Initial Certification for Diagnostic Radiology

Scoring and Results

Last verified on December 22, 2020


If a candidate meets or exceeds the passing standard when all categories are scored together, then the candidate will have passed the exam.
If a candidate meets or exceeds the passing standard when all categories are scored together, but fails the physics category, then he or she will have conditioned the exam and must repeat the physics category.
If a candidate does not meet or exceed the passing standard when all categories are scored together, including physics, then he or she will have failed the exam and must repeat the entire exam.  


After the exam has been scored, the Board will post the candidate’s results in his or her password-protected myABR account. Program directors and chairs will receive the same information for all their candidates and former candidates in order to help in evaluating and improving their training programs. Results for the Core Exam are posted within approximately four weeks of the last day of the exam administration.

Additional Core Exam Details

There are many reasons why pass/fail rates vary. Each cohort of residents who present to take the exam in a particular year is unique, and some programs have noted the increasing challenges of training in a dynamic academic environment. The ABR exams are criterion-referenced, not norm-referenced. In other words, we do not “grade on a curve” nor do we have a pre-determined fail rate. Instead, the passing standard is set in advance of the administration by a group of volunteers, including residency program directors, who assess the difficulty level of each individual question. The ABR makes every effort to ensure that exams and assessments we deliver meet rigorous standards by following very prescribed and consistent processes for our exam development, delivery, and scoring. This methodology does not change significantly from year to year; while our intent is to support the profession by offering a rigorous credential supported by excellent comprehensive training, the ABR does not seek to change the percentage of individuals who pass the test.
The question writers are dedicated volunteers from both private practice and academia who are committed to writing the best questions possible. The primary determiners of importance and relevance of specific questions are the actual developers of exam questions. In the case of the Core Exam material, these individuals are required to be clinically active and represent a broad range of practice environments. Most important, the question writing process requires multiple levels of review, including editorial content and subject matter expert reviews. Once those are completed, each Core Exam form is assembled by a multi-disciplinary group representing the major exam categories to ensure that every question is appropriate and meets the exam’s objectives. Specifically, the various levels of review attempt to remove or revise questions that might be ambiguous or otherwise potentially mislead the test-taker.
To understand how exam questions are written and learn more about different types of exam questions, please see the ABR Item Writers’ Guide. For a look at the extensive QA process that each question goes through, please see the Illustrated Life Cycle of an ABR Exam Item.
Once the exam is delivered, the scoring process allows us to evaluate each exam question individually to ensure that it meets our rigorous performance standards. Any questions that do not meet these standards are evaluated by subject matter experts and can potentially be eliminated from scoring. These quality reviews are carried out by a large group of subject matter experts, which includes faculty across a broad range of residencies as well as many program directors (the people who are most connected to, and familiar with, resident education and training).

Core Exam Results History

First-Time Takers (Residents ONLY)
Year Percent Passed Percent Failed Percent Conditioned Total Examinees
2013 87.2 11.6 1.2 1,206
2014 91.0 8.3 0.7 1,235
2015 86.8 12.9 0.3 1,184
2016 91.1 8.5 0.4 1,150
2017 93.5 6.3 0.2 1,173
2018 86.2 13.0 0.8 1,189
2019 84.0 15.9 0.1 1,191

FAQs Regarding Change to Pass/Fail Scoring of Clinical Parts of the Core Exam


Why has the scoring process for the Core Exam changed?

The Core Exam results have been carefully analyzed since the exam’s inception. The examinee results of the Core Exam to date have been, in effect, pass/fail, except for physics content.

Will the change impact the overall Core Exam pass/fail rate?

Since its first administration in 2013, the outcomes of the Core Exam have been remarkably consistent. More than 5,000 candidates have taken the exam, and the only category that has been conditioned is physics. As such, we do not anticipate any statistically significant changes to the Core Exam pass/fail rates.

Is it still possible to receive a conditioned Core Exam result?

Yes. However, the only category that can now be conditioned is physics.

What type of exam will I take if I condition the physics category of the Core Exam?

You would only need to repeat the physics category for the next administration of the Core Exam.

Will detailed organ system and modality performance feedback for the Core Exam still be available?

Yes. Detailed organ system and modality performance feedback is provided to every candidate who takes the Core Exam.