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MWC® FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONSThe Medical Writer Certified (MWC®) credential helps identify professional communicators who have essential competencies required for the work of a medical writer. Certification is granted to applicants who fulfill all eligibility requirements and pass the certification examination. To help you understand the requirements and decide whether to apply for certification, we have provided answers to some questions (FAQs) below. However, the FAQs are meant only to complement information already included in the Applicant and Candidate Handbook.
Learn more from the video: Earning The MWC®: What You Need to Know
How is MWC® Certification Different from an AMWA Certificate?
Chart adapted from the CFRE International website
What is the difference between MWC® and other exams, such as those offered by ISMPP, BELS, OR RAPS?
Each of these exams has a different focus and purpose. The MWC® was developed because of the need for a certification exam focused on core competencies of professional medical writers with a broad range of medical writing backgrounds and specialties. The knowledge, skills, and abilities tested through the MWC® are specific to medical writing and supported by data gathered through a job analysis survey of more than 1,000 professional medical writers. A small amount of overlap may exist among the exams, but the MWC® is not, for example, meant to compete with any other exam. Medical writers with expertise in the subject matter covered by the other exams (for instance, publication planning, editing, or regulatory affairs) may also want to certify in those areas.
You need not be an AMWA member, although AMWA members receive a discount on the application fee for certification and on educational resources that may help them prepare for the exam. If you are not a member, consider joining AMWA today.
Do I have to have a degree?
A bachelor's degree in any field of study is required. Exceptions to the requirement may be granted for individuals with at least 5 full-time years (or equivalent) of verifiable work experience in the field. Experience must have been in a paid capacity within the last 10 years.
How many years of experience as a medical communicator do I need to be eligible?
A minimum of 2 years of full-time work experience or the equivalent (eg. 4 years of documented part-time work at 20 hours/week) within the past 5 years. Experience must be in a paid capacity in the field of medical writing.For a more detailed explanation of what activities constitute 2 years of paid medical writing experience, including examples, please review the Qualifying Work Experience document.
How is the relevance of work experience determined?
Please see AMWA’s definition of a medical communicator (below) and the content outline for the examination to determine whether your job experience would meet the eligibility requirements. The content outline included in the MWC Examination Candidate Study Guide delineates the core competencies of medical writers.
Medical communicators write, edit, or develop materials about medicine and health. They do this by gathering, evaluating, organizing, interpreting, and presenting information in a manner appropriate for the target audience. Professional medical writers also have communication expertise, awareness of ethical standards, and health care knowledge.
If I am an academician with extensive science writing and editing experience or a clinician who has co-authored manuscripts, do I meet the eligibility criteria?
If you have 2 years of documented work experience with primarily medical writing/communications responsibilities, you are eligible to apply for the exam.
If I am a scientific writer (rather than a medical writer), do I qualify to take the exam?
Medical writing is considered a subset of scientific writing, and some medical writers have “scientific writer” titles. To qualify for the examination, a scientific writer should be working in a biomedical field. For example, many scientific writers work in the fields of translational or biological research, which would qualify them to meet the requirements.
I don’t have a bachelor’s degree. Can I take the exam?
Individuals with at least 5 full-time years (or equivalent) of verifiable work experience in the field can take the exam without having a bachelor’s degree. Experience must have been in a paid capacity within the past 10 years.
I am a freelance medical writer. How do I document my work experience?
You probably have clients for whom you have worked on multiple projects. Those clients can serve as references. Other documentation might potentially include copies of contracts or proposals and Internal Revenue Service 1099 forms from clients.
Who can write my letters of reference?
Two letters of reference are required to be from current or former supervisors, employers, clients, or colleagues that are able to attest to your knowledge, skills, and experience in medical writing. The Request Form for Letter of Reference provides additional details about what information should be included in the letter.
THE EXAMINATIONHow is the exam offered?
The MWC Examination is administered via computer based testing (CBT) in a secure, proctored setting. It is offered at more than 300 testing centers throughout the world by the testing administration company, Iso-Quality Testing, Inc. (IQT). The examination can be taken at a location of the approved candidate’s choosing within date ranges set by the Medical Writing Certification Commission.For a complete list of testing centers, please see https://www.isoqualitytesting.com/locations.aspx.
Are any special accommodations available when I take the exam?
Submit the Special Accommodations Request Form if you have a disability that is covered by the American With Disabilities Act of 1990 that would affect your ability to take the examination. The form and documentation letter must be received at least 4 weeks before the exam date.
How do I know what to study? Review the MWC Examination Candidate Study Guide and consider studying from some of the suggested resources, especially in content areas that may be less familiar to you.
What is the minimum score necessary to pass the certification examination?
As with most certification examinations, the minimum passing score is re-examined periodically using psychometrically valid procedures to ensure that passing standards are aligned with current standards of professional practice. Because a different set of questions is used in each version of the exam, steps are taken to ensure that the passing standard remains consistent regardless of the exam version being taken; this process is generally referred to as equating and is performed using candidate score data from the version of the exam being administered. Therefore, the minimum passing score cannot be determined before each version of the exam is administered.
Can you clarify the breakdown of scoring among the domains that is necessary to pass the exam?
The Examination Content Outline on page 4 of the Candidate Study Guide identifies the approximate percentage of questions to be included from each domain (identifying, presenting, etc.) on each administration of the exam. This distribution is based on the percentages assigned to the domains identified by the medical writing job analysis, as described in the Applicant and Candidate Handbook. Whether a candidate passes the exam, however, is based only on the total score; a specified score need not be achieved in each domain.
Is a test taker better off skipping questions or answering them all, whether they are right or wrong?
Questions that are answered incorrectly or are skipped entirely are treated the same (ie, wrong answers are not subtracted from right answers), so you should try to answer every question. There is no penalty (or credit) for incorrect answers, and all questions are weighted equally. As there are 4 choices for each question, you will have a 25% chance of selecting the correct answer. Because you will likely know enough to exclude at least 1 or 2 choices, your odds of getting the question correct by guessing probably exceed 25%.
If I don't have experience in an area covered in the exam, should I apply? Would I have a chance of passing the exam?
The exam includes some questions on specific areas of medical writing (for example, writing journal articles, writing for general readerships, and regulatory writing), in keeping with the breadth of medical writing as a field. However, it contains relatively few questions on any individual area, and many of the questions apply to multiple areas. If you are working as a medical writer, you should have much of the basic knowledge required for the exam. To gain background in areas where you lack experience, you can study material in the listed resources. So, in summary, you need not have experience in every area of medical writing to pass the exam.
What are some tips for taking the exam?
The exam consists of 125 questions, so be aware of the time remaining as you work through the exam. Remember that there is no penalty (or credit) for wrong answers, so try to answer every question.