To become a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS) with certification in the Adult Echocardiography (AE) specialty, candidates must have appropriate medical education and clinical experience, and must pass both the Sonography Principles & Instrumentation (SPI) exam and the AE specialty exam administered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Both exams must be successfully completed within five years of one another but can be taken in any order.
The AE specialty exam is a three-hour multiple-choice test with 150 written and video-based questions covering applied knowledge of cardiac anatomy, physiology, congenital defects, disease, and sonographic evaluation techniques. The exam is graded in the form of a numerical value between 300 and 700. A score of 555 or above is a passing grade.
Candidates must prove their eligibility to take the Adult Echocardiography specialty exam by completing the ARDMS application forms and submitting qualifying documentation, including proof of formal education; verification of clinical experience; transcripts and licenses; and letters from a supervising physician, technologist, or program director. Renewing or re-certifying applicants are subject to different requirements. The ARDMS provides online guides and checklists for the application process, including how to apply for, register for, schedule, and sit both the AE specialty and SPI exams.
Once an application has been approved by the ARDMS, candidates must schedule their Adult Echocardiography specialty exam at a local test center and pay any exam or renewal fees. Exam results are available online immediately following the test. Candidates who do not pass the exam must wait a minimum of 72 hours to reapply and 60 days to retest.
The AE specialty exam focuses on the structures and functions of the heart, and on associated evaluation techniques. A higher percentage emphasis is placed on some topics over others. The topics and test percentages are:
- valvular heart disease (15-25%)
- ventricular function (10-20%)
- technique (10-20%)
- cardiomyopathies (5-15%)
- miscellaneous (arrhythmias and conduction disturbances, right-side volume overload and other related topics) (5-10%)
- anatomy and physiology (5-10%)
- diseases of the aorta (3-7%)
- congenital heart disease in the adult (3-7%)
- Doppler (3-7%)
- pericardial disease (2-8%)
- cardiac tumors (2-5%)
- systemic and pulmonary hypertensive heart disease (1-3%)
- stress echo (0-3%)
There are a variety of online and print resources available for preparing to take the Adult Echocardiography specialty examination, including practice tests, content outlines, study guides, and sample questions based on the actual ARDMS exam.