ASCP CERTIFICATION EXAMINATION
ADVANCED CLINICAL PSYCHOPHARMACOLOGY
American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 2008
1. How long has the ASCP exam been around?
The exam was first given in 1999, and has been given at least once per year.
2. Why do you give the exam prior to the APA meeting?
The APA Annual Meeting is the best attended meeting in psychiatry, making this venue
convenient for many psychiatrists. The APA meeting is also held in large U.S. and
Canadian cities, which also makes it convenient for many non-psychiatric physicians.
3. Are non-psychiatric physicians eligible to take the exam?
More than half of psychiatric patients in the U.S. are seen by primary care and other
physicians. ASCP believes that every physician should be as up to date as possible in the
use of psychotropic drugs and have to opportunity to be certified as an advanced
practitioner in the field.
4. Why does the exam lead to “advanced” certification?
ASCP understands that basic education in psychopharmacology takes place in medical
school and residency training. This education is extensive, and is a core part of medical
training. However, we also believe that some physicians will want to take part in
advanced, self-directed education, and receive recognition for completing that training
5. What is the relationship between this exam and the Boards?
We require that physicians be board certified by the recognized national board in the
U.S., Canada, or the United Kingdom (in any medical specialty). (In the U.S., this means
any board of the American Board of Medical Specialties). However, there is no
relationship between ASCP or the ASCP exam and any of these boards.
6. Why do I have to be Board certified to take the ASCP exam?
The ASCP exam does not lead to basic certification, but rather to certification in
advanced psychopharmacology. Board certification provides evidence that the candidate
has achieved basic competence in an area of medicine, and can move on to advanced
7. Why don’t you recognize other Boards?
There are many board exams given in the U.S., and other countries often have board
exams. The ASCP is unable to evaluate each of these, and therefore restricts eligibility to
ABMS boards and the national boards of Canada and the United Kingdom, which are
usually regarded as equivalent to the ABMS boards.
8. Will this exam help me in Board Recertification?
There is no direct connection between the ASCP exam and Board Recertification in the
U.S. However, because the ASCP exam is continually updated to include the latest
information on psychopharmacology, it can be a valuable resource in studying for
9. What kind of feedback will I get?
If you do not pass, ASCP will provide you with information on the areas of the exam in
which you did not do well. This information is intended to be a guide for future study.
10. Will I get a certificate if I pass?
A certificate will be provided by ASCP.
11. What is the pass rate?
Since 2003 the overall pass rate has been 86%.
12. What are the photographs for?
Photographs protect yourself and other candidates. ASCP must be certain that the person
taking the exam is the person who applied. This is common practice in other Board
examination processes. These photographs are available to the exam proctors, and not to
the individuals scoring the exam. Nor are these photographs shared with any outside
group or person.
13. I can’t get to the next exam. Is there an alternate date?
Beginning in 2008, ASCP will offer the exam an alternate date which is the Monday after
our fall CME meeting in New York. The location of the alternate date exam will be The
Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens. The ASCP office can provide specific dates and
14. Why is the spring sitting of exam always on a Saturday?
Because we give the exam prior to the APA Annual Meeting, we must abide by the APA
rules. These include not having such meetings on Sunday (the day the APA meeting
starts). Friday is problematic because many candidates are also planning to attend the
APA meeting, and would be less likely to sit for the exam 2 days before the start of the
APA or be away from their offices for another week day.
15. Who writes the questions?
Exam questions are written by the members of ASCP, and vetted through an extensive
critique process by the Examination Committee.
16. How is the exam graded?
The exam is machine graded by an outside firm, which does not have access to candidate
information. Questions which are missed by a significant number of candidates are
reviewed by the Examination Committee, which either retains the question or eliminates
it. If questions are eliminated due to ambiguity or inaccuracy, the exam is rescored.
17. When is the exam updated?
The exam is reviewed at least once per year by the Examination Committee. Questions
may be changed to reflect new research findings and new modes of practice. New
questions are often added, and older questions eliminated.
17. Is there a recommended reading list for study?
A list of recommended texts and journals is available from the ASCP central office and
on the ASCP web site (www.ascpp.org). This is a general list, as the goal of the
examination is to encourage broad study of the field, rather than focus on a few sources.
18. Can ASCP provide sample questions?
No. In board-style exams, a few questions cannot represent the exam as a whole. Sample
questions could be misleading either in the direction of being more or less difficult than
the majority of the exam.
19. Does ASCP release the pass rate?
As noted above, ASCP releases the combined pass rate over time, but does not release the
pass rate for a particular exam. In terms of difficulty, individuals who have taken the
exam have found it challenging, but having studied diligently, the great majority do well.
A numerical pass rate only indicates how candidates do on average, and varies widely
from one group of candidates to the next. Such rates do not give the potential candidate
any useful guidance as to whether he or she might pass.
20. What happens if I cancel?
The policy for cancellation is attached.