Section 3 - Content Of The Exam

The examination has two parts. Calculators may be used during the exam. No recording or transmitting devices are permitted, and all calculators with "constant" memories must be demonstrated to contain no stored constants (other than pi or e) or stored programs.

Part I

Part I questions are used to evaluate a candidate's knowledge of the fundamentals of health physics.

Part I is made up of 150 multiple-choice questions. The breakdown by subject matter follows the five Domains of Practice which are detailed in Section 4. The sub-areas shown for each domain give the typical subject matter covered in Part I questions. The number of Part I questions which fall in each domain is also shown in that section. Part I of the examination is constructed to test the knowledge of the fundamental aspects of health physics that is expected of any candidate meeting the qualifications for early admission to Part I. There will be questions contained in Part I that address fundamental knowledge associated with applied health physics. Academic preparation alone may not be adequate to answer these questions. However, the presence of these questions should not prevent a well-prepared candidate with no practical experience from successfully completing Part I of the Certification examination.

Each question has five possible answers from which to choose and requires thorough knowledge of the subject matter. For example, in questions that require calculations, answers other than the correct one are obtained by making some of the common calculational errors. Three hours are allowed to answer Part I (given in the morning of the examination day). Part I questions may be reused in subsequent years. As a consequence, this part of the examination is held in strict confidence and copies of past exams are not distributed. Section 8 of this Guide gives some typical Part I questions.

Part II

Part II questions are designed to test judgment, the ability to analyze and organize complex problems, and the use of practical skills at a high professional level. Candidates are given six hours in which to complete Part II (given in the afternoon of the examination day).

In the first section of the Part II exam, there are six questions on core topics of health physics. These first six questions will be graded for all candidates. (If one of these questions is left unanswered, the candidate will receive zero points for that question.) The topic areas that these questions examine are: personnel dosimetry (internal and external), shielding and activation, measurements and instrumentation, and biological effects of radiation (risk). These questions are selected so that each can be read and answered in a period of 10-15 minutes. Each question is worth 50 points and can include calculations, short essay, and/or serial-multiple-choice format.

The second section of the Part II exam contains eight problems. These problems are provided in one or a combination of the following formats: essay, short answer, calculational, serial-multiple-choice. The candidate must select any four of the eight questions provided. At least one question is provided for each of the following topical areas:

  • Accelerators
  • Environmental
  • Fuel Cycle (mining, milling, fuel fabrication and fuel reprocessing) and waste management
  • Medical
  • Research and Power Reactors
  • University
  • General (can include emergency response, meteorology, standards and regulations, and topical subjects)
  • Nonionizing

Each question from a topical area is designed such that a candidate who is experienced and capable in that area should be able to answer the question. However, all questions are kept general enough so that a person without detailed experience in an area, but who has adequately studied that area, could answer with a reasonable likelihood of success. Each question in the second section is designed to be read and answered in about 30 minutes and is worth 100 points.

Part II Subject Matter

In addition to the criteria noted above, the Part II questions are selected by subject matter to meet the percentage breakdown associated with the five Domains of Practice which are detailed in Section 4. The sub-areas shown for each domain provide the typical subject matter covered in Part II questions. Part II questions expect the candidate to show evidence of the ability to apply professional knowledge and judgement to the subject areas covered.