October 7, 2015

The Mammography Exam

It can be argued that mammography technologists help save thousands of lives each year. The x-rays these technologists take are used to detect and diagnosis breast cancer. Hospitals and doctors want to make sure they are hiring the best in this field. One way mammography technologists can help distinguish themselves is by taking the Mammography Exam.

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) administers the Mammography Exam. It is the world’s largest radiologic technology crediting organization. They are dedicated to “promoting high standards of patient care by recognizing qualified individuals in medical imaging, interventional procedures and radiation therapy.” The group achieves this through the variety of exams and certification programs they offer. Passing the Mammography Exam also certifies you as a mammography technologist. You can keep this certification as long as you complete continuing education programs throughout your career.
The Mammography Exam is a content-based test that measures your understanding of concepts that every successful mammography technologist must know. It isn’t enough to know how to take an x-ray or understand federal radiation regulations. You must also be well versed in patient care and breast health. The exam is just one more tool you can use to show potential employers why you are the best person for the job. Passing this exam proves you are more than capable of doing the job.

This exam is nothing like the SAT or ACT you may have taken during high school. There will not be any passages to read and questions to answer about themes, main arguments, or plots. There aren’t any complex math problems to solve or essays to write either. Test questions are designed to measure your knowledge specific to the field of mammography. The exam is divided into the following five content sections:

  • Patient Care
  • Image Production
  • Procedures

ARRT conducted a nationwide analysis of mammography technologist job duties across the country. Hundreds participated in the analysis to ensure that the content sections are essential in today’s medical workplace. Most questions will be the standard multiple choice variety you answered in high school and college. Questions may also ask you to sort a list, watch a video and answer questions, or choose combined responses. You will receive examples of each of these types of questions in a tutorial before you begin the exam.

This exam is made up of 140 questions. However, only 115 questions will count towards your overall score. The remaining 25 questions may be used on future Mammography Exams or for future training purposes. The bad news is you do not which questions count towards your overall score. It is virtually impossible to figure out, so make sure to do your best on every question.

You can earn a score between 1 and 99. The score will not be a raw score, rather a scaled score. Each test taker does not take the same version of the exam. So, ARRT uses a statistical process to make sure that test scores are normalized. This is done to accurately reflect the level of difficulty for the different versions of the exam. In order to pass, you will need to earn a score of at least 75. Scores are sent out approximately three weeks from the day of the exam. You will also receive a breakdown for the different sections, in the event that you need to retake the exam.

The Mammography Exam is a computer based test. You do not have to be a computer expert in order to pass this exam. A brief tutorial will be shown before the test begins so you can get comfortable with the computer. As long as you can use a mouse to point and click, you have the computer skills necessary. ARRT has chosen Pearson VUE Testing Centers to administer the exam. There are about 200 of these centers located across the country. You will be responsible for making your test appointment. This isn’t the only test Pearson administers. So, make sure to make your appointment as soon as possible. Spots can fill up quickly, particularly in the summer months.

Mammography Exam Content

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) conducted a nationwide analysis to determine what content areas are critical for mammography technologists. The Mammography Exam measures a person’s knowledge and cognitive skills in those areas. You aren’t tested on any subject other than mammography. So, it is a terrific indicator of how proficient you are in the field.

The exam consists of 140 questions, but only 115 questions will count towards your score. The remaining 25 questions are pilot questions. These questions are strictly for testing purposes and may or may not be included on future tests. Unfortunately, you will never know which questions are pilot questions. They will be scattered throughout the exam. The entire exam takes 3 hours to complete. Only 2.5 hours will be spent answering actual test questions. Before you actually take the exam, you will be given 20 minutes to review a tutorial. At the end of the exam, you will be asked to complete a 10 minute survey.

The Mammography Exam will test your understanding of five key content areas. The more relevant the content, the more questions you will receive in this area. It is extremely important to practice before you sit for the exam. You may think you know about these content areas because you work with them every day. However, some of the questions can be quite specific. You may not have referenced this information since your school days.

The majority of questions will in the standard multiple choice format that you have grown familiar with over years of schooling. You will be asked to choose the best answer to the question. Negatively worded questions are also used. An example would be “Which of the following is not a treatment option?” Other questions may ask you to look at an illustration, point your cursor to a specific anatomical body part, or sort a list in order of importance. Do not get nervous if the question format changes. Carefully read what the question is asking and then pick your response.

Questions will not be arranged in order of difficulty. You may receive an easy question, then a difficult question, then another easy question. Don’t read anything into the level of difficulty you are receiving. This is a computer based test. So, you will need to choose a response before the computer moves on to the next question. However, you will be able to flag questions that you find difficult. If you have time at the end of the exam, you can return to these questions and work on them. You will also be given the opportunity to comment on the questions. An evaluation survey is given at the end of the test to gauge your thoughts on the strength and weakness of the test, level of difficulty, along with space for your personal comments.

Mammography Exam Scores

Mammography Exam scores can range from 1 to 99. Your score will never be based on the raw number of questions you answered correctly. The Mammography Exam is scored based on a procedure known as scaling and calibration. Not everyone takes the same version of this exam. Although the content tested is virtually the same, the level of difficulty may not be. It isn’t fair for someone who received the less difficult exam to get a better score than someone who received a more difficult exam. So, the test scores are calibrated and scaled.

Each of the exams has a set of questions in common, referred to as anchor questions. Let’s assume that there were 4 different versions of the exam given on a particular day. The answers to the anchor questions on each of these exams will be evaluated. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) uses “sophisticated software” to assess the knowledge level of the test takers. This analysis will help calibrate how difficult a question was on each form. Then, an analysis is performed to determine the level of difficulty for each version of the exam. Verified statistical procedures are used to ensure that the scores are comparable, regardless of which version of the exam you took.

ARRT has decided that you must earn at least a score of 75 to pass the Mammography Exam. You will need to answer approximately 65% to 70% of the questions correctly to earn that score. The percentage swing will be based on the exam’s level of difficulty. The “cut score” is determined by their Board of Trustees based on input received from various radiologic technologists across the globe. Employers can be assured that a score of 75 or better proves you are a proficient professional.

Your score will be based on the number of questions that you answered correctly. You are not penalized for guessing. This is good news considering you must answer each question before the computer lets you move on. You do not want to spend too much time on one particular question. You only have 2.5 hours to answer all 140 questions. Remember, you can flag a question and work on it, if time permits, at the end of the exam.

Even though you take the test on a computer, your scores will not be available immediately. This is because of the calibration and scaling that occurs behind the scenes. It typically takes about 4 weeks to receive your scores in the mail. If you are taking the Mammography Exam as part of a state licensing requirement, your results will be sent directly to the state licensing board. The state board will then mail the results to you.

In addition to your overall score, you will receive a scaled score for the various content sections. This can be very useful, especially if you end up retaking the exam. You will know which areas to focus your studies on. Each section will receive a score between 1 and 10 in one-tenth point intervals. You can fail one section, ace the rest, and still pass the exam. These scores are scaled too, just like your overall score. Sum your section scores together and they will total your overall score.

Retaking the Exam

Not everyone will pass the Mammography Exam on their first attempt. Don’t despair because you will be able to take the exam again. There will be a waiting period to allow you to review your materials and focus your studies on the areas you struggled with. Each time you retake the exam you will have to re-register and pay another exam fee. ARRT does not allow you to take this exam every few months. You will be given three attempts in three years to pass before additional education is required.

Cancelling Your Scores

ARRT will cancel your test score if they feel the security of the exam has been compromised. If you are caught cheating, the consequences can be quite severe. It can even cost you your career as a mammography technologist. Cheating is not always the only security breach. Something else could have happened to the exam. If that occurs, ARRT will make arrangements for you to retake the exam at no cost to you.

Registering for the Mammography Exam

You will not be able to walk up to a testing center and take the Mammography Exam. You will need to pre-register with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). All candidates must meet the ethics, education, and clinical experience requirements before they can register. Once those requirements are met, you can begin filling out the application.

You will be asked to send a photograph along with the application request. Unfortunately, people have been known to send someone in their place to take this exam. So, ARRT does everything in its power to verify you are who you say you are. The photograph needs to be similar to a passport photo. It can be no bigger than 2×2 inches and can only show your head and shoulders. You cannot be wearing a hat or sunglasses. The photo must clearly show your eyes. ARRT will not accept retouched photos or photocopies of your driver’s license or hospital ID. The photo must have been taken within the last 6 months.

When filling out your application, make sure you write your name exactly as it is shown on your driver’s license or other forms of identification. Nicknames are not acceptable. You will be required to show these forms of identification at the testing center. If the name on your application does not match exactly, you will not be able to sit for the Mammography Exam. Your exam fee will not be refunded.

There is a fee to take the Mammography Exam. The fee has varied over the years. Expect to pay at least $200. If you are retaking the exam, there is a small discount. Your employer may assist you with this expense. Check your employer’s education benefit policy. Once you pay the fee, your money cannot be refunded or used for another certification category.

It can take ARRT up to 4 weeks to process your application. Once the application has been reviewed, you will receive a Candidate Status Report (CSR). If your application was denied, the report will provide details as to why. If you are approved, your report will provide an examination window and your 6 digit ARRT ID number. During this window, you will be responsible for scheduling the exam. This must be completed within 90 days of your application being approved. If you fail to schedule your exam, your application fee will be forfeited. You will then have to complete the entire application process once again.

All Mammography Exams are given at Pearson VUE testing centers. You get to pick which center you want to take the exam at. There about 200 of these centers scattered throughout the country. It is important not to wait too long to call and schedule your appointment. You do not have to schedule the exam 5 days after you receive your Status Report. However, you do want to make sure you can get your desired test time. These testing centers do not just administer the Mammography Exam. So, space can fill up rather quickly. Exams can be taken 6 days a week at most centers.

Once you schedule your exam, you will receive a confirmation statement from Pearson (via mail or e-mail) that your appointment has been scheduled. The confirmation will include the date and time of your exam, along with information about the testing center. Driving directions will also be available. You should receive this information within 5 days of making your appointment. Maybe you decided to call and make an appointment just 3 days out. Follow up with Pearson the day after you made the call to confirm your appointment.

Things happen in life and you may need to cancel or reschedule your exam. You must contact Pearson, not ARRT, to reschedule or cancel your exam. This must be done at least 24 business hours prior to your test day. If you are scheduled to take the exam on Monday, you must cancel by Friday. If you miss your exam appointment, your money will not be refunded. ARRT will make an exception if there is a death in the family, illness, or accident. You will have to send them a written request, complete with documentation, to see if they will grant you an exception. All requests must be received within 30 days of the scheduled exam day.

Benefits of Taking the Mammography Exam

You may be required to take the Mammography Exam as part of your state’s licensing requirements. If the Mammography Exam is not a requirement, should you still attempt to take it? Yes, you will have to spend hours of your precious free time preparing for the exam. You will even have to pay a few hundred dollars to take the test. However, the benefit of passing the exam far outweighs the time and money you will spend.

When you voluntarily take the Mammography Exam, you show that you are committed to your career. You have gone above the basic requirements of the job. Passing the exam helps you prove to employers that you have what it takes to be successful as a mammography technologist. There is an added benefit too. Once you pass, you become certified. As long as you meet certain continuing education requirements, you keep your certification throughout your entire career. Here’s a look at few more benefits you can look forward to once you pass the Mammography Exam.

  • Enhances Your Credentials – A mammography is one of the most important medical procedures a woman must undergo. Medical offices and hospitals want to make sure that they are hiring only the best mammography technologists. Most technologists will have taken the same type of training classes to ready themselves for this career. So, grades can help distinguish you from other candidates. Successfully passing the Mammography Exam can distinguish you even further. You did something that the other candidates did not. You took it upon yourself to voluntarily prove that you understand the key concepts every technologist should be skilled in. It shows that you are dedicated to your profession and motivated to do whatever it takes to succeed.
  • Increases Job Satisfaction – Confident individuals find their work more satisfying. They know they have the skills necessary to the job. They aren’t second guessing their decisions or wondering if they are doing their job correctly. This confidence not only benefits the individual. It also benefits their patients and the doctors they interact with. Passing the Mammography Exam will boost your confidence. You knew you were good at your job. Now you have the credentials to prove it.
  • More Challenging Assignments – Performing the same job duties day after day can become quite boring. Your employer just assumed that you were happy in your current role. When they learn that you have taken the Mammography Exam, they understand that you are ready to grow your career. You start receiving a few challenging assignments. Your input is requested on certain projects. You have a little more interaction with the attending physician. You are asked to participate in more training classes. Your work becomes even more fulfilling.
  • Career Advancement – Once you pass the Mammography Exam, your career opportunities improve. You haven’t just taken the required coursework and earned the minimum GPA. You went above and beyond and committed yourself to preparing and passing an industry-wide recognized exam. When it comes time to promote a mammography technologist in the office, you become one of the top candidates. Becoming certified improves your chances of moving into a supervisory role or head technologist position. You can confidently display that you passed the Mammography Exam on your resume. Employers will most likely give your resume a second-look. Your chances of landing an interview can significantly improve.
  • Leadership Opportunities – In every office, there is that one co-worker that people go to for information. This co-worker seems to know how to fix the x-ray glitch or have advice on dealing with difficult patients. Sometimes this co-worker has gained the experience on the job. Many times it is because the person has the education and credentials others co-workers do not. When your manager and co-workers learn that you have passed the exam, you become one of the knowledge leaders in the group. The team knows that you have the skills and understanding to deal with the most important issues facing mammography technicians.

Who Can Sit for the Mammography Exam?

Employers place a high value on those individuals who have passed the Mammography Exam. Passing the exam shows that a person is fully versed in the field of mammography. The person has met the nationally recognized standard for the field, proving she is a competent professional. However, not every mammography technologist will be able to sit for the Mammography Exam.

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) has laid out specific requirements that potential test takers must meet. They have a reputation to uphold. After all, ARRT is the world’s largest radiologic credentialing organization. They want employers, state licensing boards, and federal agencies to have faith in the quality of their exams and the quality of potential job candidates who pass the exams. So, they have developed the “Equation of Excellence” that every candidate must meet.

The “Equation of Excellence” has three parts: Eligibility, Education, and Exam. Candidates must successfully meet all three requirements to become certified. Once you pass the Mammography Exam, you will become a certified mammography technologist. Certification lasts for one year. To renew your certification, you will need to complete required continuing education classes. Let’s take an in-depth look at each part of the equation.


ARRT wants to ensure that every candidate is of “good moral character and must not have engaged in conduct that is inconsistent with the ARRT Rules of Ethics.” Their ethics requirement is very similar to the industry wide standard applied at doctor’s offices and hospitals. Ethics requirements help instill trust in the medical community. It is imperative that patients trust the medical personnel that are treating them.

During the application process, you will be asked about any crimes you have been convicted of, including misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, or felonies. You must provide a detailed account of the conviction along with official court documentation. If you had any drug or alcohol related violations, they must also be reported. You do not need to report parking tickets, speeding violations, or crimes committed as a juvenile.

You will also be required to disclose military court-martials that involve substance-abuse, patient-related infractions, or sex-related infractions. You must provide details as to why you were court-martialed, details of the sentence, and the current status of the sentence.

Being convicted of a crime does not automatically disqualify you. ARRT will take a look at your account of the incident and the official court documents to decide whether or not you are eligible to take the exam.


The Mammography Exam falls into ARRT’s post-primary category. So, you will need to be registered in their Radiography primary category before you can sit for the exam. You will need to have completed radiography coursework from an accredited university over the past 5 years to be eligible.

You will also be required to meet the clinical experience requirements. These requirements must be completed before you sign and submit your application request. Your mammography supervisor must also sign the form, confirming you have completed the requirements.

  • Complete the initial MQSA Requirements for mammography.
  • Perform mammography exams on 75 patients. These exams are in addition to the 25 exams that meet the MQSA requirement.
  • Fulfill the experience requirement for quality control. Candidates will need to choose either film-screen (C1) or digital pathway (C2)
  • Observe, participate, or report on at least 4 of the following procedures: needle localization, breast MRI, breast ultrasound, stereotactic procedure, breast implant imaging, diagnostic work-up, ductography
  • Actively review at least 20 different exams with an MQSA qualified physician


Once you meet the ethics and education requirements, you will be able to sit for the Mammography Exam. Hopefully, you will pass on your first attempt. If not, you will be given three more attempts during a three year time period. Your three year window begins with your initial exam date. Once you pass, you will not have to take the exam again as long as you keep your certification current.

What to Expect on the Day of the Mammography Exam

The Mammography Exam is given at Pearson VUE testing centers located across the country. It does not matter which center you end up taking you’re the exam at. Each will follow the same rules and regulations. If you fail to comply with the rules or bring in prohibited items, you will be removed from the testing center and your scores will be cancelled.

Check-In Procedures

Your appointment time indicates the time your exam begins, not the time you need to be at the testing center. It is recommended that you arrive at least 30 minutes before the actual appointment time to check-in. Individuals arriving at least 15 minutes past their appointment time will not necessarily be allowed to sit for the exam.

You will be required to present 2 forms of identification at the testing center. Your primary identification can be a government issued driver’s license, passport photograph, or state ID card. It must have your picture and signature on it. Your name must exactly match the name on the application you submitted. Your second form of identification can be an employee badge, social security card, credit card, school ID, or ATM card. You will also be asked to provide a digital signature.

The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) wants to make sure that test takers will not cheat. So, they are now requiring a palm vein scan. This biometric procedure scans your palm vein, creating a digital image of your unique vein pattern. If you leave the testing room for any reason, your palm vein scan will be matched with the one you provided at check-in. This prevents a person from switching places and having another person take the exam for them.

Prohibited Items

All Mammography Exam responses will be recorded on the computer. So, there is no need to bring pens or pencils with you. The testing center will provide you a pen and an erasable whiteboard to use as scratch paper. If you need additional pens or boards, the testing center will provide them for you. Since they are the property of the testing center, you cannot remove them from your computer station.

You are not allowed to bring in cell phones, pagers, headphones, calculators, or other electronic equipment to the testing room. Digital watches are even prohibited because they could be used as a calculator. This exam is not open book, so you can’t bring in any reference materials, textbooks, or dictionaries in. Food and drink is also prohibited.

The testing center will provide secure lockers where you can store your purse, car keys, or cell phone. All phones and pagers must be turned off, even if they are stored in the locker. You cannot access the lockers during the exam. ARRT wants to make sure that you can’t run to the lockers, look up an answer, and return to the exam room.

Computer Procedures

Once you check-in, a testing official will take you to your computer station. You will not be the only person in the room taking an exam. If you are concerned that your fellow test-takers gnashing of teeth, humming, or sighing will distract you, ask for a pair of earplugs.

The exam will begin with a 20 minute tutorial. This tutorial gives you the chance to become familiar with the computer, the on-line calculator, and mouse procedures. The questions you answer during the tutorial do not count towards your overall score. You can skip over them, but they do help you build up your confidence.

You are not permitted to walk around the testing room. If you need assistance or need to take a break, you must raise your hand. A staff member will come and help you resolve your issue. This includes any computer malfunctions that may occur. Malfunctions are not that common, but have occurred. If the computer experienced issues that impacted your ability to finish, make sure a staff member fills out a report. You will also need to contact ARRT, within 2 business days, so they can hold your score and investigate the incident.

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