Changes to the Eligibility Requirements and Schedule of the Medical Physics Part 1 Qualifying (General and Clinical) Exams
By Matthew B. Podgorsak, PhD; Kalpana M. Kanal, PhD; Robert A. Pooley, PhD, ABR Trustees; J. Anthony Seibert, ABR Governor; and Geoffrey S. Ibbott, PhD, ABR Associate Executive Director for Medical Physics
Upon recommendation by ABR medical physics leadership, the ABR Board of Trustees has approved a change to the eligibility requirements for the Part 1 qualifying (general and clinical) exams. A candidate’s application must now include attestation from their program director (either graduate program or certificate program) that he/she has previously completed or is currently enrolled in classes that together with previous coursework cover the entire CAMPEP-core graduate curriculum. This change was instituted so that eligible candidates will be optimally prepared by having completed courses covering the material upon which they will be tested.
This change in eligibility was first communicated to stakeholders (SDAMPP, CAMPEP, AAPM, ABR IC-AC) as a proposal in 2018. At that time, SDAMPP leadership noted that some graduate programs do not offer coursework covering all the CAMPEP core material in the first year of their curriculum. With the traditional August administration of the Part 1 qualifying exams, students in these graduate programs would not be eligible to take the exams until they had completed two full years of study. So that students in these programs would not need to wait until the end of their second year to sit for the Part 1 qualifying exams, the Board of Trustees further approved a schedule change, moving administration of the exams to mid-January starting in 2022. With this change, students in programs that require three semesters to cover the CAMPEP core material will be eligible for the Part 1 qualifying exams after their third semester.
A recent survey of program directors and graduate students, sponsored by SDAMPP and shared with ABR medical physics leadership, indicated concern among respondents about the new timing of the Part 1 qualifying exams. It was suggested that having the exams so close to traditional holidays was not ideal. Furthermore, scheduling the exams immediately prior to residency program interview season was viewed to be problematic. Some suggested that the usual August administration could remain open to those candidates who complete the CAMPEP core material within their first year of study, and that a second administration, perhaps in January, could be made available to those candidates, admittedly a smaller cohort, who do not complete the CAMPEP core material until the end of their third semester. It was decided, however, based primarily on the additional volunteer effort to put together a second exam, that it is not feasible to offer two different Part 1 exams every year. While we remain sensitive to the concerns voiced by our stakeholders, moving the exams to January was the best compromise enabling all candidates to be eligible for the exam prior to completing their second year of study. Finally, in response to the concern regarding the proximity of the Part 1 exams to residency program interviews, we have committed to expediting exam scoring and communication of results to examinees, so that those participating in the residency match will know as early as possible in the interview season whether or not they passed.
We are grateful to our stakeholders for their input over the past two to three years as we maintained dialogue regarding meaningful changes to the Part 1 qualifying exams. We hope there is agreement that these changes will result in candidates achieving the best possible academic preparation prior to taking the Part 1 exams. We pledge to actively monitor the impact of these changes on our candidates and stakeholders, and, when warranted, assess the need for further modifications.