The first thing to do is obtain an application from the organization granting the credential you desire. The ARDMS and Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) are two organizations that offer ultrasound credentials. You may request the applications online at ARDMS or CCI. Make sure that you will have the education level and scanning experience by the time you apply for the exam.
High exam scores do not just happen by chance. It takes work and study to achieve high exam grades. Therefore, allow yourself plenty of time to prepare so you will have command of the material on the boards. There are Exam Content Outlines that summarize the material that you will be tested on. Make sure you are familiar with the general layout of the test, i.e. how many questions, how much time are you allowed for the test, etc. You can find sample questions and answers along with the actual instructions the websites identified above.
All CCI and ARDMS exams are taken entirely on computer, so it may be different than other exams you may have previously taken. There is an online tutorial that shows you the exam process. Make sure you are comfortable with this tutorial. Visit this site every few weeks until the testing process becomes second nature. This will eliminate any distractions and allow you to focus on the material that is tested.
The structure of the board exams, including percentages of what the exam is based on, can be found on the websites. The exams consist entirely of multiple-choice questions with 4 or 5 possible choices. Nearly all answers are simple and direct; it is uncommon that they are of the form “all of the above” or “A, C and D.” All ARDMS physics exams are two hours long and have approximately 120 questions. All ARDMS specialty exams are three hours long and contain approximately 155 questions. At first glance, this may seem to set an unreasonably fast pace. However, with proper preparation, you will have command of the concepts on the exam, and the correct answer will be identified efficiently. Make sure to carefully read the ARDMS test content outlines.
A passing score on ARDMS exams is approximately 75%, a grade of “C.” On some exams, a small number of questions are provisional and are not counted in your final score. Since it is impossible to identify these questions, approach every question similarly. Simply answer every question to the best of your ability.
There are two distinct areas of concentration when preparing for the boards. First, place an emphasis on factual detail, terms, and definitions. Then, concentrate on understanding the concepts that knit the facts and details together. A combination of both approaches increases the likelihood of earning a passing score! Since registry exams test the recall of facts and definitions and an understanding of concepts, the approach you take to studying must be based on a thoughtful analysis of exam content. In part, that is what ESP’s seminars and faculty provide you – a concise and accurate interpretation of what is on the exam, as well as how it is tested. The best and safest approach is to acquire a thorough knowledge of the facts and an understanding of the concepts underlying them from a focused, proven educational source.
Some students are under the mistaken impression that if they read and understand something, they know it. The most common error made when preparing for boards is to study only to the point where they can recognize the correct answer – “after all, the correct answer is right there on the page in front of you . . .” Multiple choice exams, test not just your ability to recognize information, but your ability to recall and apply concepts as well. To ensure that you can do more than recognize the right answer, try to challenge yourself periodically as you’re studying. For example, once you’ve completed a section of your workbook, put it away and try to summarize the information, on paper or orally. Imagine that you’ll have to teach a class on that information tomorrow. In addition, use the summaries and reviews that you find in ESP’s course outlines that you receive when you attend our programs. Strategies like these can be used to test your ability to both recall the material and to reorganize and transform it into a new format.
The most effective way to conquer emotional distraction is effective preparation. Candidates that pass their boards rarely are heard to complain. ESP’s seminars provide you with a focused, efficient and effective method of training. It’s been demonstrated that performance suffers when you carry extra emotional baggage, so don’t lose sight of the big picture. The first sign of a problem while preparing for an exam is worry. Worry robs us of energy, focus and motivation. If we can eliminate or control worries, then we’re in a much better position to do well. There are three ways I know to deal with worry. The first is to have an effective and reasonable study plan. Just jumping into a pile of notes or textbooks may be unwise. Rather, spend some time researching and identifying the most effective plan to accomplish your goals. Speak to a number of registered sonographers, applications specialists and other ultrasound professionals to determine your strategy – don’t be surprised if you hear one name over and over again! The next step is to delete other causes of worry.
Too much noise? Then move to a quieter place. Procrastination? Catch up with your studies a couple nights. Another way to deal with worry is to displace thoughts. Suppose you wake up at three in the morning and you’re worried about an exam. What should you do? How about getting up and studying for an hour? Doing something productive might allow you to sleep better when you finally do go back to bed. Another way to displace negative thoughts is with physical activity. Work out. Take a quick walk or a nice run.
Make sure you know where and when the exam will be administered. Be sure you are comfortable with the computer based testing system. Before the test, develop an aggressive yet realistic attitude. Approach the test with confidence. Be determined to do your best, but also accept the limits of what you know at the moment. Use everything you know to do well. Pay attention to the exam, not to yourself or others. Don’t worry about what you could have done; instead pay attention to what you can do now.
Try taking a few breaks during the exam by stopping for a moment, shutting your eyes, stretching, and taking some deep breaths. Periodically clearing your head in this way can help you stay fresh during the exam session. Remember, you get no points for finishing early, so don’t feel like you have to race through all the items – a number of short breaks can be very helpful.
Skipping around the exam can waste valuable time because at some point you will have to spend time searching for the skipped questions and re-reading them. A better approach is to answer each question in order. If you are truly baffled by a question, select the answer you believe to be right, flag the question, and come back to it later. There is no penalty for incorrect answers, so answer every question! Try to keep the number of flagged questions reasonable. Don’t speed through the items with the idea of going back to change answers that you are unsure of. If you take time to think through each question, your initial answer is often the correct one. Carefully reading each question the first time will keep your focus and intensity throughout the exam. It is always a good habit to keep your thought process at its maximum level for each and every minute.
If you think an item is a trick question, think again! Individuals, who complain about trick questions after taking the exam, probably do not have command of the material. Questions are never intended to be deceptive. When one has detailed knowledge, the correct answer often will stand out among the five multiple choices. If, after your very best effort, you cannot choose between two alternatives, try vividly (and quickly) imagining each one as the correct answer. If you are like most people, you will often “feel” that one of the answers is better. Trust this feeling.
Focus on finding an answer without the help of the multiple-choice answers.Remember, four of the five choices are incorrect! Read each question with the intention of answering the question without the alternatives that follow. This will increase your concentration. You will read the question more clearly. Begin by covering the alternatives. Then, carefully read and understand the stem of the question by itself. Pay close attention to words such as “not” or “except” which appear often on the board exams. Use your knowledge to predict an answer.
This can be accomplished quickly. Only now should you read all of the alternatives and identify those that could be correct. Make sure to read ALL of the multiple choice options in their entirety before choosing an answer. Avoid the temptation to mark the first option that looks good (sometimes a “good” option will appear before the “best” option).
Use the process of elimination when you do not know the answer for sure. This increases your probability of a correct answer. If you cannot identify the answer, re-check the stem of the question. If you are still not sure, make an educated guess. Avoid getting bogged down on one question. It is much better to move on and finish the exam and then return to the nasty questions. If you have no idea what the correct answer is, guess (since you are not penalized for guessing).
- Don’t select an alternative just because you remember hearing those words sometime in the past: It may be a “true” statement in its own right, but make sure that it is the “correct” answer to the question.
- Don’t dismiss an alternative because it seems too obvious and simple an answer. When you are well prepared for, some of the questions will appear quite straightforward.
- Don’t be wowed by fancy terms in the question. Refrain from thinking, “That sounds impressive, so it must be the right answer!”
- Don’t pick “c” every time you are unsure of the answer. You could end up picking “c” far too many times.
- Don’t pick your answer based on a pattern of responses.
- Don’t say to yourself, “This can’t be another “b” answer as we have just had three in a row.”
With multiple-choice exams you are required to choose the best answer, which may seem very similar to the second best answer. If this is a recurring problem, you may need to look at how you’re studying. This type of problem may indicate that you’ve concentrated on recognition of terms rather than understanding their significance. Or, it could indicate that you need to study the material in more depth. The best way to determine what’s causing the problem in your particular case is a careful analysis of your approach.
The entire faculty and staff of ESP are committed to the success of our students. We continue to be the most successful, effective and popular registry review program for three reasons:
- the skill and experience of our faculty
- the enormous amount of feedback from our past students and
- the quality of our students. ESP and our students join together to form an unbeatable combination – that’s why, in ultrasound circles, we’re known as the Dream Team!