Sonography Principles & Instrumentation (SPI) Examination

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Sonography Principles & Instrumentation (SPI) examination tests basic physical principles and instrumentation knowledge essential to sonography professionals and students.

To earn an RDMS, RDCS, RVT and RMSKS credential, you must pass the SPI examination and a corresponding specialty examination within five years. After passing the SPI examination, you can earn additional credentials without having to retake the SPI examination, provided you maintain active status.

You must wait 60 days before you can retake the SPI examination if you do not pass it however, you are welcome to reapply after 3 days.


 SPI Examination Overview

​The SPI examination assesses the knowledge, skills and abilities in the areas of clinical safety, physical principles, pulsed echo instrumentation, and quality assurance. The exam meets the fundamental physical principles and instrumentation requirements for the RDMS, RDCS, RVT and RMSKS credentials.

We periodically conduct a SPI Job Task Analysis (JTA) and update the SPI examination to reflect the frequency and importance of SPI tasks being performed by Sonography Professionals.
Click here to view the 2015 SPI JTA results​.​

 Question Format & Duration

​The SPI examination for the RDMS, RDCS, RVT and RMSKS credentials is two hours long and contains 110 multiple-choice and Semi-interactive Console (SIC) questions.

In order to earn the RDMS, RDCS, RVT and RMSKS credentials, the SPI examination must be taken and passed in conjunction with the corresponding specialty examination within five years. For more information on specialty examination that we offer, please visit Get Certified.


ARDMS functions under policies intended to demonstrate impartiality, high ethical standards, and validity of its certification assessments. ARDMS does not restrict Applicants, Candidates, or becoming a Registrant based on limiting conditions, such as membership of an association or professional society of any organization. ARDMS will not unfairly impede or inhibit access to its certification to Applicants, Candidates or Registrants who meet our stated policies regarding qualification requirements, renewal requirements and/or passing ARDMS’ psychometrically sound certification assessments.  

 5-year Rule

To earn an RDMS, RDCS, RVT or RMSKS credential, you must pass the SPI examination and a corresponding specialty examination within five years, regardless of sequence. This five-year rule does not apply if you are seeking additional specialties under a credential already earned. If you do not complete both examinations within the five-year period, you must retake the examination previously passed.

The five-year rule is based on the calendar year (January 1 through December 31). The five-year period begins the day you pass the first examination, and it includes any time that remains in that year plus the next five years. For example, a candidate who passed the first ARDMS examination on June 6, 2010, is required to pass the second examination by December 31, 2015.


You will be considered a re-applicant for the SPI examination if you have previously been approved to sit for an ARDMS examination, excluding PVI and MSK examinations.


To sit for the SPI examination as a re-applicant, submit the application and payment; your application will automatically be approved. 


 SPI Requirements

​Whether you are a student applying to take the SPI examination prior to graduation or you are a sonography professional seeking an RDMS, RDCS, RVT and RMSKS credential, you must select a prerequisite pathway that best meets your education and clinical experience and apply under that prerequisite.

If the SPI examination is the first examination you are applying for, you can choose to apply under the SPI Examination Requirement pathway or you can apply under a prerequisite.  The SPI Examination Requirement just requires completion of a physics class or a physics review course (click below for specific details).  However, if you can meet the requirements of an existing prerequisite (1 through 7), you are encouraged to do so as future application processing will be faster and easier.


Click to view the SPI Requirement and General Prerequisites.

 Application Letter Requirements

​When applying for the SPI examination, if your prerequisite selection requires documentation of clinical experience, please note that application letter(s) must:

     • Be an official letter with the address and telephone number indicated
     • Include the current date (mm/dd/yyyy)
     • State actual dates of employment or program
     • Contain original signatures (stamped and/or computer generated signatures are not
        acceptable); letters cannot be signed by a relative of the applicant
     • Provide a physician’s medical license number or chief sonographer’s/technologist’s ARDMS


Employment letters must indicate full-time or part-time training/experience AND must include the total number of paid clinical hours.

Program completion letters must include the total number of hours in the program and state individually, the number of didactic and clinical hours in the program.

 Sample Letters

 International Degrees

​Degrees earned internationally must be evaluated prior to selecting a prerequisite. We require a course by course evaluation. Click here for a complete list of Evaluation Agencies for International Degrees.

Applicants that have passed all three parts of the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG®) certification may submit a copy of the ECFMG® certificate with a copy of an active MD or DO license from the U.S. or Canada in lieu of the evaluation.

 Document Requirements

​Based on your prerequisite or requirement selection, you must submit the necessary supporting documentation within 21 days of submitting your online application.

Please note: We will no longer retain application documentation received prior to receipt and payment of the online application. Any documentation received prior to the completed online application will be discarded.


 Application Process

​Once you are ready to apply for an ARDMS examination, follow the steps below:

  1. Log in to MY ARDMS and choose the "Apply Online" option.
  2. Complete the online application form and submit payment. If you are a first-time applicant, you are required to select the SPI requirement or a prerequisite under which to apply.
  3. Gather the required supporting documentation.
  4. Submit your supporting documentation for receipt within 21 days of applying online. Review of your application can take up to five business days.

For more details, please visit the ARDMS How to Apply Guide.


Once we have reviewed your information, we will email you with either an Examination Confirmation Letter (ECL) or a request for additional documentation. When you receive the ECL, you may contact Pearson VUE to schedule an examination appointment during your eligibility period.


If you are found ineligible to take the examination, your application will be partially refunded (less the $100 USD processing fee per examination) and your documentation will be mailed back to you.

 SPI Examination Fees

​The SPI examination fee is $200 USD, which includes a $100 USD non-refundable processing fee.

If you take an ARDMS examination at an international test center (outside the U.S., Canada and Mexico), you will be charged an additional non-refundable $100 USD fee when you schedule your examination. This fee is subject to change without notice.

Reimbursement Information for U.S. Armed Forces Veterans: ​
Learn more about the GI Reimbursement Program for United States Armed Forces Veterans. ​

 SPI Examination Checklist

​The examination checklist is a helpful, online tool that lets you track the status of your submitted application. To view it, log into MY ARDMS and visit the "Application Checklist" from the “Application Center” drop down menu.


Once we have reviewed your documentation, you can find out what documentation we accepted and what additional documentation we may still need by selecting “View Checklist.” If “View Checklist” is not available, it simply means we have not yet reviewed your documentation.


You can also use the following form to ensure that you are submitting all the required documentation:

    •  ARDMS General Application Checklist

 Examination Confirmation Letter

If you are found eligible to take an examination, we will email you an Examination Confirmation Letter (ECL) within one to two days of application approval and you will be able to schedule your appointment at that time. The ECL will also be posted to your MY ARDMS  account and will include your eligibility period to schedule and take your examination.

 Are you a Re-applicant?

​You will be considered a re-applicant for the SPI examination if you have previously been approved to sit for an ARDMS examination, excluding PVI and MSK examinations.


To sit for the SPI examination as a re-applicant, submit the application and payment; your application will automatically be approved. 

 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

​If you need special accommodations, please select "Yes” for “Special Accommodations” in the application and submit the following along with your completed application:

     • An original copy of a letter dated within the past five years and typed on official letterhead
       from a qualified physician or health care provider who specializes in the disability. This letter
       must document the disability and its severity, describe the applicant's limitation due to the
       disability and state exactly what accommodations are recommended. The letter must contain
       an original signature and the physician's or provider’s credentials.
     • An original copy of a comprehensive medical evaluation/report of the diagnosed disability
        from the physician or health care provider, dated within the past five years.
     • A completed ADA Special Accommodations Questionnaire, which must be submitted each
        time you apply for an examination.

For more information, read the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).


 Schedule an Examination

Once your SPI application has been approved, an Examination Confirmation Letter (ECL) will be emailed to you to schedule an examination with Pearson VUE – ARDMS’ official testing vendor. You will have 90 days to schedule and take your examination.

If you have not done so already, visit Pearson VUE to:
     • Create a Pearson VUE account
     • Search for seat availability
     • Locate a test center
     • Schedule an examination
     • Contact Pearson VUE Customer Service

If you are taking the examination at an international test center (outside the U.S., Canada and Mexico), a $100 USD non-refundable fee and Value Added Tax (VAT) will be charged by Pearson VUE. All international scheduling fees and associated VAT will be charged at the time the examination is scheduled. The fees and associated VAT are subject to change without notice, and they are non-refundable.

 Reschedule an Examination

​To reschedule the date and time of your examination during your eligibility period, you must contact Pearson VUE (1-877-258-9220) at least 96 hours prior to the scheduled examination date and time.

 Cancel an Examination

​To cancel an examination appointment, you must contact Pearson VUE (877-258-9220) and cancel the scheduled appointment no later than 96 hours prior to the scheduled examination appointment time. You will receive a cancellation email from the Pearson VUE.

To request a partial refund, you must wait 24 hours after canceling the appointment with Pearson VUE and then submit a cancellation/partial refund request no later than 96 hours prior to the last date of the eligibility period.


To submit this request:

  1. Log in to your MY ARDMS account.
  2. Visit the "MY Examination/Application Status" under "Application Center".
  3. Select the examination you wish to cancel.
  4. Complete and submit the form.

We will refund your examination fee, less the $100 USD processing fee per examination, unless we receive your request too late, you never schedule your examination or you do not keep your scheduled examination appointment. Then, the entire examination and processing fees are forfeited.

 Examination Extensions

​If you need more time and cannot schedule your examination within the 90-day eligibility period, you can request a one-time 60-day extension for the examination. You must request this extension at least 96 hours prior to the last date of the eligibility period.

To request an extension:

  1. Log in to your MY ARDMS account
  2. Visit the "MY Examination/Application Status" under "Application Center".
  3. Select the examination you wish to extend.
  4. Complete and submit form.

If you have a scheduled examination appointment, you must contact Pearson VUE (1-877-258-9220) at least 96 hours prior to the scheduled examination, and notify them that you are cancelling your scheduled appointment before you complete the steps above to request an extension.

The entire examination fee is forfeited if we receive your request too late, you never schedule your examination or you do not keep your scheduled examination appointment.

 Admission to Test Centers

​When you arrive at a test center, be prepared to:

     • Check in with a Test Center Administrator
     • Present one valid photo identification (ID); see the Test Center Identification Requirements
     • Provide a digital signature
     • Have your palm vein scanned
     • Take a test-day photograph

Note: The only thing that you can bring into the testing room is you. The test centers have lockers you can use to store personal belongings. Study materials as well as food and drink are prohibited in the test center. No visitors, guests, pets or children are allowed.


Important: Review ARDMS’ Examination Admission Compliance Policies to ensure you are not refused admission at the test center and do not conduct unauthorized examination behavior.

Test centers will provide white boards for notes during the examination upon request.

If you have a documented disability and require special accommodations, contact ARDMS for pre-approval prior to making an examination reservation.


 About the SPI Practice Examination

​Taking a practice examination or two is a great way to prepare for your actual examination. We offer two online versions of the SPI Practice Examination — SPIa and SPIb — that simulate the computer interface used in the actual test center environment.

Each practice examination is 30 minutes in duration and consists of 30 questions, including semi-interactive console (SIC) questions. The two distinct versions are equivalent in difficulty and content coverage. Note that if you take either examination more than once, the questions will be the same.

After you complete a practice examination, you will be emailed a report that shows the number of questions you answered correctly. While the report is an indication of your knowledge, the practice tests results should not be used to predict how well you will perform on the actual examination at the test center.

For more information, please read our Practice Examination FAQs.

 Register for an SPI Practice Examination

Each practice examination costs $25 USD and requires payment via PayPal. If you do not have a PayPal account, you will be prompted to create one upon check out.
Visit Exam Studio’s Exam Store to register for an SPI practice examination and view the computer system requirements. For any general questions regarding the practice examinations, please call ARDMS at (800) 541-9754 ext. 3 for assistance.

For technical issues with the practice examination, please contact Exam Studio by sending an e-mail to  Be sure to include:

   • Your full name
   • Your email address
   • The examination you are trying to take
   • A full explanation of the problem

If you wish to speak with a representative directly regarding the technical issue, please state that you would like a call back in the email.

You will need to fill out a registration form to get your username and password before you begin your practice examination. Before your session begins, you will be prompted to review the examination tutorial, which you may pause and start at any time. Once your session beings, you have 30 minutes to complete the practice examination.

Register for an SPI practice examination.

 Review the SPI Content Outline

​The SPI examination contains 110 questions that cover the following content areas. All percentages are an approximate distribution of the questions across the content areas.


SPI Content Outline (Please click on "SPI Content Outline" for the detailed Content Outline in PDF-Printable format).

     • Clinical Safety – 4%
     • Physical Principles – 10%
     • Ultrasound Transducers – 7%
     • Pulsed Echo Instrumentation – 35%
     • Doppler Instrumentation and Hemodynamics – 35%
     • Quality Assurance – 4%
     • Protocols – 4%
     • New Technologies – 1%

Please note: All percentages are approximate.

SPI Content Outline (Effective September 15, 2016)​

     • Clinical Safety, Patient Care, and Quality Assurance 10%
          Patient Care
          Quality Assurance
          New Technologies
     • Physical Principles   15%
          Physical Principles
     • Ultrasound Transducers  16%
     •Imaging Principles and Instrumentation  28%
     Doppler Imaging Concepts  31%

Your score report will display and include performance feedback for these content areas.

 Review our tips for exam day success

​After all of your diligent preparation and hours spent studying, here are a few valuable tips to help make your examination day a success:

  1. Double check that you know where the test center is before examination day and give yourself plenty of time to get there. Remember, you MUST arrive and register at least 30 minutes before the examination begins.
  2. Get a good night's sleep before you take your examination. Being well rested and relaxed when you take your examination will help you concentrate.
  3. Bring one form of current and valid identification that complies with the test center identification requirements.
  4. Travel light. The only thing you can bring into the testing room is you. You can store your personal belongings — your car keys, watch, smartphone, purse, backpack, etc. — in lockers at the test center. The following items are not allowed in test centers: study materials, food, drink, visitors/guests, pets and children.
  5. Request a white board if you plan to jot down notes during the examination. Test centers are using white boards (rather than paper) in an effort to "go green."

Good luck!

 Study Materials

​Even though we offer practice exams and sample questions, we do not offer study materials for our exams – but our sister societies do. You can find materials at:

     • Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
     • American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine
     • Society for Vascular Ultrasound
     • American Society of Echocardiography

 Learn about Advanced Item Type (AIT) preparation questions

​The SPI examination features Advanced Item Types (AIT) questions, which assess and measure your practical sonography skills. They include:

     • Semi-interactive console (SIC) questions: You will use a virtual SIC that simulates an actual
        ultrasound machine. The questions will display a partially-completed ultrasound image and a
        statement that indicates a problem. You will use a computer mouse to adjust the controls on
        the simulated console in a way that should correct the problem.

Visit the Semi-Interactive Console (SIC) page and to learn more. 


 How is the SPI examination scored?

​The SPI examination evaluates the SPI knowledge and skills you must demonstrate as a sonography professional. The primary test result is a PASS or FAIL decision. In addition, you will receive a scaled score, ranging from 300 to 700. A scaled score of 555 is required to pass all ARDMS examinations.

The scaled score is not a percentage of correct answers, nor is it built on a "curve" where a certain percentage of scores would pass and a certain percentage would fail. To learn more, visit Notification of Results and Scoring.

 How do I get my SPI Score Report?

​You can receive a score report at the test center once you complete the examination. The Pass or Fail results will then be posted to your secure MY ARDMS account within the next week.


Candidates receiving a confirmed passing score on all required examinations and meeting all other requirements will be awarded a certification, effective the date the final examination was taken. For information on the ARDMS' scoring methods, visit Notification of Results and Scoring.


Candidates who do not pass are invited to re-apply.

 School Report

​When submitting your ARDMS application, you consent to us releasing your examination results to your educational program.

Program Directors can receive a School Report for current programs and programs completed in the past three years. To learn more, visit School Reports.

 Score Verification

​You can request a score verification for a $35 USD fee, payable by check, money order or credit card. Score verification ensures that the computer counted the correct and incorrect answers appropriately, but it does not review the questions and answers.

You must submit the completed Exam Score Verification Form within 30 days of having taken the examination in question. The Exam Score Verification Form will be returned if incomplete, unsigned or unpaid.

When deciding whether to have your score verified, please consider that ARDMS examinations are scored electronically with a high degree of accuracy, and it is unlikely that verification will alter your original score.


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ARDMS certification examinations are developed to assess the knowledge and skills necessary to practice the specialty safely and competently. ​Student pass rates vary.

Here you can see the pass rates for the Sonography Principles & Instrumentation (SPI) examination for the past three years.


First-time takers: 79%
Overall: 71%

First-time takers: 81%
Overall: 72%


First-time takers: 77%
Overall: 70%