Physiotherapy Competency Exam (PCE) virtual clinical component cancellation

September 16, 2021

On September 14, 2021, the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators (CAPR) announced that despite their staff’s sincere and sustained efforts to re-launch the virtual clinical component of the PCE, the attempt was deemed unsuccessful.  The re-launch began on September 8, 2021, with two subsequent administrations on September 11th and 13th.  CAPR’s full announcement can be found at

It is the Nova Scotia College of Physiotherapists’ (NSCP) understanding that the CAPR Board of Directors directed CAPR staff to cancel the virtual examination and return focus to administering the face-to-face clinical component as CAPR has successfully done prior to the pandemic.  The timeline to deliver the clinical component is still to be determined.  CAPR also stated the innovation agenda will once again be a priority and include discussion of the overall examination program.

The NSCP’s primary mandate is safety of the public.  Focus on this mandate has been, and will continue to be, maintained through this difficult period for our current and future registrants.   

The PCE is the national benchmark for entry level competency for Physiotherapists in Canada and has two components, a written Qualifying Exam (QE) and a practical clinical component.  In Nova Scotia, applicants that have successfully completed the qualifying exam may apply for a Provisional license and work as a Resident under a practicing physiotherapist (sponsor) limited to 12 months or 2 unsuccessful attempts of the practical component.  With CAPR’s early efforts through the pandemic of moving the written qualifying exam to a virtual format and the NSCP’s decision to extend residents’ licenses beyond the 12-month limit, graduating physiotherapists have been able to work under a Provisional License in Nova Scotia.  Claims that cancellation of the clinical component of the exam and subsequent failures to successfully run a virtual version of the clinical component may have reduced access to physiotherapy care in Nova Scotia are inaccurate.   The NSCP does recognize that residents are limited to work in practice settings/sites that have a sponsor available and willing to accept them.   The NSCP would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the various clinical sponsors for their ongoing commitment to supporting the next generation of Physiotherapists and extending their commitment to this essential role during the pandemic once again. 

With the virtual clinical component of the exam now being cancelled with no definitive timeline for a face-to-face clinical component and in recognition of the extraordinary circumstances the pandemic has placed the residents and sponsors in, the NSCP Board of Directors have decided to create a path to full licensure for some affected residents that wish to apply.   The path will meet the NSCP’s legislated requirements, public mandate of ensuring competency and mandate of regulating in the public interest.  Staff have been directed to provide a detailed process for Board review on October 20, 2021, adhering to the following principles:

The process will be an interim measure for some of the affected candidates and be limited to the time that the national competency standard: clinical component is not available to residents. When a national competency standard: clinical component is available, the NSCP will support this standard requirement for full licensure. 

The application process will apply only to residents that have been actively licensed on a provisional basis for 12 consecutive months or greater.  

The process must not erode public confidence in full licensure as a Physiotherapist 

Current and all future applicants must be made aware of the risks of licensure without successful completion of the PCE with regards to labour mobility

 Please note, as this process continues all communications to staff, and volunteers must be professional and made through appropriate channels.  Therefore, we ask that all correspondence on board matters be directed to  The NSCP Board of Directors is comprised of volunteers mandated to speak with one voice representing the public interest.