PCE.
    • Six, 10-minute stations.
    • Six, 5-minute stations.
  • The examination will be offered on the dates of November 12th, 13th and 14th with candidates attending the examination on one of the three dates.
    • Candidates are advised that they will be assigned an examination day by the CPE Unit, after registration closes.
    • If a candidate chooses to pursue this option, they must be available on all three dates - November 12th, 13th and 14th, 2021. It is recommended that candidates make the necessary arrangements with their employers now, in preparation for the examination.
    • The examination will be offered in-person, at the University of Alberta HSERC facility.
    • Candidates are responsible for all travel and accommodation arrangements and costs.

Successful completion of the examination will allow candidates to move from the Provisional Register to the General Register of the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta. 

Important Additional Information

Participation in the alternate examination is voluntary.

  • Eligible candidates have the option to participate in the alternate examination process or to remain on the Provisional Register pending the future availability of the Clinical Component of the PCE offered by CAPR. Questions regarding timelines for future PCE availability should be directed to CAPR.
  • The College of Physiotherapists of Alberta has extended current Provisional Register practice permits until September 30, 2022, should a candidate choose to wait for their first opportunity to register for and complete the clinical component of the PCE offered by CAPR. 

However, all candidates are advised that as the situation stabilizes, both regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and the availability of examinations, they will be required to complete a clinical examination prior to admission to the General Register. Individuals will not be able to remain on the Provisional Register in perpetuity. 

  • The alternate examination is being offered on a cost-recovery basis.
    • The fee for completion is $750.
    • A candidate will secure their spot in the examination upon registering and submitting payment of the examination fee in full.
    • Refunds will only be considered for individuals who provide medical documentation or evidence of extenuating circumstances that prevent them from attending the examination at their scheduled date and time.

COVID-19 Indemnity

Participation in the alternate examination is not without risk. Candidates registering for the alternate examination agree to the following:

  • This is not a virtual examination. The examination will involve contact with standardized patients, examiners, and examination administrators.
  • As administrator of the Post-Graduate 2021 Clinical Evaluation, the CPE Unit has the authority to determine the public health measures required to mitigate against the risk of COVID-19 exposure in the examination environment. Candidates must agree to follow all COVID-19 public health measures deemed necessary by the University of Alberta. This includes the requirement that individuals accessing the University of Alberta campus comply with the University vaccination policy.
  • All exam candidates will need to be fully vaccinated by October 18, 2021, to be eligible for the alternate examination offered November 12, 13 and 14. Candidates will be required to show proof of vaccination to gain admission to the examination facility. No exceptions will be made. Should a candidate choose not to be vaccinated, they will be required to wait for a clinical examination offered in the future when the COVID-19 pandemic has stabilized. 
  • Failure to comply with COVID-19 measures will result in the cancellation of the candidate’s examination and their immediate removal from the examination center. No refund will be issued. 
  • If a candidate should become exposed to or ill with COVID-19 as a consequence to their participation in the alternate examination, and despite the implementation of public health measures by the CPE Unit, neither the University of Alberta, nor Physiotherapy Alberta shall be responsible for any subsequent losses, illness, or loss of life.

Labour Mobility

In the absence of a national examination administered by CAPR, each Canadian jurisdiction has been left to determine the registration requirements for affected candidates in their jurisdiction. Every province is bound by its own provincial legislation and the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta cannot control registration decisions elsewhere. 

Candidates must understand that should they choose to complete the Alberta alternate examination this may impact their ability to move to another Canadian jurisdiction in the future. It remains to be seen if other jurisdictions will accept this alternate examination should successful candidates seek registration in a different Canadian jurisdiction at some future date. It is possible that other jurisdictions may attempt to impose barriers to labour mobility should an individual seek registration in that jurisdiction subsequent to their successful completion of the alternate examination in Alberta.

The College of Physiotherapists of Alberta does not believe that there are legitimate labour mobility issues created by the implementation of the Post-Graduate 2021 Clinical Evaluation; however, other provinces may take a different position. This is a risk that candidates must be willing to accept if they choose to register for the alternate examination.

The College of Physiotherapists of Alberta is offering this alternate examination on a voluntary basis to address ongoing delays to the Clinical Component of the PCE; however, candidates will need to decide if this is the best option available to them. The College of Physiotherapists of Alberta is not responsible for future labour mobility barriers that may result from a candidate’s participation in the Post-Graduate 2021 Clinical Evaluation.

What can the broader physiotherapy community do to help?

The ongoing PCE delays have been a burden not only for candidates, but also for their employers and supervisors. As the College of Physiotherapists of Alberta pivots to enable an alternate examination process, administered by the CPE Unit, the broader physiotherapy community can help, just as they did when the alternate examination was offered in June.

Employers and supervisors can provide practical assistance to candidates opting to take this examination, by providing support to study as they are able.

Physiotherapists who have helped the University of Alberta Physiotherapy Department or CPE Unit in the past with program related OSCEs, either as examiners or standardized patients, should anticipate that the CPE Unit will need their assistance now. We encourage all physiotherapists on the General Register to consider how they can aid in this process.

The College continues to support the Physiotherapy Competency Examination process administered by CAPR to evaluate entry-to-practice competence. We will continue to work with our partners across the country to ensure the CAPR clinical component examination can be administered safely and consistently in the future.

Page updated: 20/04/2022