Examination Development Process

Developing a new examination is a rigorous process that typically takes two or more years.

APCA follows proven methods and widely-used practices for certification programs, which are 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 volunteer physician subject matter experts.

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

  1. New Specialty Proposal: We explore adding a new certification or specialty examination based on changes in medical imaging or a formal petition from an organization or group of medical or healthcare professionals.
  2. Needs Analysis Study: A survey of stakeholders (APCA Certificants) is conducted 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 to the APCA Governance Council for approval.
  4. Assessment Committee (AC): The APCA Governance Council appoints an AC, comprised of a volunteer physicians practicing in or related to the specialty. The AC is instrumental in the development, review and editing of test content and questions.
  5. Practice Analysis: To determine what will be covered in the examination, the AC appoints a volunteer-led taskforce to develop an extensive Practice Analysis survey. The survey is sent to a large group of physicians to determine how often tasks are performed for the specialty in question, and how important each task is. Practice Analyses are 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 Practice Analysis, the AC 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. (Volunteer Item Writers receive training by test development staff regarding how to write quality test questions.) A separate group of volunteer 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: AC members and a diverse task force of other volunteer subject matter experts develop a description of the 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, standard setting study and the input from item writers and reviewers, the AC and task force 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.)