To become a board-certified athletic trainer, a candidate must first complete an entry-level athletic training education program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Earning the “ATC” credential is required to practice athletic training in 48 states.
What is an entry-level athletic training degree?
An entry-level athletic training degree is one from which a candidate can graduate and become a professional athletic trainer. As we’ve discussed elsewhere on this blog, there was a time when a bachelor’s degree was considered entry-level in athletic training. As the industry is shifting, a Master of Science in Athletic Training (MSAT) is now considered entry-level. This shift has allowed students to focus more heavily on athletic training-specific coursework and their clinical practice. Although the BOC no longer specifies a minimum clinical hour requirement, most universities include roughly twenty hours a week of clinical experience under the direct supervision of a professional athletic trainer. Different universities have different instructional models to incorporate this clinical experience. At the University of Idaho, our students are placed in immersive clinical experiences around the country during the Fall and Spring semesters, while coursework is delivered via online and hybrid methods. This allows us to personalize our clinical experiences to each student and their specific career interests and goals. With relationships with nearly two hundred different clinical sites, no two students have the same clinical experience during their two years in the program.
What is the BOC Exam?
The Board of Certification (BOC) athletic trainer certification is the only organization that can certify athletic trainers in the United States. This group ensures candidates meet all the necessary requirements to sit for the national certification exam, become an athletic trainer and earn the “ATC” designation.
Who can take the BOC Exam?
Students in an entry-level athletic training program are eligible to sit for the BOC athletic training exam in the final semester of the program or after graduation, with confirmation of their placement in the program provided by the program director.
What is the format of the exam?
The BOC exam is an online test comprising 175 athletic training questions. These questions are a combination of scored and unscored (experimental) questions, although you will not know which ones are scored and which are unscored. Test taking is limited to four hours. Questions cover topics within:
· Injury/Illness Prevention and Wellness Protection
· Clinical Evaluation and Diagnosis
· Immediate and Emergency Care
· Treatment and Rehabilitation
· Organization and Professional Health and Wellbeing
Questions have varying point values and weights, depending on how many questions are within each category. The format is multiple choice, drag and drop, as well as focused testlets, which are little scenarios which you’ll read and then answer questions about key topics within the scenario.
How should I prepare for the exam?
To understand the best way to prepare for the BOC exam, I spoke to two recent MSAT graduates who took the exam. Kyle North and Sydney Leverett are DAT students at the University of Idaho. Here are some of the tips they shared.
BOC Exam Prep Materials
The BOC provides a wealth of study materials, including self-assessment exams and study guides. Some programs, like the University of Idaho, provide our students BOC study books that have even more preparatory materials, at no extra cost to the student. These materials can get you used to the format of the test and an understanding of the sort of questions that will be asked. The University of Idaho also provides an ACES exam prep course, which our students report as being useful. Kyle notes “That was a huge piece in helping me prepare for the BOC, because it really shows you in-depth areas that you are weak.”
Creating study guides
Both Kyle and Sydney suggested creating your own study guides. Kyle suggested creating study guides and swapping them with peers. Sydney suggested using downtime during clinical time to ask BOC questions of your preceptor and peers, perhaps having a “BOC Question of the Day” to discuss and overview. Both strategies help you fill any gaps you might have in your studying.
Kyle also commented “Don’t study things you feel solid about.” Use your study guides to really hone in on your weakest areas.
Some people find flashcards useful, others do not. Flashcards can be an excellent way to assist in rote memorization, but they aren’t for everybody. If flashcards have helped you in the past, you may also find them useful for BOC exam prep.
Preparing well in advance
Information accumulated over time is much easier to recall than information that is piled on at the last minute. Both graduates suggested starting preparation early, in the January or February before the exam. Sydney suggests using a planner to set aside specific daily times to be used for studying. Kyle agrees, noting that one to two hours a day, five or six days a week, is an appropriate amount.
Get ample rest the day before the exam
The exam is four hours long, so you’re going to want to be well-rested prior to taking it. On the day before the exam, resist the urge to study, and instead do something fun and relaxing. Rest as well as you can the night before.
Final pieces of advice
Kyle says “Stay away from anyone saying you don’t need to study, because your program and clinicals prepared you for it.” Sydney says “Take advantage of the resources provided through the MSAT program!”