This article is intended for sonographers who are interested in learning more about the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) exam and the expectations of it.  People who are interested in this article are those those that are interested in passing the ultrasound physics registry examinations with hopes of attaining the designations:

  • R.D.C.S.
  • R.V.T.
  • R.D.M.S.

To become a Certified Sonographer through ARDMS, you have to take what is called the SPI exam, which is an acronym for the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation Examination. The exam is 2 hours long and 110 multiple choice questions and some that are computer-based interactive questions based on sonographs.

Truth is that there are many people who've taken (and failed) the Physics part of the exam multiple times.  Passing the exam is a critical part in becoming a sonographer because in order to get a job, hospitals and ward want their sonographers to have completed their certifications or have at least 1 year experience.  In most cases, many practicing sonographers had great mentors and that's how they've grown into their practice. 

Exam Stress

The Outline for the SPI Exam

The SPI Exam, which is the introductory exam in which all other speciality ARDMS exams are based consist of the follow components outlined in the table below:


Section #  Exam Component Value on Test
1 Patient care, safety and communication  5%
2 Physics Principles 20%
3 Ultrasound Transducers 20%
4 Pulse-Echo Instrumentation 30%
5 Dopper Instrumentation and Hemodynamics 20%
6 Quality Assurance and Qualty Control of Equipment 5%

Toughest Elements of the Exam

The toughest elements from the exam from experience is that the ARDMS doesn't really publish a study guide but only a general table of contents.  As in many exams of the same type, there isn't a very clear cut way to know what materials one should likely study in order to pass.

For example, there are many complaints that the Physics principles (Section 2 of exam) of the exam are not necessarily covered in the seminars or in the text explicitly.  

Proven Study Materials

What I've found to be the best study materials for the ARDMS exam is as follows.  There are two materials that are recommended and spoken highly about by students. 

The first is the Ultrasound Physics Review: A Review for the ARDMS SPI Exam.

Most of the reviews on this text has been extremely positive.  It is the most talked about study guide out there and has been credited for assisting many student reach their goal of attaining their accreditation.  The main reason why this study guide is so great is because it is packed with great examples and a mock exam.  The study aids include:

  1. Tests to improves your skill by measuring your progress as you study
  2. Content guides that assesses your knowledge by exam topic
  3. 600+ questions, 83 image based questions.
  4. An Image Gallery of over 80 pictures that helps prepare you for the scan readings.

This is published by Davies and often called the Davies exam.  It's written by a veteran sonographer who he has been there and done that.

 The second study material that is just as widely cited is: Mosby's Comprehensive Review for General Sonography Examinations.  This exam is used not just for the Physics part of the exam (Chapters 1 to 5), but also good for the OB/GYN parts as well.  This guide is better in that it is also useful for the specialty exams offered by ARDMS.