National Athletic Trainers’ Association Certification

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The Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) credential was first issued in 1970 by the Board of Certification, Inc. (BOC), an offshoot of the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA).[1][2] The certification test for the ATC credential is most commonly known as the "BOC exam."[2] In 1989, the BOC became an independent non profit corporation, but it remains affiliated with NATA and continues to issue the BOC exam and the ATC credential.[2]

Since the first test was issued in 1970, the BOC has conducted six role delineation studies to analyze the job roles and techniques of practicing certified athletic trainers to ensure that the BOC exam stays current and up to date with the field. The most recent revision went into effect in the 2011-2012 testing year and will remain current until 2017.[3][4]

Function of the Test

NATA Study Guide

The BOC exam is taken by individuals who wish to become a Certified Athletic Trainer.[2] This credential is designed to be achieved by entry-level Athletic Trainers in order to affirm their learning and to encourage their continued professional development.[2]

The ATC credential is nationally recognized. Although achieving the ATC credential is a voluntary step beyond completing a degree program, candidates may find that holding the credential may improve career prospects. The BOC reports that more than 45,000 individuals hold the ATC credential.[2]

In a given year, approximately 3,000 people take the BOC exam for the first time. In 2011-2012, the first testing year for the newest version of the examination, 3,222 people took the examination for the first time, of whom 82.3% passed on the first attempt. Of 1,664 people who had previously failed the examination, 41.8% passed.[4]

Test Administration

NATA Flashcards

In order to register to take the BOC exam, candidates must be graduates or final-semester students of an athletic training program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education (CAATE). Alternatively, candidates from Canada who have already achieved certification through the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association (CATA) are also eligible to take the BOC exam.[2]

The BOC exam is issued year-round, but only on specific blocks of days. For example, in 2014, the exam was issued from February 1st to February 15th; from March 29th to April 12th; from May 31st to June 14th; and so on. Candidates wishing to take the exam during a specific testing period must apply approximately two to three weeks before that testing period begins.[5] The BOC exam is offered at more than 250 Castle Worldwide testing centers across the United States and Canada.[6]

The cost to take the BOC exam is $300; however, an additional one-time application fee of $35 (NATA members) or $60 (non members) must also be paid.[2] After successfully applying to take the examination, candidates schedule the exam location, date, and time with Castle Worldwide. Candidates have four hours to complete the examination.[2]

Results to the examination are posted in the BOC website 2-4 weeks after the final day of the exam window.[7] Unsuccessful candidates who wish to retake the examination must pay the full $300 exam fee again. However, if they reschedule to retake the examination within one year, they are not required to submit a new application or a new $35/$60 application fee. There does not appear to be any restriction on the number of times a candidate may take the BOC exam.[2]

Candidates who require a special accommodation for a disability may submit the Request for Special Accommodations Form from the BOC website along with medical documentation no later than the application deadline date of the requested exam period.[2][8]

Test Format

Sections of the ATC Test
ATC Test Subject Areas Percentage
Injury/Illness Prevention and Wellness Protection 25%
Clinical Evaluation and Diagnosis 22%
Immediate and Emergency Care 19%
Treatment and Rehabilitation 22%
Organizational and Professional Health and Well-Being 12%
Total 100%

Test Environment

Testing takes place in Castle testing centers. Candidates are expected to arrive on time. If late, the testing center may not be able to give the full exam time. For admission into the testing center, candidates must bring a valid, government issued, photo ID with a name matching the admission ticket. There are no coats, bags, or any other personal items allowed in the testing area.[9]

Test Structure

The computer based certification exam contains 175 questions that take multiple forms. The will be presented in multiple choice, drag and drop, multi select, hot spot, and other forms. There are five main domains of knowledge that the exam questions deal with: Injury/Illness Prevention and Wellness Protection; Clinical Evaluation and Diagnosis; Immediate and Emergency Care; Treatment and Rehabilitation; and Organizational and Professional Health and Well-Being. The time allotted to complete all 175 questions is four hours.[10]

Sample Questions

More free NATA practice test questions.


The BOC exam contains a total of 175 questions spread across five content areas:

  1. Injury/illness Prevention and Wellness Protection
  2. Clinical Evaluation and Diagnosis
  3. Immediate and Emergency Care
  4. Treatment and Rehabilitation
  5. Organization and Professional Health and Well‐being

Not all questions are scored; some are pre-test items being tested for inclusion on future versions of the examination. The BOC exam does not penalize guessing; omitted answers and wrong answers are counted the same way. Individual questions have differing point values depending on the weight assigned to their content area as well as the number of other questions in that content area. Scores are reported on a standardized scale from 200 to 800, with a passing score of 500.[2]

Between 2005 and early 2011, only about half of first-time test takers passed the BOC exam. However, beginning in mid 2011, a new version of the examination based on the sixth role delineation study went into effect. With this new version of the examination, the pass rate for first-time test takers jumped up to 82.3% in 2011-2012.[4]


  1. ^ BOC Timeline: Before the BOC August 4 2014
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l BOC Exam Candidate Handbook August 4 2014
  3. ^ BOC Timeline: 2010-present August 4 2014
  4. ^ a b c BOC: Examination Report for 2011‐2012 Testing Year August 4 2014
  5. ^ BOC: Exam Deadlines August 4 2014
  6. ^ BOC: Register for Exam: Step 5 August 4 2014
  7. ^ BOC: FAQs - Results/Certification August 4 2014
  8. ^ Board of Certification, Inc. Request for Special Exam Accommodations August 4 2014
  9. ^ Exam FAQ 14 July 2014
  10. ^ Exam Handbook 14 July 2014

External Links