• The orthopaedic 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. The examination questions are linked to those two major areas. For example, to perform a patient evaluation you must have a knowledge of anatomy and physiology of the musculoskeletal system. To select a procedural intervention, you must have a knowledge of movement science. Below is an overview of the two linked areas. In addition, the examination questions are distributed over body regions.

    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, procedures in the examination questions.


    • Obtain history
    • Perform systems review
    • Conduct test and measures
    • Re-examination


    • 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


    • Establish diagnosis
    • Determine most appropriate intervention approach


    • Establish prognosis
    • Establish plan of care


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


    • Remediation
    • Optimization of patient satisfaction
    • Promotion of primary/secondary prevention

    Professional Responsibilities 

    • Consultation and Education
    • Critical Inquiry

    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 Medicine/Surgical Intervention (10%)

    5. Evidence Based Orthopaedic Theory and Practice (10%)

    6. Critical Inquiry/Evidence Based Practice (10%)

    7. Examination* (20%)

    8. Procedural Intervention (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.

    Body Regions

    Percentage 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%)

    2a. Spine: Cervical (15%)

    2b. Spine: Thoracic spine/ribs (5%)

    2c. Spine: Lumbar (20%)

    3a. Upper Extremity: Shoulder/shoulder girdle (15%)

    3b. Upper Extremity: Arm/elbow (5%)

    3c. Upper Extremity: Wrist/hand (5%)

    4. Pelvic Girdle/Sacroiliac/Coccyx/Abdomen (5%)

    5a. Lower Extremity: Hip (5%)

    5b. Lower Extremity: Thigh/knee (10%)

    5c. Lower Extremity: Leg/ankle/foot (10%)

    Total 100% 

  • Last Updated: 2/17/2011
    Contact: spec-cert@apta.org