[Histonet] hardness of HT exam
The question was raised - Has the HT (and HTL) exam has gotten harder over
the years?. Yes and No, from my point of view.
Yes - because there are always new topics. Things that were NOT on my
certification exam (many years ago) but that I have to teach now:
- AIDS, various hepatitis, PCP, Legionella
- lot more IHC
- automated equipment (coverslippers, H&E stainers, special stainers)
- new stains
- regulations (CLIA, CAP, JCAHO)
Every year, I add 1 or 2 new lectures, just to keep up with the changes in
But that's the natural progression of any medical field.
No - because many of the questions are the same. If it was a good question
about GMS/fungus 10 years ago, it is still a good question, and is still
being used. Many of the questions in the exam pools have been around for
years (decades even). My students talk to me after the exam, and they
mention the same questions.
No - because all the questions are benchmarked. That means - the ASCP
histology exam committee knows the pass rate of the "established" questions.
These questions have consistently had the same percent of people pass each
time these questions are used. When a new question is used, it's pass rate
is measured against "established" questions used on the same exam. If a
question is out of it's "normal" range, that question is not counted on that
exam, and the exam committee reviews the question, to see why it's pass rate
changed. (old technology, typing error, whatever)
No - because some of the questions on the exams are "test" questions - in
other words, the committee is trying a couple out for the first time, to get
statistics as to pass rate. These questions are NOT used in the applicants'
pass rate. Some of these questions may be very tough on purpose, on new
technology, or poorly written (not intentionally, but realized after
re-evaluation based on the pass rate for that question), etc. But there have
always been questions being tested for the first time. So this is nothing
So why the perceptions that the exam is harder in the past year?
My opinion - a lot of people are taking the exam to meet the 2005 associate
degree deadline. In the years past (not including the 2003/2004 rush to take
the exam because of the associate degree deadline), about 600 people per
year were attempting the exam with about a 50% pass rate. So about 300 would
In 2004, there were 480 that took the exam the first half of the year, and
the numbers for the second have were reported via histonet to be around
1000. That means almost 1500 people took the HT exam last year, or more than
double the usual number.
And, the usual pass rate for the HT exam over the years is about 50%. So,
based on past years, we can expect more numbers of people failing in 2004
(700+) than usually even attempt to take the exam in any other year.
(Remember, this is my opinion at this time, and not based on any statistics
that have been published.)
Plus, Histonet is letting a larger community of people hear from people who
have failed, or who work with someone who fails. So many histonetters are
hearing the failure stories for the first time. As a program director, I've
been hearing from people for years (and years). My opinion is that the
failure rate has been constant for the past years. I'd love to hear from
other program directors about this.
I'll let everyone know the pass rate for July-Dec 2004, when they come out.
Peggy A. Wenk, HTL(ASCP)SLS
William Beaumont Hospital
Royal Oak, MI 48073
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