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Toni Talks about PT Today

The NCS Examination

Published March 15, 2011 1:24 PM by Toni Patt

Last weekend I took the NCS test. I hope I never have to take that test again. I've been preparing for nearly two years to take that test. As soon as I finished reading the first question I felt completely unprepared. Having taken the GCS examination last year, I thought I had an idea of what I was in for. I was wrong.

When I took the GCS I was pretty comfortable with my answers. There were a few I wasn't sure about but overall I felt I had adequately answered the questions. Not so with this one. Each question required thought. Some required motion. I moved my legs through the gait cycle several times while sitting in my chair. There were also a few upper-body questions that I physically had to work out. I half-expected one of the proctors to come by and tell me to sit still.

I can't say much about the test or the questions themselves. I can say I felt a sense of relief when I answered the last one. I couldn't decide if I was happier that it was over or sorry I hadn't prepared differently. I thought I knew my stuff going in there. I felt humbled coming out. I'm not saying the test was unfair or wasn't as described. I'm proud to say there were only five questions where I had no clue what the answer was.

I think I can safely say I didn't find the study guide particularly helpful. The one for the GCS helped me develop a plan. This one was more of a checklist of things I would be expected to know. Some practice questions would have been very helpful.

I won't find out the results until mid-June. Some committees will meet between now and then to review the test for flawed items and calculate the passing score. I'm not sure I want to know. I don't think I'd be able to open the envelope for a few days if it came in the next month or so. Maybe that's the real reason the results are delayed. They give us a chance to get past the test so we're not afraid to read our results.

I learned a lot by studying for the thing. I find myself using that knowledge regularly. I think much more about brain anatomy and descending pathways. I'm much more analytical about what I expect during an evaluation. I made numerous learning leaps in the process of preparing. Having taken it, I don't think I prepared properly but I'm proud of what I learned.


What are the study materials recommended for the NCS exam?

Is there any online courses by the APTA Neurology section?

I would really appreciate the feedback from the NCS PT who passed the exam recently.

jacob kuruvilla, OP - PT June 21, 2016 10:01 PM
West Palm Beach FL

Hi Michelle! Im planning on taking the NCS exam in March. When did u take it? Would u mind if I call or email u directly for some of the questions (and for tips 😊) that I have? My email add is



Jun Navarro, PT September 17, 2015 10:33 PM
Lake City FL

Good for you for taking both the GCS and the NCS! I have heard the NCS is much harder than other specialty exams. To answer other user's questions I would definitely recommend the NCS prep book by Joseph Shepherd. There is a 2nd edition out with explanations. Also check out the Rancho ROADMAP for orthotic prescription in SCI and CVA. Also check out the EDGE task force recommendations for outcome measures. Good luck!

Michelle, PT - Physical Therapist, RIC August 20, 2015 5:18 PM
Chicago IL

This NCS Prep Case Studies Review Book just came out! I know it wasn't out when you took the test, but maybe it will help anyone preparing for the test in March. Good luck!

Anna January 20, 2015 8:46 AM

Any tips on how to prepare properly?

Randy September 30, 2012 1:51 PM

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