Nature & Scope of the Radiology Examination

American College of Veterinary Radiology
Examination Policies & Procedures

Revised: 10/2017


Examination Format

The ACVR Examination in Diagnostic Imaging is a two-part examination composed of the Preliminary Examination and the Certifying Examination. A candidate must pass the Preliminary Examination according to the criteria set forth in this document in order to qualify to sit the Certifying Examination. A candidate who passes the Certifying Examination is eligible to become a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Radiology. Diplomate status is ultimately conferred by majority vote of the ACVR Executive Council.

Honor Code

The ACVR requires all candidates to agree to and sign the ACVR Honor Code prior to participation in the Preliminary Examination and the Certifying Examination. Any violation of the honor code may result in nullification of a candidate's examination results.


The examination is given at a time and location determined by ACVR. The date of the examination is published on the ACVR Calendar annually.  Starting in 2017, the Preliminary Exam will be administered at available testing centers rather than a centralized Chicago location.  To find a testing center near you visit the AMP website at:

Preliminary Examination


The Preliminary Examination is a written examination which is composed of multiple choice questions. All questions are based on content included in the Preliminary Examination Content Outline.  The Preliminary  Examination Study Guide, published on the ACVR website under ACVR PreliminaryExamination, is study guide is a reference to help guide residents in their preparation for the ACVR Preliminary examination but may not represent an exhaustive list of topics covered on the examination. These materials will be published on the ACVR website no later than the deadline for candidate applications to sit the Preliminary Examination.

Images will be used in the examination and will include normal and abnormal cases. Sample ACVR Preliminary Examination Questions are published on the ACVR website under ACVR Preliminary Examination.  While emphasis is given to the dog, cat and horse, other species will be included where appropriate and noted. The current literature relevant to examination sections and diagnostic imaging is a source of examination material (see Resource List for ACVR Preliminary Examination, included with Qualifying (Preliminary?) Study Guide. In addition, past literature pertinent to specific radiographic techniques, special procedures, radiobiology and alternate imaging are used for questions. While there is no stated specific time limit regarding the literature, particularly for Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound, outdated, obsolete, or obscure material is avoided.


Examination Cut Score and Scoring

The Radiology Preliminary Examination is a criterion referenced examination. This simply means that examinees are measured against an absolute standard of minimum competency, and not based on the performance of others taking the examination. This minimum competency standard, also known as the “cut score”, is developed from the following steps.

1. Items to be used on the examination are selected based on the content outline and examination specifications.

2. The ACVR Examination Committee members assess the probability that a minimally qualified examinee will answer an item (test question) correctly. To do this, they consider the difficulty level, the complexity level, and the construction of the item. All items on the initial examination (“Exam A”) are evaluated for their difficulty level and are then given a rating based on an estimate of how many (e.g., 60%, 70%) minimally qualified examinees would get the given item correct. The individual ratings for each item are then averaged across all of the members of the Examination Committee and an overall cut score is determined (e.g., 65%, 70%). In other words, for example, the examinee will have to get 65%, or 70% of the items correct to pass the examination 

3. After the examination is administered, the items are “scored” to determine if they are functioning properly. Various statistical indices are then calculated (e.g., p-values, reliability coefficients, standard deviation, standard error of measurement).

4. The cut score determined in step 2 is implemented to determine how many examinees passed/failed the examination.

5. The cut score for future examinations (Exams B, C, etc.) is then determined by a statistical procedure known as “equating”. Exams B and C will have certain items in common with exam A. These items are known as “equator items” and they help determine if there were any shifts in the item difficulty levels from exam A to B, or from exam A to C for example. If there are changes in the difficulty levels, adjustments in the cut score may be needed. This process helps ensure that all examinees meet the same standard of performance or competency level regardless of when they take the examination. It also helps ensure that all examinees have a fair and comparable opportunity to pass the examination if they are properly prepared.


Candidates who pass the Preliminary Examination may apply to sit for the Certifying Examination.

Candidates who fail the Preliminary Examination may apply to retake the Preliminary Examination. Failing candidates will receive a letter from the Examination Director detailing specific areas of weaknesses and strengths to aid in their preparation for the next examination.

Certifying Examination


The Certifying Examination is an oral examination which is divided into 6 sections, each of which covers a specific area of diagnostic imaging:

  • Thorax
  • Abdomen
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Ultrasound
  • CT
  • MRI

New for 2017 is a change in exam format as described below.  Instead of 2 separate 45 minute sessions for each section, a single 60 minute session is administered. CT and MRI are now individual 60 minute sections.  Special Procedures and Nuclear medicine remain incorporated as appropriate into the 6 Examination Sections.

All cases will be referenced to a specific objective listed in the current ACVR Certifying Examination Objectives.

Examination Committee members choose the cases used for each section. Each examiner selects cases for their own section but may also provide cases for other sections, as can the Examination Chair and the Assistant Chair. Before being approved for final use, all cases, the expected responses and scoring criteria are reviewed by the entire examination committee for suitability.

Each section is 60 minutes in length.  Candidates are presented with 7-8 cases (6-7 for CT and MRI sections) which are presented as video clips on a monitor or optimized graphic files in a PowerPoint® presentation.

Any animal commonly seen in veterinary practice may be used as the subject of an examination question but dogs, cats, and horses are most frequent. The examination is designed to test recognition of radiographic signs in general (similar in any species) or recognition of species-specific disease. Candidates should expect that the cases used for the thoracic, abdominal and musculoskeletal sections will generally consist of radiographs, but other modalities (such as CT, MRI, sonograms, or scintigrams) may be included or as part of a multi-modality examination.

Candidates should be prepared to evaluate each case as if providing consultation to another veterinarian. Sufficient clinical information will be provided to evaluate each case. Examiners are listening for a systematic evaluation of the study, listing of pertinent imaging findings, and discussion of which of the findings they believe are significant. Candidates should assess the imaging findings in a meaningful manner without spending a large amount of time on the review of normal findings. Candidates should present a compilation of findings leading to an imaging diagnosis, followed by an appropriate, ranked list of differential diagnoses if the imaging diagnosis is not specific. Candidates should demonstrate an understanding of the pathophysiology of observed abnormalities, and provide a rational justification for the use of any ancillary studies, views or special procedures. The pattern of discussion should convince the examiner that the candidate understands what can be concluded from the images. Though interaction between the examiner and candidate is limited, the examiner may ask for further clarification, description or elaboration of key anatomical, pathophysiological, or biomechanical issues. It is important that the examiner clearly understand the candidate’s thought processes, prioritization, and conclusions.


Each case presented in an exam section is worth a total of 8 or 10 points. Up to 4 points are awarded for the candidate's observation of imaging abnormalities. Up to 4 points are awarded for a candidate's ability to synthesize imaging findings with the patient's clinical history and signs. Up to 2 points are awarded (when appropriate) for a candidate's ability to make appropriate patient management recommendations, including both imaging-related diagnostics and other pertinent diagnostic testing.


A candidate must complete all six sections of the Certifying Examination during one test period with a minimum score of 70% of the total points possible in each section. A candidate failing only one section may retake the failed section during one of the next two years. The candidate will be allowed one attempt to retake and pass the reexamination within the allowed period. If unsuccessful, then the candidate must retake the entire Certifying Examination. Candidates who fail more than one section must retake the entire Certifying Examination.

Names of candidates who pass the Certifying Examination are referred to the ACVR Executive Council, upon which a majority vote of approval will confer Diplomate status upon successful candidates.

Failing candidates will receive a letter from the Chair of the Examination Committee detailing specific areas of weakness and strengths to aid in their preparation for the next examination.

Examination Honor Code

The contents of the ACVR Preliminary and Certification examinations are confidential. You are prohibited from divulging any information about the questions, images, or case material included in the ACVR Preliminary or Certifying Examination to anyone during or after the examination.

For the Certification examination, divulging information includes discussion of format of cases, such as number of images, types of images, “hidden” views or supplemental studies presented to you. Your description of the case, medical management, or final diagnosis may not be discussed with anyone.

For the Preliminary examination, use of any electronic devices during the examination other than those provided to you by ACVR is strictly prohibited and will be considered a violation of the honor code.

Your confidentiality is required in order to ensure each candidate an equal opportunity to pass the examination. If any candidate is thought to be in violation of the Honor Code, a detailed report with charges of the violation will be sent to the ACVR Executive Council for action. A candidate found to be in violation of the Honor Code by Executive Council will have their examination results nullified.

All candidates must read and sign the following statement prior to participating in the examination:

I have read and understand the ACVR Honor Code. I agree to keep the contents of the ACVR Examination confidential. I agree to report any inappropriate discussions or actions I observe to the Examination Committee. I will not provide assistance to, nor accept assistance from anyone during the examination.

Name: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­ ______________________________

Signature:  ___________________________

Date:  _________________