IC DR Core Exam

Initial Certification

Initial Certification > Diagnostic Radiology > Core Exam


Diagnostic Radiology

Core Examination

Studying for the Core Exam
Core Exam Prerequisites for Eligibility

Information about the ABR's Core Examination

The Core Exam, which is the initial qualifying exam, is taken 36 months after the beginning of radiology residency training. It is an image-rich, computer-based exam administered in two ABR exam centers: the Chicago Exam Center near O’Hare Airport and the Tucson Exam Center at the board office.

The Core examination is split over two days. You will need to plan for approximately 7.5 hours for day one and 6 hours for day two. Candidates will receive 30 minutes of break time for each exam.

The exam tests knowledge and comprehension of anatomy, pathophysiology, all aspects of diagnostic radiology, and physics concepts important for diagnostic radiology.

Eighteen categories are included on the examination: breast, cardiac, gastrointestinal, interventional, musculoskeletal, neuroradiology, nuclear, pediatric, reproductive/endocrinology, thoracic, urinary, vascular, computed tomography, magnetic resonance, radiography/fluoroscopy, ultrasound, physics, and safety.

In addition, a portion of the Radioisotope Safety Exam (RISE), one of the requirements for Authorized User (AU) eligibility status, is included within the Core Exam. Physics questions are integrated into each category. No separate physics examination will be administered. However, performance on the entire set of physics items will be evaluated as a component in scoring the examination.

If a candidate fails one to five categories, he or she will have conditioned the examination and must take a repeat examination in the categories that were failed. If a candidate fails more than five categories, the entire examination must be repeated.

Core Examinations are administered twice yearly, typically in June and November. Please refer to the Exam Dates and Locations page for upcoming exam dates.

A candidate is eligible to take the Core Examination in the 36th month of diagnostic radiology training and must take the examination at the first administration offered after eligibility is attained. The ABR's Leave of Absence Policy is not meant to negate the Core Exam requirement. A request for delay in taking the examination requires application for an exception and prior approval by the ABR. If a candidate does not take the Core Exam at the first required opportunity and has not been granted a waiver by the ABR, the candidate must delay taking the Certifying Exam until at least 27 months after the date he or she first took the Core Exam.

Further information is available here: 

Core Exam Prerequisites
Core Exam FAQs
Transition to Core and Certifying Exams (for those whose most recent examination was a written or oral exam)

Studying for the Core Exam

Core Exam Study Resources:

A comprehensive Core Exam Study Guide, which lists the domain of each category, along with sample questions, is available here.

Since the range of content relevant to the topic of radiology quality and safety is broad, a separate document has been produced to serve as a syllabus of the quality and safety knowledge that residents eligible to take the Core Exam are expected to know. The Core Exam Quality and Safety Syllabus can be found here.

Sample content for each organ system, compiled from a single administration of the Core Examination, is available. This sample has been created to demonstrate the topics that were included on a single form of the examination. Different administrations of the examination may not include all these topics and may include other topics not listed. Click here.

The Core Examination Blueprints below provide an estimated breakdown of the content from each category that is included on each administration of the examination, which may be useful when preparing to take the Core Examination. While the study guides provide a more detailed listing of the domain of knowledge being examined, the blueprints provide the relative percent distribution of content that is tested across the domain. Candidates should remember that no two examination forms are the same, as they represent a sampling of knowledge from within the larger domain, with forms statistically equated for difficulty when determining cut scores for passing.

Breast Imaging Pediatrics
Cardiac Physics
Gastrointestinal (GI) Reproductive Endocrinology
Interventional Radiology (IR) Radioisotope Safety Exam (RISE)
Musculoskeletal (MSK) Thoracic
Neuroradiology Ultrasound
Nuclear Medicine Urinary


In addition, a 100-item Core Practice Exam, with examples of content from all areas and all item types, is available here.