How to pass the SCS exam from an SCS (Sports Certified Specialist) by Robert Dulay, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, FAAOMPT

follow us on social media!

Check out our Jetset courses HERE!

By Robert Dulay, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, FAAOMPT

I’ve always known that I wanted to work with the athletic patient population, and quickly learned that they can be among the most difficult patients to treat, because of the demands of needing to return to sport as soon as possible and not miss too much competition time. Further exacerbating this, every parent of a youth athlete thinks their son or daughter is the next LeBron James or Serena Williams, so they can add to the pressure to get their child back to playing. For some of these high level patients, there is even more external pressure from college recruiters or professional scouts.


After PT school, I realized I lacked the confidence working with these patients. The movement faults and impairments I knew to look for in the average patient were not obviously apparent in these patients, and some of their symptoms only came on with high level activities. I was fortunate to have done a 16 week clinical internship with a phenomenal therapist (shoutout to Jeff Wang at Glendale Adventist Therapy and Wellness Center!) at the end of PT school, who pushed me to improve every day of that clinical experience. After that, I knew I wouldn’t stop continuing to seek out learning opportunities to work in this field.



"The movement faults and impairments I knew to look for in the average patient were not obviously apparent in these patients, and some of their symptoms only came on with high level activities."


In addition to perhaps struggling with working with athletes in the clinic, new grads are not qualified to provide sideline coverage at athletic events. The SCS is a specialty certification that designates an expert in athletic injury management, including acute care, treatment, rehabilitation, prevention, and education.  Read this article for more details on why the SCS is worth pursuing if you are interested in some day providing on field coverage.


Fast forward 5 years, and now I can say that I am confident in my ability to treat the athletic patient population. Here are some tips on how to pass the SCS exam:

Sports enthusiast Jessica Mena PT, DPT

Sports enthusiast Jessica Mena PT, DPT


"This may not be immediately obvious, but sports patients are really at the end of the day ortho patients, they just move faster."


1) Consider taking an orthopedic residency. This may not be immediately obvious, but sports patients are really at the end of the day ortho patients, they just move faster. Completing an orthopedic residency involves weekly mentoring from a clinical specialist, didactic learning, and honing in on clinical reasoning. Additionally, you can also consider a sports residency or fellowship. Here is the American Board of Physical Therapy Residency and Fellowship Education (ABPTRFE) website.


2) Familiarize yourself with the SCS application process, exam format, and test materials. Here is the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) SCS candidate guide. 


3) Study, study, study. Unlike the OCS exam, there is no Current Concepts (if you are preparing for the OCS, this is the definitive material to study to pass the exam.  As such, you will need to study from several different sources in order to adequately cover the material covered in the SCS exam. I used the following sources:

- American Red Cross Emergency Medical Response (EMR)

- Sports Physical Therapy Section (SPTS) SCS preparatory course

- Medbridge SCS prep program


Each source has material to study, with practice tests. You'll have to figure out what works best for you, but as for myself I knew I needed to set up a plan to keep myself accountable. My friend and colleague from fellowship, Shemaiah Holness, assigned ourselves 1-2 chapters each from the above study materials to go over each week, and had review sessions every Sunday in which we would go over the material and practice quizzes. This worked out well for us as we didn't want to let the other down by not preparing that week.



Of course, there are other study material sources, but these are what I used. Among the others I know of are Evidence in Motion and Praxis, however personally I chose not to pursue these opportunities simply because it was not financially feasible, as they are not cheap. Give yourself at least 3 months, preferably more to study and go over practice exams, and resist the temptation to procrastinate as the SCS exam is definitely not something that can be passed by cramming in the weeks leading up to it!


After taking the test, you will have to wait 3 agonizing months until learning if you've passed, but if you follow the above tips, you will have prepared adequately and set yourself up for success. The SCS is definitely a certification that is worth the effort to pursue, as less than 2% of all APTA members are recognized with the credentials. Good luck!


WCU-CGS Robert Dulay .jpg

Robert Dulay, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, FAAOMPT is currently practicing in Southern California with Kaiser Permanente

Robert Dulay, PT, DPT, OCS, SCS, FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopaedic and Sports Clinical Specialist

5 Tips to pass the OCS from an OCS

I remember being a newly graduated PT, and what an awesome experience to to treat and make such a lasting impact on the patient I regularly encountered. However, I also knew that as great a foundation as my PT program had provided, I desired to become one of the best. I wanted to be seen as a Specialist in Orthopedics amongst my peers. Looking at the PTs I knew, only a few clinicians and instructors had achieved this task and I envied them for it. I therefore challenged myself to become a specialist by the time I had been practicing for five years. Yet, how would I go about doing it? I remember asking peers and hearing about various courses, certain readings, and being referred to websites. However, no set concrete path pointed me to the exact path to my goal. It was then I encountered a clinician who raved about a year long continuing education course that helped him prep for the OCS. Curious, I inquired with the course’s instructor and found that many clinicians whom took this course were provided instruction and reasoning thatpropelled them on their path to the OCS. Looking back, I feel I was lucky to have encountered a person whom shared his knowledge with me. Having this knowledge no doubt was a crucial stepping stone in becoming an OCS and the clinician I am today. Looking at residents and students I encounter now, I try and provide the same help. However, I also feel that being an owner of a JetSet Rehab Education, I can also share some of this insight with you. Here are some resources and ideas if you plan on taking your OCS in the years to come :

1. Consider taking an orthopedic residency to improve your clinical reasoning and thought process. Much of what the exam is predicated on is your thought process. If you work hard and put the time in on a residency, you are sure to have the mindset for the exam.  Here are some Residency links

2. Go to the ABPTS website and read about the exam and its nuances. Get an understanding of the background you’ll need to take the test. Also, utilize the practice questions to gain an understanding of the nature of the test questions. Click here to learn more at the ABPTS website.

3. Purchase and thoroughly understand the orthopedic current concepts that are published by the Orthopedic Section of the APTA. The evidence and literature presented here does an excellent job at preparing you for the exam with regards to current literature and evidence. It is one of the quintessential OCS study guides! Click here to access the page to order the  latest edition current concepts at the Orthopedic Section. 

4.  Know your strengths and weaknesses in regards to the exam. Understand the percentage of information asked on the exam. The ABPTS notes not often practiced areas such as hand and TMJ make up to 7% of the exam. The shoulder 15%! Knowing this information seek out courses and information that can bolster your knowledge base. 

Join us in Hawaii for Management and Treatment of the Rotational Athlete with Dr. Drew Morcos DPT, ATC, OCS, SCS, CSCS

5. Lastly, consider additional sources of information. One book highly regarded by many OCS' in my clinic is Orthopedic Physical Therapy Secrets this can be found pretty easily at Amazon. Another excellent resource is the clinical App, PhysioU, which  can be found on the App store. This app provides up to date evidence based information on orthopedic evaluation and treatment. It can also be utilized as a clinical tool for further assessment. 

Looking forward, you can turn any weakness into a strength going into the exam. Having knowledge of the above information will hopefully set you up for success on the exam. Remember to also network with other OCS’ and peers at work and at courses to to see what worked for them. Researching and studying should hopefully prepare you well for them exam, and hopefully put you amongst the ranks of a leader in your profession. Best of luck!


Jiten B. Bhatt DPT, OCS

Co-Founder JetSet Rehab Education.


Update:  I have heard great things about these online study groups via Google Groups.  Here is a link to the 2017 group.