While studying for the Orthopedic Clinical Specialty (OCS) examination, I received several emails regarding preparation for the exam. Since there is so much content to be learned and only a little organized test prep material, there lies a gray area regarding the most important concepts. Personally, the majority of my studying included the APTA's Current Concepts, the Orthopedic Physical Therapy Secrets Textbook, and reviewing Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPGs). Each piece of information provided different value which is why I recommend studying from several different sources.
The Current Concepts is a series sponsored by the APTA which include a joint-by-joint breakdown of the anatomy, arthrokinematics, pathology, treatment, and sample questions at the end of each section. They are written by an expert on the subject matter and highlight many key components of the exam. A downside of the Current Concepts is that the material is usually written only by a single author so the material included can be limited to what that author views as pertinent. Additionally, the information in the Current Concepts may be outdated compared to the newest literature, which is why reviewing the JOSPT's in the last couple years may prove beneficial, especially regarding any landmark studies. Finally the information contained within these pages is typically pathoanatomically based and treatment follows the same model.
The Ortho Secrets book was a great quick reference as well. Several times I found myself reading through Current Concepts and wanting deeper knowledge of a specific pathology. The Secrets book gave me the extra knowledge in a concise format without any 'fluff' material. The book consists of questions and answers regarding commonly misconceived PT questions.
Finally, studying the CPGs was essential. The purpose of the OCS exam is to assess your knowledge of clinical practice based on the best available evidence. The Clinical Practice Guidelines are a large part of the examination because the information is the highest available evidence peer reviewed by experts. However, the CPGs are only updated every 5 years and may be outdated as well, but for the purpose of the exam, they are the gold standard.
In conclusion, studying for the OCS can be challenging. There is limited availability to practice exams and much physical therapy literature is varied making it difficult to comprehend what is 'best' to know. I also utilized an online lecture series for review, so any class specific for OCS preparation may prove useful. Additionally, much of the content follows a pathoanatomical model and does not incorporate much of the various schools of thought such as MDT and movement impairment syndromes. Studying for the OCS was valuable because I gained extensive knowledge regarding the anatomy and arthrokinematics, but the information I learned regarding assessment and treatment was quite varied from true clinical practice.
I hope these tips help,