Qualifying Exam for Initial Certification

Study Guide for Medical Physics for Radiation Oncology

Last verified on October 15, 2021
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This exam tests your knowledge of the principles of radiation and cancer biology underlying the practice of radiation oncology. Included are questions on the general domains listed below. Exam performance will be reported to you based on an overall pass/fail grade, with specific information provided regarding quintile performance in the 10 individual domains. Because of the nature of scientific knowledge and subcategories, there may be some overlap of items across domains. Each exam will include items from every domain, but individual subtopics may not be included in every exam and the number of items per domain depends on the domain.
I. Basic physics 15% to 19%
II. Radiation measurements and basic treatment planning 23% to 27%
III. Imaging, simulation, and treatment plan evaluation and verification 17% to 21%
IV. Advanced treatment planning and special procedures 25% to 29%
V. Safety, QA, and radiation protection 10% to 14%
The ranges above are those generally in effect for the exam to be administered in 2022 and are intended only for guidance in candidate preparation. They do not necessarily represent a precise number of scorable items.

I. Basic physics
  1. Fundamental Physics
  2. Atomic and Nuclear Structure
  3. Production of Kilovoltage X-ray beams
  4. Production of Megavoltage X-ray beams
  5. Radiation Interactions
II. Radiation measurements and basic treatment planning
  1. Radiation Quantities and Units
  2. Radiation Measurement and Calibration
  3. Photon Beam Characteristics and Dosimetry
  4. Electron Beam Characteristics and Dosimetry
III. Imaging, simulation, and treatment plan evaluation & verification
  1. Imaging Fundamentals
  2. Simulation and Treatment Verification
  3. Informatics
  4. Prescribing, Reporting, and Evaluating Radiotherapy Treatment Plans
IV. Advanced treatment planning & special procedures
  1. Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT)
  2. Special Procedures
  3. Brachytherapy
  4. Particle Therapy
  5. Stereotactic Radiosurgery/Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy
 V. Safety, QA, and radiation protection
  1. Quality Assurance
  2. Radiation Protection and Shielding
  3. Safety and Incidents
References: References are intended as resource for exam takers and will form the sources for the majority of individual items in the exam. Individual items may be sourced from references not cited in this study guide. Primary references are intended to be the source of the majority of exam items.
Secondary references are individual smaller categories of items. Additional references may be the source of individual, selected items.
Primary References:
    • Podgorsak EB. Radiation Oncology Physics: A Handbook for Teachers and Students. Vienna, Austria: International Atomic Energy Agency; 2005
    • Hendee WR, Ibbott GS, and Hendee EG. Radiation Therapy Physics. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Liss; 2005
    • Khan FM and Gibbons JP. The Physics of Radiation Therapy. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014
  • McDermott, P and Orton, C. The Physics and Technology of Radiation Therapy. Madison, WI: Medical Physics Publishing; 2010
Secondary References:
    • Dieterich S, Ford E, Pavord D, and Zeng J. Practical Radiation Oncology Physics Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2015
    • Metcalfe P, Kron T, and Hoban P. Physics of Radiotherapy X-Rays and Electrons. 2nd edition. WI: Medical Physics Publishing; 2007
    • Van Dyk J. The Modern Technology of Radiation Oncology. Volume 1. Medical Physics Publishing; 1999
    • Van Dyk J. The Modern Technology of Radiation Oncology. Volume 2. Medical Physics Publishing; 2005
    • Van Dyk J. The Modern Technology of Radiation Oncology. Volume 3. Medical Physics Publishing; 2013
Additional References:
    • Nath, R. , Anderson, L. L., Luxton, G. , Weaver, K. A., Williamson, J. F. and Meigooni, A. S. (1995), Dosimetry of interstitial brachytherapy sources: Recommendations of the AAPM Radiation Therapy Committee Task Group No. 43. Med. Phys., 22: 209-234. doi:10.1118/1.597458
    • Almond, P. R., Biggs, P. J., Coursey, B. M., Hanson, W. F., Huq, M. S., Nath, R. and Rogers, D. W. (1999), AAPM’s TG‐51 protocol for clinical reference dosimetry of high‐energy photon and electron beams. Med. Phys., 26: 1847-1870. doi:10.1118/1.598691
    • Huq, M. S., Fraass, B. A., Dunscombe, P. B., Gibbons, J. P., Ibbott, G. S., Mundt, A. J., Mutic, S. , Palta, J. R., Rath, F. , Thomadsen, B. R., Williamson, J. F. and Yorke, E. D. (2016), The report of Task Group 100 of the AAPM: Application of risk analysis methods to radiation therapy quality management. Med. Phys., 43: 4209-4262. doi:10.1118/1.4947547
    • Benedict, S. H., Yenice, K. M., Followill, D. , Galvin, J. M., Hinson, W. , Kavanagh, B. , Keall, P. , Lovelock, M. , Meeks, S. , Papiez, L. , Purdie, T. , Sadagopan, R. , Schell, M. C., Salter, B. , Schlesinger, D. J., Shiu, A. S., Solberg, T. , Song, D. Y., Stieber, V. , Timmerman, R. , Tomé, W. A., Verellen, D. , Wang, L. and Yin, F. (2010), Stereotactic body radiation therapy: The report of AAPM Task Group 101. Med. Phys., 37: 4078-4101. doi:10.1118/1.3438081
    • Klein, E. E., Hanley, J. , Bayouth, J. , Yin, F. , Simon, W. , Dresser, S. , Serago, C. , Aguirre, F. , Ma, L. , Arjomandy, B. , Liu, C. , Sandin, C. and Holmes, T. (2009), Task Group 142 report: Quality assurance of medical acceleratorsa). Med. Phys., 36: 4197-4212. doi:10.1118/1.3190392