The ABR administers five different medical physics (MP) exams per year. These exams are taken by candidates seeking to establish their expertise in one of the fields of medical physics by gaining board certification, and by ABR diplomates seeking to demonstrate continuing mastery in a field of medical physics. Comprising approximately 1179 items (questions), ABR MP exams are written by volunteer committees of diplomates that are content experts. Currently, 108 ABR volunteers are involved in developing, assembling, and critiquing the content of MP exams. They contribute more than 7560 work hours per year, amounting to 3.6 FTE MP professionals working together for our mutual benefit. Volunteer contributions to ABR MP exam preparation are estimated at approximately $622K annually.
ABR MP exam development is a very detailed endeavor overseen by professional psychometricians. In general, 60 percent of each exam is composed of new items. The remaining 40 percent of exam items have been previously used. These used items facilitate statistical evaluation of exam difficulty, which is used to equate exams over time. All exam items have an associated record that identifies their knowledge domain, the number of times used, statistical evaluations of each usage, editorial evolutions, and other references.
Occasionally, candidates or diplomates contact the ABR with concerns about a specific MP test item. Inquiries are handled by the Associate Executive Director for Medical Physics Don Frey, Trustees Jerry Allison, Matt Podgorsak, Kalpana Kanal, and the content experts of associated volunteer committees to resolve any issues. If an item is found to be deficient, appropriate corrections are made to exam results.
The ABR also conducts oral exams as a final step for candidates seeking certification in medical physics. Oral exam items have a life cycle very similar to that of the written exams described above. Specific quality control processes are also in place: Each examiner is observed by the MP AED, a trustee or a senior examiner to ensure that the conduct of the exam is consistent and fair. The performance of each examiner and each examiner panel is evaluated. Although oral exam panels have remarkably similar performances, any irregularities detected are addressed appropriately.
Clearly, the most precious commodity in the rather involved creation of ABR MP exam content is the participation of volunteer subject matter experts. THANK YOU TO OUR MP DIPLOMATE VOLUNTEERS!
It should also be pointed out that medical physicists contribute to exam creation for our clinical colleagues (diagnostic radiologists, radiation oncologists and interventional radiologists). Collectively, there are approximately 142 medical physicists contributing to ABR exam processes. Again, THANK YOU!
The illustrations below demonstrate the major phases in the life cycle of an ABR MP exam item and the development of an exam.
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