RCA FAQs

RCA Administration

1.  What is the cost to registrants for taking the RCA?

2.  Is there an ‘expected’ pass or fail rate for the RCA?

3.  Is anyone exempt from writing the RCA (e.g., new graduates)?

RCA Content

4. What will be tested in the RCA?

5. How can I prepare for the RCA?

6. How does the RCA reflect day-to-day practice?

Comparison Between ASR and RCA

7. What are the differences between the ASR and the RCA?

1. What is the cost to registrants for taking the RCA?

The cost for the Quality Assurance Program is included in the annual registration fees. The annual fees were increased several years ago in part to finance the development of the RCA. Containing the cost, while developing and implementing the Quality Assurance Program, is a high priority for the College, and was one of the criteria used in choosing the format for the RCA.

There can be penalty fees if registrants miss deadlines (e.g. requesting accommodations after the deadline).

2. Is there an ‘expected’ pass or fail rate for the RCA?

No.

The RCA is a ‘criterion referenced’ exam where all those who meet the standard pass. Information on how the standard is set is contained in an article in the Fall 2014 newsletter.

Performance assessment literature and the experiences recorded from continuing competence programs over the past 20 years – regardless of whether a written test, portfolio or onsite assessment is used – has revealed that somewhere between 90 – 95% of examinees are successful the first time, with almost all (i.e., 98-99%) being successful after a repeat assessment. Generally, only 1% to 2% have been found to need additional remedial education or support.

3. Is anyone exempt from writing the RCA (e.g., new graduates)?

Inactive registrants are not required to complete the RCA.

Those who pass the entry to practice examination (i.e., Physiotherapy Competency Exam – PCE) will be exempt from writing the first RCA after they pass. For a look at the RCA timing relative to the PCE, see the table below:

If you passed the clinical PCE in… You will take the RCA in…
2011 2015 or 2018
2012 2015 or 2018
2013 2018
2014 2018
2015 2018
2016 2021
2017 2021
2018 2021
2019 2024
2020 2024
2021 2024

4. What will the RCA test?

The RCA will focus on core competencies that arise in everyday practice.

Registrants are required to demonstrate continuing competence in one of four practice contexts in the blueprint for the RCA.

The four practice contexts are:

  1. Adult + Older Adult Musculoskeletal
  2. Adult + Older Adult Neuromuscular
  3. Adult + Older Adult Cardiorespiratory
  4. Children and Youth

Each case has a scenario and three to five questions associated with it. Questions will cover both regulatory and clinical aspects of the case.

As an example, a case might describe a clinical situation where a physical therapist makes a care plan for his/her patient and wants to assign a particular task to a support worker. Questions will test regulatory knowledge about whether it is appropriate to assign a specific task to a support worker, and how to do so. Another regulatory question might address infection control principles relevant to the particular patient described in the case.

Clinical questions will ask you to identify key questions in a subjective assessment, key components of the physical assessment, or to identify the most relevant treatment approaches. All clinical questions are based on currently accepted practices and must be referenced.

Registrants who participated in the pilot test of the RCA were able to choose two practice contexts (i.e., half of the questions in one context and half in the second context). This option will not be offered in future due to concerns with reliability. The Spring 2015 newsletter expands more upon this and can be found here.

5. How can I prepare for the RCA?

The Blueprint for the College’s Quality Assurance Program provides a detailed outline of the purpose, definition and standards of the program and can be accessed here.

The RCA includes 65% (+/- 10%) of questions relating to the essential competencies and 35% (+/- 10%) of questions relating to regulatory topics. The Resources tab (at the top of each page throughout the site) includes all of the key documents about regulatory topics.

The RCA tests clinical reasoning. It is not expected that registrants need to study clinical content in order to be successful. However, for those interested in reviewing references utilized by case writers to develop the content, a frequently used reference list can be found here.

Samples of Key Features cases are available on the website here.

RCA Code of Conduct is here.

6. How does the RCA reflect day-to-day practice?

The RCA is not designed to reflect individuals’ practice in the same way an annual performance appraisal with your employer does. The RCA is designed to reflect day-to-day practice for the majority of physical therapists practicing in BC in each of the four practice contexts. Designing an exam that is as individual as each of the registrants practicing in BC is not the intention. The content is guided by the Quality Assurance Program Blueprint, a document that was developed in 2008 with the guidance of experts in the field through a lengthy exercise that included consultation with registrants. The Blueprint was revised in 2011 and will be reviewed regularly to ensure that it remains current, but it will not be changed significantly between the first two sittings of the RCA.

The RCA is not designed to assess expertise. The mandate of the College is to protect the public from registrants who do not meet a minimum standard of competence in terms of practice that is safe, ethical, and effective. Therefore, the RCA is not a means to demonstrate the full extent of your knowledge and ability to apply it; rather, it is an opportunity to demonstrate that your practice meets a minimum standard. While it’s not exciting for our high achieving profession to reflect on competence at a minimal level, it is what is required by the mandate of our College towards the public, and it is what is possible given the practice variety present among our 3700 registrants.

Finally, as per the QAP Blueprint, the standard for the RCA is the Essential Competency Profile for Physiotherapists in Canada (2009). Each question must be mapped to either a key/enabling competency or a specific regulatory topic. This ensures that the exam focuses on competencies that have been agreed to be essential to the practice of physical therapy. While there may be some physical therapists whose practice largely falls outside of that which is represented on the RCA, the College expects that the number will be very small.

7. What are the differences (and what are some similarities) between the RCA and the ASR?

RCA ASR
Purpose is for registrant to demonstrate competence through assessment Purpose is for registrant to maintain competence through self-assessment
Completion is a requirement for registration renewal Completion is a requirement for registration renewal
Must be completed in one 3-hour session Can be completed over multiple sessions
Session must be pre-booked No need to pre-book session
Registrants must identify a proctor No proctor is required
Cannot consult resources during RCA (not ‘open book’ format) Can consult resources during ASR (‘open book’ format)
Online platform Online platform
Cases embedded within registrant’s choice of one of four practice contexts:

•    Adult and Older Adult Cardiorespiratory

•    Adult and Older Adult Musculoskeletal

•    Adult and Older Adult Neuromuscular

•    Child and Youth

Cases embedded within registrant’s choice of one of four practice contexts:

•    Adult and Older Adult Cardiorespiratory

•    Adult and Older Adult Musculoskeletal

•    Adult and Older Adult Neuromuscular

•    Child and Youth

20-25 cases (100-110 questions) 4 cases (12 questions)
Questions cover regulatory topics and essential competencies (Essential Competency Profile for Physiotherapists in Canada, 2009) Questions cover regulatory topics
Cases/questions are written by volunteer registrants Cases/questions are written by volunteer registrants
Criterion referenced: pass score is determined by the level of difficulty of all questions No pass score
The College knows individual results The College does not know individual results
Individual results are not disclosed to employer Individual results are not disclosed to employer
Questions can be answered using a mouse or touch pad; typing is not required. Questions can be answered using a mouse or touch pad; typing is not required.