Cervical Cytology

Demonstrate the highest levels of knowledge and skill and advance your career with an IBMS Advanced Specialist Diploma 

The IBMS Advanced Specialist Diploma (ASD) in Cervical Cytology enables you to demonstrate the scientific and clinical knowledge that underpins the practice of cervical cytology and the practical competence required to screen, interpret and report normal and abnormal cervical cytology results. Candidates who achieve an IBMS Advanced Specialist Diploma (ASD) in Cervical Cytology will be able to:

  • undertake a role that involves the independent interpretation, evaluation and reporting of cervical cytology samples
  • offer expert professional advice on patient management and follow-up
  • participate in the training of biomedical scientists and specialist trainee medical staff in the reporting of normal and abnormal cervical cytology samples

 On achieving an IBMS in ASD in Cervical Cytology you will be eligible to upgrade to a Fellow of the IBMS.

 Further information

Who can apply for Cervical Cytology

Applicants must be a Member or Fellow of the IBMS, HCPC registered and hold the NHS CSP/City & Guilds Certificate in Cervical Cytology or the equivalent BSCC/IBMS Certificate of Competence in Cytology Screening. You must also have at least seven years post-registration experience or primary screening in cervical cytology and at least three years experience of “checking” and service management within the screening programme.

as well as:

  • have a single named consultant pathologist trainer who has overall responsibility for mentoring and guiding you and monitoring your progress
  • undertake your training in a laboratory with UKAS (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) registration
  • undertake your training in a laboratory with IBMS post-registration training approval

Cervical Cytology qualification structure

IBMS Advanced Specialist Diploma (ASD) in Cervical Cytology is a professional vocational qualification assessed by a portfolio of evidence and examination.

The portfolio of evidence provides a record of your training and should contain evidence of regular assessments of your competence in reporting cervical cytology results by your named consultant pathologist supervisor. 

Your portfolio should include:

  • answers to 7 questions on cervical cytology listed in the candidate guidance
  • a shadow reporting log must be submitted of  at least 500 cases
  • evidence of the regular case review of at least 50 cases from the shadow reporting log
  • a total of ten case studies
  • three audits
  • a record of training programmes or courses attended
  • a record of the MDT meetings attended
  • appropriate reflection

Once your named consultant pathologist supervisor is satisfied that your training is complete you can submit your portfolio and if that is judged to have met the standard required go on to the written and practical examinations.  

Guidance to candidates and trainers

Portfolio assessment indicators


Cervical Cytology assessment

The examination of an IBMS Advanced Specialist Diploma in Cervical Cytology involves three assessments:

  • a portfolio assessment 
  • a written examination
  • a practical  examination 
Portfolio assessment

You must meet 28 standards in order to pass your portfolio assessment and progress to the written and practical examinations.

Your portfolio will be independently assessed by two members of the Conjoint Examination Board. 

Written examination 

You will be expected to answer four out of six short-answer questions in 90 minutes covering the following areas: 

  • morphology
  • screening
  • service development
  • clinical aspects of cervical screening
  • new developments in cervical screening
  • quality assurance and audit
Practical microscopy examination

Short Cases
You will be expected to screen 12 slides in 72 minutes with summary clinical information and prepare full reports comparable to HMR 101/5 including appropriate management with free text comments if necessary.

Long Cases
In this examination candidates will be expected to review 8 cases in 120 minutes consisting of slides with summary clinical information, preparing full reports and discussion on all eight cases. 


Cervical Cytology key dates

ASD in Cervical Cytology - 2022 Exam Series

  • Closing date for applications - Friday 4 March
  • Portfolio submission deadline - Friday 25 March
  • Shadow Reporting Logs (ASD Only) - Friday 8 April
  • Written Examination - Monday 9 May (to be sat in own local hospital)
  • Microscopy Examination date - Wednesday 22 to Friday 24 June (date will depend on number of candidates and social distancing arrangements that need to be in place at the time

Candidates intending to submit their portfolio in 2022 should note that the Institute will not be accepting hard copies versions of portfolio. Candidates must  submit an electronic version of the portfolio of experiential learning to the Head of Examinations at the Institute offices via email to: 

Training Events

The North of England Pathology Screening and Education Centre (NEPSEC) are running  a two-day training session covering both the written and microscopy exam. This event is not mandatory but will be useful for those undertaking the qualification. More details about the training event can be found here.

Cervical Cytology fees and how to apply

To apply for the qualification in the year in which you plan to submit your portfolio for assessment you will need to submit to the IBMS Examinations Team

  • payment of £440 (from January 2022), along with
  • a completed application form 

to the IBMS Examinations Team.

Fees can be paid by: 

  • credit or debit card payment by phone on +44 (0)207 731 0214 or 
  • purchase order from your hospital Trust

Once your application has been accepted you will be sent confirmation of your candidacy and a reminder of the submission deadline for your portfolio. Please note that if you withdraw from the qualification at any point a £50 administrative fee will be applied to any refund.

Training Grant Available (Updated August 2021)

In November 2020 the IBMS announced new funding for Institute members undertaking IBMS/RCPath Histopathology qualifications. The full statement can be found here.

We are pleased to inform a training grant is also available who work in England who sit the DEP in Histological Dissection, DEP in Non-Gynaecological Cytology, ASD in Histological Dissection, ASD in Cervical Cytology or ASD in Non-Gynaecological exam in 2021 or 2022. More information on the grant that is available and how and when it can be claimed can be found here.

Cervical Cytology resources

Guidance on Recognising and Avoiding Plagiarism

For information about Training sessions to support those undertaking the ASD in Cervical Cytology please see they key dates section above.

You can find discipline-specific reading lists to support you in completing an  IBMS Advanced Specialist Diploma in Cervical Cytology on our science reading page.

You can find articles and online resources to support you in completing an  IBMS Advanced Specialist Diploma in Cervical Cytology in our resources section

British Association for Cytopathology website

Exam Practice for the Advanced Practice Diploma

Position Statement on Role Requirements and Banding for Scientists undertaking Reporting within Cellular Pathology Departments

As an aid to departments wishing to utilise the opportunities offered by the scientist reporter the Institute has described in outline the expected job content, the qualifications required for each role and the appropriate Agenda for Change (or equivalent) pay grade. The position statement can be found here.

Deferrals, withdrawals and mitigating circumstances

If you wish to defer, withdraw or highlight any mitigating circumstances please contact as soon as possible.