Diagnostic Cytopathology

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 Diagnostic Cytopathology enables you to demonstrate the scientific and clinical knowledge that underpins the assessment of non-gynaecological cytology specimens. Candidates who achieve an IBMS Advanced Specialist Diploma (ASD) in Diagnostic Cytopathology will be able to:

  • undertake a role that involves the acquisition, preparation, assessment and reporting of selected non-gynaecological cytology specimens, including those where a clinically significant diagnosis is made
  • offer expert professional advice on non-gynaecological cytology specimen reporting 
  • participate in the training of biomedical scientists and specialist trainee medical staff in the reporting of normal and abnormal non-gynaecological cytology

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

Further information

Who can apply for the ASD in Diagnostic Cytopathology

Applicants must be a Member or Fellow of the IBMS, HCPC registered and hold an IBMS Diploma in Expert Practice in Diagnostic Cytopathology and /or the Diploma of Interpretative and Diagnostic Cytology. You must also have seven years post registration experience in non-gynaecological cytology with substantial experience (at least 4 years) in pre-reporting for consultant pathologists  and reporting negative sample as well as have more than three years at a senior level involvement with preparation, quality management, EQA and IQC of the relevant categories of non-gynaecological specimens

you must also:

  • 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

Please note 
In the guidance document, the eligibility criteria state that you need to be a Fellow of the Institute to undertake either qualification. This is no longer the case. Applicants will be accepted from those who have Member (MIBMS) status of the Institute and who successfully completed the DEP in Diagnostic Cytopathology as long as they meet the other stated criteria. 


ASD in Diagnostic Cytopathology qualification structure

IBMS Advanced Specialist Diploma (ASD) in Diagnostic Cytopathology 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 the specimen types covered by this qualification by your named consultant pathologist supervisor. 

Details of what must be included in the portfolio of evidence are described in the guidance to candidates and trainers document. Once your named consultant pathologist supervisor is satisfied that your training is complete you can submit your portfolio and go on to the written and practical examinations. 

Guidance to candidates and trainers

Please note that this guidance uses the old title of this qualification namely the ASD in Non-Gynaecological Cytology. The guidance document will be updated shortly. 

ASD in Diagnostic Cytopathology assessment

The examination of an  IBMS Advanced Specialist Diploma (ASD) in Diagnostic Cytopathology involves three assessments:

  • a portfolio assessment 
  • a written examination
  • a practical microscopy 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, which will include including case-based scenarios.

Practical microscopy examination

Short Cases: You will be expected to review 12 cases in 72 minutes and provide their diagnosis along with any confirmatory ancillary tests that should be undertaken where appropriate.

Long Cases: Candidates will be expected to review six cases in 120 minutes. 

ASD in Diagnostic Cytopathology key dates

ASD in Diagnostic Cytopathology - 2024 Exam Series 

Closing date for applications: Friday 16 February 2024

Portfolio Submission Deadline: Friday 1 March 2024

Shadow Reporting (for those wanting to re-sit their exams): Friday 1 March 2024

Written Examination: (sat in your local hospital): Tuesday 7 May

Microscopy Examinations: These will take place between Wednesday 3 and Friday 5 July at NEPSEC in Wakefield. The exact day will depend on the number of candidates who pass (or who have previously passed and have 'banked')  the written exam.

Portfolio Submission Information: Candidates intending to submit their portfolio in 2024 should note that the Institute will not be accepting hard copies versions of portfolio. It could be submitted either via email(s) or by providing a link to a shared folder such as, but not limited to, One Drive, We Transfer or Google Docs. The shared folder should not require the Head of Examinations to set up an account to access the information but could require a password which should be sent with the link to the shared folder. The portfolio can also be submitted by placing it on a USB stick and sending that to the IBMS marked for my attention as the Head of Examinations.

If the portfolio is being submitted via email(s) or a link to a shared folder the email address to use is

Training Events: The North of England Pathology Screening and Education Centre (NEPSEC) are running event in early 2024 to support those undertaking this qualification. See the resources section below for more information.

ASD in Diagnostic Cytopathology 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

Fees can be paid by: 

  • credit or debit card payment by phone on +44 (0)207 731 0214 ext 142 or 
  • purchase order from your hospital Trust

You can apply to undertake an IBMS Advanced Specialist Diploma (ASD) in Diagnostic Cytopathology:

  • before you begin your training or
  • while you undertake your training and complete your portfolio of evidence

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 11 December 2023)

We are pleased to inform that a training grant of £1,000 per candidate continues to be available to employers of candidates in England who are undertaking the DEP or ASD in Diagnostic Cytopathology or ASD in Cervical Cytology. More information on the grant that is available and how and when it can be claimed can be found here.


ASD in Diagnostic Cytopathology resources

Guidance to candidates and trainers includes an indicative reading list

This document still uses the old title of the ASD in Non-Gynaecological Cytology. This document will be updated shortly.

Guidance on Recognising and Avoiding Plagiarism

North of England Pathology Screening and Education Centre (NEPSEC) Training Event

The NEPSEC will be running a two-day event on 27 and 28 February at NEPSEC in Wakefield and will cover both the written and practical exam elements of this qualification. More details about the training event can be found here. The event is not mandatory, but they provide useful advice, tips, guidance and experience for those undertaking this qualification.

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.