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Athletic Training Program Builds Seven-Year Passing Streak on Board Exams

The Ithaca College athletic training education program has gone an impressive seven years without a student failing the national Board of Certification exam. Since 2011, 112 consecutive students have passed on their first attempt.

The rigorous BOC exam is designed to test students’ professional knowledge and assess their clinical reasoning and problem-solving skills. Students must pass the exam in order to work as a certified athletic trainer virtually anywhere in the country (Texas does not require the BOC exam).

No athletic training student has failed the board exam in seven years. (Photo by Adam Baker)


Nationwide, the average first-time pass rate is 81 percent. For the past seven years, Ithaca College’s is 100 percent.

But while the program’s faculty is proud of the perfect streak, they don’t dwell on it. In fact, they intentionally de-emphasize the exam as part of the curriculum.

“One of the reasons that we have this streak is that we don’t focus on the test. We don’t teach the test,” said Paul Geisler, associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences and director of the athletic training education program.

Instead, the athletic training faculty aim to teach students how to think, apply their knowledge base and problem-solve in context so that they’ll excel in a myriad of real-world situations. The 100 percent pass rate is a happy byproduct of not only what they teach but, more importantly, how they teach and challenge their students.

“The goal is that when they graduate, students have clinical capabilities and expertise beyond what is expected of entry-level practitioners,” said Geisler.

The streak has garnered attention from proud alumni, and current students don’t want to be known as “the class that ends it,” creating a healthy competitive spirit in each cohort of students. But sooner or later, all streaks come to an end. And when that finally comes to pass?

“Big deal,” said Geisler. “It’s not the end of the world. We’ll start over.”