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How to prepare for the MDCB exam ?

Updated on November 17, 2012

Advice from a fellow C.M.D.

The MDCB exam is a challenging exam that all medical dosimetrist have to pass to attain board certification. With a pass rate in the low 50's, your concern about the exam is justified. Considering that you have already spent $500+ to register the exam, you will want to pass it on the first try.

There are many benefits to writing the MDCB exam, but the main reason that most of you are taking this exam is for the higher pay and better career opportunities. The average salary of a board certified medical dosimetrist was $95,000 (ASRT survey), and candidates who recently passed there exam received an average pay raise of $10,000. The financial incentive to do well on this exam is huge.

Now that we have your attention, let’s offers you a few simple tips about the MDCB exam:

  1. Start early. The exam pulls content from a wide range of subject areas. Many of which are not part of your daily list of responsibilities. You should start preparing as soon as possible.
  2. This exam is not about treatment planning (we wish it was), but it is about physics, dosimetry and a range of related subjects that apply to professionals in radiation oncology. Your ability to treatment plan will not be tested in this exam.The best treatment planners have failed this exam, and the worst treatment planners have passed it with ease. The goal of the exam is to test your native knowledge of physics.
  3. Grading on the exam is relative, and there is no magical number to pass the exam. What happens every year is that the exam test takers are ranked according to percentile. Those in the top 45 percentile are guaranteed to pass. The next 10 percent are borderline, and depending on the cut score chosen may pass the exam. So your goal should be to have a broad and deeper understanding of physics than the average medical dosimetrist taking the exam ( Top 45 percentile).
  4. Make a study plan, because the time between exam registration and the exam is short. Your study plan should focus on your weakness. Some medical dosimetrist plan brachytherapy cases, others do not. Find your weakness and focus on those.
  5. The MDCB has a long list of recommended textbooks. Reading and reviewing the textbooks would be the ideal way to prepare if you have unlimited time to study. For those of us who have limited study time, I recommend using preparation material to help you study effectively.

The MDCB Exam offers two affordable dosimetry review products to help you prepare for the MDCB exam:

1. MDCB Exam Question Bank - which has hundreds of exam question with easy to understand, and detailed solutions.

2. MDCB Exam Study Guide - Includes lecture slides and exam questions.


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    • profile image

      Felicia Lembesis, CAE, MDCB Executive Director 

      3 years ago

      Many dosimetrists challenge the MDCB exam as a requirement of employment. Medical institutions are more and more beginning to recognize the importance of providing a standard of care.

      1. The exam content test matrix is developed from a Job Task Analysis (JTA) conducted every five years. The JTA is a testing industry standard. Through the JTA a panel of subject matter experts (SMEs), selected from a diverse demographic of CMDs, identify the knowledge and tasks required to perform the job of a medical dosimetrist. A peer reviewed survey of the results of the initial phase of the JTA is subsequently administered to the medical dosimetry population of members of the American Association of Medical Dosimetrists and the MDCB (non-CMDs and CMDs) to confirm the finding of the SMEs.

      2. Dosimetrists who sit for the exam must demonstrate knowledge of the physics on which treatment planning is based.

      3. The exam scoring is based on a cut score determined through the industry best practice of standard setting. A standard setting workshop like the JTA is conducted with the benefit of a representative demographic of practicing CMDs. The standard setting workshop is conducted following the completion of the JTA. Each exam candidate's performance is measured against the same cut score.

      4. The MDCB provides, for purchase, study guides that mirror the MDCB exam questions.

      5. References used for MDCB exam item writing include popular textbooks covering subjects in radiobiology, physics, dosimetry, cross sectional anatomy, and principles of radiation oncology practice such as the following:

      • Khan, Faiz M. The Physics of Radiation Therapy.

      • Khan, Faiz M. Treatment Planning in Radiation Oncology.

      • Perez, Carlos A. and Brady, Luther W. Principles and Practice of Radiation Oncology.

      • Fleckenstein, P. Anatomy in Diagnostic Imaging.

      Other popular texts can be found at the AAMD store and Medical Physics Publishing websites. In addition, item writers draw questions from reports that are relevant to current dosimetry practice published by the AAPM, ABS, ICRU, ICRP and NCRP as well as published RTOG clinical trials and NCCN guidelines. Dosimetrists are expected to be aware of recent advances in the field and have a general knowledge of topical literature including key journal articles that have impacted the practice. In addition, dosimetrists should understand recent technological advances in radiation delivery equipment and imaging such as Cyberknife, TomoTherapy, GammaKnife, cone beam CT, etc.

      Complete details regarding the JTA and eligibility requirements are available at www.mdcb.org.

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