Examination Development Process

Developing a new examination is a rigorous and labor-intensive activity that typically takes two or more years.

ARDMS follows proven methods and widely-used practices for certification programs, which is reflected in our ongoing ANSI/ISO 17024 accreditation. All examinations are developed in-house by test development and measurement specialists, who collaborate with and seek input from Sonographers.

Below is a brief overview of the process that we use to bring a new ARDMS specialty or credential to the sonography community:

  1. New Specialty Proposal: We explore adding a new certification or specialty examination based on changes in sonography or a formal petition from an organization or group of medical or healthcare professionals.

  2. Needs Analysis Study: Before we start working on the new examination, we survey stakeholders (ARDMS Registrants) to understand if there is a need and support for the new certification.

  3. Recommendation and Approval: If the Needs Analysis Study confirms support for a new examination, we submit a recommendation and a budget request to the Board of Directors for approval.

  4. Examination Development Task Force (EDTF): The ARDMS Board of Directors initially appoints an EDTF, comprised of a group of professionals practicing in or related to the specialty. They are instrumental in the development, review and editing of test content and questions.

  5. Job Task Analysis (JTA): To determine what will be covered in the examination, the EDTF develops an extensive Job Task Analysis (JTA) survey that is sent to a fairly large group of medical professionals to determine how often sonography tasks are performed for the specialty in question, and how important they are. Did you know? JTAs are also conducted periodically for all exams to ensure they remain current with technological advances and changes in the profession.

  6. Examination Content Outline Development: Based on the results of the JTA, the EDTF develops a content outline for the new examination.

  7. Item (Question) Development: Professionals practicing in the specialty volunteer their time and expertise to write and edit items for the new examination, using the content outline as a guide. (They receive training by test development staff around how to write quality test questions.) A separate group of professionals in the specialty reviews and edits the draft questions and determines which to include in the pilot version of the examination.

  8. Examination Pilot: A pilot version of the new examination is given over a specified period. (Pilot participants do not receive a score immediately after finishing the examination.)

  9. Standard Setting Study: EDTF members and a diverse group of other subject matter experts develop a description of the bare minimum a candidate would have to know and be able to do to pass the examination. This benchmark is then used during a review of the examination pilot results to determine the passing standard, and at this point, the pilot test-takers are sent their final examination score.

  10. Examination Form Development: Based on the results of the examination pilot and standard setting study and the input from item writers and reviewers, the EDTF members begin an ongoing cycle of creating new forms (or versions) of the examination. (Forms are statistically equated to control for differences in difficulty, which usually vary from one form to another.)

  11. New Examination Launch: The new examination is made available in proctored testing centers in the U.S., Canada and around the world.