The sonography principles and instruments (SPI) exam is one of the most important exams in the field of sonography. After taking it myself and passing it, I believe I can help you with everything you need to know about the exam. This article, therefore, is a guide to the number of questions in the SPI exam, tips that will help you ace your exams and tools designed to make your preparation top-notch. Simply put, it answers all your questions about the SPI exam.
How Many Questions Does the SPI Exam Contain, and How Are They Divided?
The Sonography principle and instruments (SPI) exam is a 2-hour exam that contains approximately 110 multiple-choice questions alongside a three-minute survey. All the questions on the exam fall under the domain and subdomains listed in the SPI content outline. The significant domains listed in the outline are:
- Clinical Safety, Patient Care, and Quality Assurance
- Physical Principles
- Ultrasound Transducers
- Imaging Principles and Instrumentation
- Doppler and Imaging Concepts
It is essential that you thoroughly review the SPI content outline before you take your exam. You can access the outline here.
Why Is the SPI Exam Important?
The entire purpose of the SPI exam is to test various parts of what it takes for you to become a sonographer. According to the ARDMS, the exam tests knowledge, skills, and abilities concerning clinical safety, physical principles, pulsed echo instrumentation, and quality assurance. Furthermore, the exam meets the essential instrumentation and physical requirements for important sonography credentials, including:
- RDMS – Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
- RDCS – Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer
- RVT – Registered Veterinary Technician
- RMSKS – Registered Musculoskeletal Sonographer
The implication is that you must pass the SPI exams and a corresponding specialty exam within five years to earn any of the credentials above. If you don’t pass both exams within five years, you will have to re-take any of the exams passed.
Which Body Conducts the SPI Exam?
The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) conducts the sonography principles and instruments exam. ARDMS is a non-profit organization that was incorporated in 1975. The organization aims to promote patients’ safety and world-class care via ultrasound professionals’ certification and continuing competency. So far, ARMDS has certified over 90,000 professionals all over the world.
One key policy direction that guides ARDMS in conducting its exams is impartiality. As a result of these, ARDMS does not prevent candidates from registering for the SPI exam based on membership in a professional society or an organization. Additionally, ARDMS will not restrict access to its certification to applicants who meet ARDMS’ stated policies.
What Are the Requirements for the SPI Exam?
Some of the fundamental requirements that you will need to take the SPI exam include the following:
- Completing a general, medical, or sonographic physics course/seminar/class.
- A transcript reflecting successful completion of sonographic physics classes at college, post-secondary or higher education (with a grade of C or above). OR
a CME certificate for completing a general, medical, or sonographic physics seminar, a physics review course, or a physics correspondence course, indicating a minimum of 12 ARDMS-accepted CME credits.
- A copy of a government-issued photo identification card (ID) with your signature; the ID’s first and last names must match those in your ARDMS/APCA file.
Other things you should note:
- The name on all supporting documentation must be consistent with the name used for your application. If it isn’t, you will be required to submit legal documentation (e.g., a marriage/divorce certificate) with your application summary page and other supporting documents.
- You should also note that ARDMS allows students yet to graduate and sonography professionals seeking RMDS, RVT, RCDS and RMSKS certifications to take the SPI exam. However, whichever category you fall into, a non-negotiable requirement is that you choose a prerequisite pathway suited to your educational or clinical experience.
How Do I Prepare for the SPI Exam?
From years of experience helping students do well at this exam and passing the exam myself, here are some vital tips that will help you prepare and do well:
Study the Content Outline
The SPI exam has a content outline, and you must study the topics and syllabus contained in the outline. Look at each domain one after the other and then take questions on them to review your preparation level.
Tailor Your Studying to What Works for You
We all have various studying styles that work best for us. Some learn best with videos, others with audio, and others are great with texts. Know your style and apply it to your preparation for the SPI exam. For instance;
- If you learn best via audiovisuals, get on YouTube or other platforms and view podcasts or lessons that cover SPI exam topics.
- If you learn best with images, then rough sketches of concepts will be a great way to study and note down.
- If discussions are your thing, then find or create a study group to discuss topics and concepts.
Manage Stress Properly
Preparing for the SPI exam can be taxing on your body and brain. Therefore, it is essential to have plans in place to prevent burnout or breakdown before the exam proper. Some of the things you can do to manage stress during this period include:
- Dedicate time in your day for rest and fun, even just a few minutes.
- Get a good night’s sleep, so your brain can always be at its best when you read.
- Eat well.
Take a Practice Test
This is the most critical step in preparing for the SPI. A test is an excellent way to measure your knowledge and prepare for the exam by giving you the type of questions you will probably encounter on the exam day. Your score on the practice test is a good indicator of how prepared you are and what areas you need to focus on.
You can take our free practice test to help you prepare for the SPI exam here. Our practice test uses actual questions that appear on the written portion of the SPI exam, so you’ll know if you’re ready!