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Diagnostic Imaging – Nature & Scope of the Radiology Examination

Revised: 10/2019


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.

The Preliminary Examination is a written examination that is composed of multiple-choice questions. All questions are based on content included in the Radiology Preliminary Examination Content Outline.  The content outline has been developed based on a job task analysis of veterinary radiologists.  Beside each content domain there is a number that indicates the number of questions for that content.  A breakdown of the cognitive level for each question is also provided.

The Preliminary Examination Study Guide, published on the ACVR website under ACVR Preliminary Examination, is study guide reference to help guide residents in their preparation for the ACVR Preliminary examination. Please note that all examination questions and answers must have a valid reference.  The final page of this document has a list of suggested references but this is not exhaustive. Candidates are responsible for all relevant imaging literature, regardless of the source.  While many questions will be derived from recent literature there are also many fundamental articles that are older and candidates should be aware of this foundational knowledge. While there is no stated specific time limit regarding the literature, particularly for Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound, out-dated, 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, 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.

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 committee outlining the strengths and weaknesses in each of the major content domains (Radiology/Fluoroscopy, Ultrasound, CT, MR, Nuclear Medicine, Professional Collaboration) as an aid in preparation for the next examination.

Click here to view the preliminary examination content outline.

The ACVR Certifying Examination is a case-based examination delivered online. Candidates are presented with a series of cases covering a range of species, anatomy, pathology, and imaging modalities, each case comprising a summary of the history and clinical signs, and diagnostic images as stills or videos. Candidates are required to list their observations and synthesize a diagnosis or ranked list of differential diagnoses. The marking scheme rewards candidates able to identify the major abnormalities, recognize their pathological significance, and express the likely relationship between the imaging and reported clinical findings.

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.

See the scoring rubric for details.

Examination Cut Score and Scoring
The Radiology Certifying Examination is also a criterion-referenced examination (see above). 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. Examination questions will be graded by at least 2 Examiners in a blinded manner using the scoring rubric. Additional examiners will be used to score questions in the event there is disparity with the initial scores.

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.

Click here to view the certifying exam content outline.

FAQs regarding the Certifying Exam (updated 8/2021)

Standards for Admission to Membership Education, Training and/or Experience

To be eligible for examination and certification as a Diplomate in Veterinary Radiology, candidates must have training supervised by two ACVR Diplomates or one Diplomate of the ACVR and one Diplomate of the ECVDI in a program that meets the guidelines established by the Executive Council of the American College of Veterinary Radiology. Generally speaking, most candidates entering a three-year residency training program have had prior clinical experience as an intern or in private practice. Upon completion of a residency training program that meets established guidelines, the candidate should be qualified to apply for the certification examination.

Requirements for the Certifying Examination in Veterinary Radiology 

Section 1.   The following prerequisites must be met to the satisfaction of the Executive Council (2/3 affirmative vote by Executive Council) before any candidate is eligible to undertake any portion of the certifying examination in Veterinary Radiology.

An eligible candidate must:

  1.  Have satisfactory moral and ethical standing in the profession.
    b.    Be a graduate of a School or College of Veterinary Medicine accredited or approved by the AVMA, or possess a certificate issued by the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG), or are legally qualified to practice veterinary medicine in some state, province, territory or possession of the United States, Canada, or other country.

Section 2.    Application to undertake the certifying examination shall be accompanied by the above information and shall be accompanied by an examination fee in the sum fixed by the Executive Council.  Applications must be postmarked by the deadline date determined by Executive Council to be considered.

Section 3.    Additional requirements for the certifying examination shall be contained in the By-Laws of the ACVR or its RVS.

Examination Requirements

Section 1.  In addition to the requirements above listed in Article VI of the Constitution of the ACVR, to be eligible for the Preliminary examination a candidate must:

  1. Have one of the following qualifications:
    1. Be in an approved residency program. All programs must be submitted to Executive Council  for approval by September 1 of the year, 2 years in advance of anticipated examination.  This may be a regular or alternative approved program.
    2. Or be a Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Diagnostic Imaging.
  2. Submit to the Executive Council a statement of his/her qualifications, and other evidence of his/her professional experience and competence.  Answer in detail a questionnaire presented by the Executive Council.
  3. Submit two names for letters of reference of his/her personal and professional competency, including a letter from his/her sponsor.

Section 2.   Certifying examination requirements:

  1. A candidate must satisfactorily pass the Preliminary Examination before sitting for the Certifying  Examination.
  2. Complete 3 month of clinical training in an approved program or be a Diplomate of the ECVDI who with one year of work along side a Diplomate of the ACVR.


  • The 2021 Preliminary examination will be held on August 26th, 2021
  • The examination will be offered remotely. Candidates will need to arrange for an on site proctor who will receive the exam password. The proctor is required to provide the password and ensure the candidate has an appropriate location to sit the exam. The proctor is not required to remain in the exam room for the duration of the exam.
  • You will require an in person proctor for the exam.  Please have your proctor complete this form.


Registration information: 

Preliminary Examination Schedule:

Session 1Session 2
AT10:00 AM1:00 PM
ET11:00 AM2:00 PM
CT10:00 AM1:00 PM
MT9:00 AM12:00 PM
PT8:00 AM11:00 AM




2021 Diagnostic Imaging CERTIFYING EXAMINATION

  • The 2021 Certifying examination will be held on August 25/26th  at the Oquendo Centre
  • Should candidates be unable to travel due to the pandemic remote administration will be considered.  Please contact the Examination Director to discuss if needed.


Registration information: 


Certifying Examination Schedule

  • Session 1Session 2
    AT10:00 am1:00 PM
    ET11:00 AM1 hour break3:00 PM
    CT10:00 AM2:00 PM
    MT9:00 AM1:00 PM
    PT8:00 AM12:00 PM



Thanks to all of you for your help in administering the preliminary exam this year. We are grateful for your assistance as it will allow our residents to complete this step of their training.

To aid you in the administration, we have provided the following guidelines to ensure the candidates have the best and most consistent experience possible.  The exam will be administered with a combination of remote (video) and on site (resident director or designate) proctoring.

Prior to the day of the exam:

  • Room requirements:
    • Please provide a room that is quiet and has dimmable lighting
  • Computer requirements:
    • Minimum screen size – 13”
    • Single screen is all that is required.
    • Internet access is required to download the exam and upload the answers.
    • The software will lockdown the computer and block internet access automatically for the duration of the exam.
    • A webcam and microphone is required for the remote proctoring.
  • Mock exam
    • The candidates have access to a mock exam to take them through the features of ExamSoft. Please have them download and test this on the computer they will be using for the exam in advance of the test date to ensure everything functions appropriately.
  • The exams should be downloaded to this computer in advance of the test day.
    • Candidates will not have access until the password is provided.
    • Candidates will receive an e-mail when the exam is ready to download.
  • Complete the attached form to verify you are able to facilitate the exam.


The format of the exam

  • The exam is presented as two sessions, each two hours long and 15-30 min break should be provided between each session


On the day of the exam:

  • The examination password will be sent to you the morning of the exam. Please provide this to the candidate at the start time.
  • You are not required to stay in the room for the duration of the exam but you must ensure there are no study materials present in the room and that the candidate will not be interrupted. Please remain nearby in case the candidate needs technical support during the exam.
  • Once the session is complete the exam answers will upload automatically. Please verify the candidate gets a green screen indicating successful submission.
    • If the exam does not upload automatically it may be due to a delay in reconnecting to the internet so please try a second time.
    • The video proctor file is quite large so the upload may take some time
  • If there are any technical issues please contact ExamSoft support
  • If there are any non-technical issues, please contact Stephanie Nykamp