CPIA® Program Item Writing Instructions

Item Writing

CPIAs have the option to earn continuing education credit hours by submitting exam items (exam questions) for approval. Items must be scenario-based and pertain to emerging trends and hot topics. Credential holders earn two credit hours for every five questions accepted by the CPIA Council, up to a maximum of 10 credits.

The CPIA Council reserves the right to accept or deny items, and to require item authors to revise their questions in order to conform to the specifications listed on this page.


Stem (Question) Training and instruction of personnel must include guidance in which of the following areas?
Distractor (incorrect answer) a. Effective writing of animal use proposals
Distractor (incorrect answer) b. Proper use of personal protective equipment
Distractor (incorrect answer) d. Appropriate communication with animal activist groups
Key (correct answer) d. Research or testing methods that limit the use of animals
Key Reference (source of correct answer) PHS Policy IV.A1.g, AWAR 2.32(c)(2)


  • All questions must be realistic and fact-based and all answer options must be plausible; the scenarios presented in the questions and answer options should be scenarios that are likely to have been encountered by an individual with two years of IACUC administration experience.
    • There should not be questions based on scenarios that would only be encountered by those in senior positions, or those who are not involved in the day-to-day administration of an IACUC.
    • Topics cannot include institutional policies and procedures, protocol management software, or species-specific animal care/husbandry issues.
  • All questions should focus on a single concept, and the candidate should be able to answer the question based on the information provided and make no other assumptions about the scenario.
  • All questions and answer options cannot include slang, idioms, or cultural references.
  • All questions must be in multiple-choice format, with four plausible answer options and one correct option.
    • The options cannot include "all of the above" or "none of the above" or any other combination of answer options.
  • The question stem must either appear in question form or as an incomplete statement.
    • They cannot be true/false questions
    • They cannot be fill-in-the-blank statements
    • They cannot be negatively worded
    • Avoid using terms such as always, never, or which of the following…
  • Answer options must have parallel construction and be of similar length.
    • For example, one answer option cannot only consist of a noun if the other answer options include a noun and a verb.
    • For example, one answer option cannot be a job title if all of the other answer options are federal agencies.

Content and References

Questions must relate to a topic covered in the CPIA Body of Knowledge/Content Outline and be based on information necessary for IACUC administrators to conduct their work. The correct answer must be found within the Key References. Both the Body of Knowledge/Content Outline and the Key References can be found in the CPIA Handbook.


Please submit your examination items via email to the CPIA Council at certification@primr.org. Your documentation should include the following:

  • Exam items and four plausible answer options
  • Correct answer
  • Content area the question covers
  • Key Reference (including the section/chapter, if applicable) to which the question relates

Sample Examination Items

Please note that the correct answers are in bold, and the Key References to which each question relates are also included.

Exam Instructions: In the following questions, choose the one best answer.

Which of the following is a required member of the IACUC?

  1. Institutional official
  2. Laboratory animal technician
  3. Individual not otherwise affiliated with the institution
  4. Representative from a local animal advocacy organization

Key Reference: PHS Policy IV.A.3.b, AWAR 2.31(b)(3)(ii). Guide pg. 24

Note that all four options are job titles/descriptions.

According to USDA Regulations, an IACUC may have no more than how many members from any one administrative unit?

  1. 3
  2. 4
  3. 5
  4. 6

Key Reference: AWAR 2.31(b)(4)

Note that all four options are numbers within a similar range; if one of the options were to be a number quite different from than the others (e.g., 30), that would be an indication.

The IACUC may suspend an activity only after

  1. A vote of a majority of the quorum present at a convened meeting.
  2. A discussion with the Principal Investigator takes place.
  3. The institutional official has been notified in writing of the event.
  4. All fact finding of the event has been conducted and documented.

Key Reference: PHS Policy IV.C.6, AWAR 2.31(d)(xi)(6)



If you have any questions, please contact the PRIM&R office by email at certification@primr.org or by calling 617.617.303.1868.