OCS Exam Content

The orthopedic examination is based on the Description of Specialty Practice in Orthopaedic Physical Therapy. The areas tested are (1) the practice dimensions and professional responsibilities, and (2) the knowledge areas and procedures.

Practice Dimensions and Professional Responsibilities
The practice dimensions and professional responsibilities identify what orthopaedic clinical specialists do in their day-to-day professional roles. The responsibilities are linked to knowledge areas and procedures in the examination questions.

Practice Dimensions

  1. Examination
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    • Obtain history
    • Perform systems review
    • Conduct test and measures
    • Reexamination


  2. Evaluation
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    • Interpret data from history
    • Develop working diagnosis (hypothesis)
    • Determine appropriateness of physical therapy
    • Plan tests and measures
    • Respond to emerging data
    • Select additional tests and measures


  3. Diagnosis
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    • Establish diagnosis
    • Determine most appropriate intervention approach


  4. Prognosis
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    • Establish prognosis
    • Establish plan of care


  5. Intervention
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    • Implement plan of care
    • Coordination of care and patient management
    • Communication
    • Patient/client-related instruction


  6. Outcomes
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    • Remediation
    • Optimization of patient satisfaction
    • Promotion of primary/secondary prevention


Professional Responsibilities

  1. Consultation and Education
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    • Contribute special knowledge or expert opinion in client based, community or academic settings


  2. Critical Inquiry
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    • Maintain “state of the art knowledge”
    • Apply principles of evidence based practice
    • Contribute to body of knowledge in orthopaedics


Matrix 1 – Knowledge Areas and Procedures

This Matrix focuses on knowledge areas and procedures that orthopaedic clinical specialists use in their work. The questions on the examination will be approximately distributed according to the following percentages of content areas.

  1. Human Anatomy and Physiology (10%)
  2. Movement Science (10%)
  3. Pathophysiology (10%)
  4. Orthopaedic Medical/Surgical Interventions (10%)
  5. Evidence Based Orthopaedic Theory and Practice (10%)
  6. Critical Inquiry/Evidence Based Practice (10%)
  7. Examination* (20%)
  8. Procedural Interventions (20%)

Total 100%

*Note: The examination is not testing performance of an actual examination. Rather, it is testing the critical thinking processes related in examination.

Matrix 2 – Body Regions

Percent of questions by body regions were determined by a subject matter expert group. The percentages given are approximate and may not represent the exact distribution of questions on the actual exam.

  1. Cranial/Mandibular (5%)
  2. Spine (40%)
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    • Cervical (15%)
    • Thoracic Spine Ribs (5%)
    • Lumbar (20%)


  3. Upper Extremity (25%)
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    • Shoulder/Shoulder Girdle (15%)
    • Arm/Elbow (5%)
    • Wrist Hand (5%)


  4. Pelvic Girdle/Sacroiliac/Coccyx/Abdomen (5%)
  5. Lower Extremity (25%)
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    • Hip (5%)
    • Thigh/Knee (10%)
    • Leg/Ankle/Foot (10%)


Total 100%

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