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Multilevel Certification Program

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The ABFA recognizes that individuals practice forensic anthropology with varying education, training, and experience. Accordingly, the new Multilevel Certification Program provides a feasible and equitable system to certify practitioners who possess the requisite qualifications and competencies at two distinct levels: Analyst and Diplomate. The ABFA has defined competencies for each certification with the intent that practitioners must be certified as an Analyst prior to pursuing Diplomate certification. While the ABFA is not a governmental licensing body, it encourages individuals to focus their scope of practice on the skills and abilities for which they are certified. Certification will be granted based on a review of the candidate’s education, training, experience, moral character, and passing of a formal examination designed to test specific knowledge, skills, and abilities. 

Implementation Timeline

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The ABFA will implement the multi-level certification program in stages, beginning with the 2025 application cycle. 2025 is the last year the D-ABFA exam in its current format will be offered, and in 2025 the ABFA will begin accepting applications for the 2026 Analyst Exam. In 2026, the exams will transition to the new format. The ABFA will only offer the Analyst Exam for the 2026 examination cycle. 2027 will be the first year both new exam formats will be offered (A-ABFA and D-ABFA).


NOTE: If an individual is approved to sit for the 2026 Analyst Exam (first offering at this level) and anticipates applying to sit for the 2027 Diplomate Exam (first offering of the new format) in 2026, they may begin working on their Diplomate application before taking the Analyst Exam and/or learning the outcome. If they pass the Analyst Exam, have completed their case files for review, and have met all other requirements by the December 2026 deadline, they may choose to apply for the 2027 Diplomate Exam; however, individuals are not required to submit a Diplomate application in the same year they passed the Analyst exam. If they fail the Analyst exam, application materials (e.g., case files) may be used for future applications as long as they meet all updated requirements. A breakdown of this timeline is provided in bulleted and table format below.
 

2024

  • Jan 1 – July 1: Accepting current application for the 2025 Diplomate Exam

Note: Applicants approved to sit for the 2025 Diplomate Exam (traditional format) who defer or fail any portion of the 2025 D-ABFA Exam will be required to submit a new application prior to taking the 2026 Analyst Exam. The ABFA Board of Directors has approved an expedited Analyst Application process to allow these individuals to apply to sit for the 2026 Analyst Exam even though the official application period has already closed. In this scenario, the individual submits a formal petition to the Board requesting the use of their previously accepted D-ABFA Application towards their Analyst Application; if granted, they will be able to sit for the 2026 Analyst Exam. These individuals may also petition to waive the Analyst Application fee, but they will be required to pay the Analyst Exam fee. The expedited Analyst Application is due by April 1, 2026. See the 2026 dates below for details regarding the application for the 2027 Diplomate Exam.

  • Summer/Fall: Administer 2024 traditional D-ABFA Practical and Written Examinations

  • July/November: How to Apply Sessions—Analyst/Diplomate—New exam format information

2025

  • Jan 1 – July 1: Accepting applications for the 2026 Analyst Exam (A-ABFA)

Note: No Diplomate (D-ABFA) applications accepted during this time due to new format.

  • Summer/Fall: Administer 2025 traditional Diplomate Practical and Written Examinations

Note: This is the last D-ABFA exam in current format; deferrals and examinees failing one/both parts will need to submit a new application to sit for the Analyst Exam. The ABFA Board of Directors has approved an expedited Analyst Application process to allow these individuals to apply to sit for the 2026 Analyst Exam even though the official application period has already closed. In this scenario, the individual submits a formal petition to the Board requesting the use of their previously accepted D-ABFA Application towards their Analyst Application; if granted, they will be able to sit for the 2026 Analyst Exam. These individuals may also petition to waive the Analyst Application fee, but they will be required to pay the Analyst Exam fee. The expedited Analyst Application is due by April 1, 2026. See the 2026 dates below for details regarding the application for the 2027 Diplomate Exam.

  • July/November: How to Apply Sessions—Analyst/Diplomate—New exam format information

2026

  • Apr 1: Deadline for submitting an Expedited Analyst Application for the 2026 Analyst Exam (option is only for those that deferred or failed the 2025 D-ABFA exam).

  • Jan 1 – July 1: Accepting applications for the 2027 Analyst Exam (A-ABFA)

Note: No Diplomate applications accepted during this time due to new format.

  • Summer: Administer 2026 Analyst Exam

  • July 1 – December 1: Accepting applications for the 2027 Diplomate (D-ABFA) Exam (new format). Individuals who defer or fail one or both portions of the 2025 D-ABFA Exam, and then pass the 2026 Analyst Exam, may petition the Board (within 30 days of receiving notification of their Analyst Exam results) to use portions of their previous applications toward the 2027 Diplomate Exam and to waive the application fee, if their materials meet all updated application requirements. Anyone who fails the 2026 A-ABFA exam will be held to the PPM rules regarding examination re-takes. 

Note: For individuals who fail one or both portions of the 2025 D-ABFA Exam, the 2026 A-ABFA exam will be considered the one allowed re-take.

  • May/November: How to Apply Sessions—Analyst/Diplomate—New exam format information

2027

  • Jan 1 – July 1: Accepting applications for the 2028 Analyst Exam (A-ABFA).

Note: No Diplomate applications accepted during this time due to new format.

  • Summer: Administer 2027 A-ABFA Exam

  • Fall: Administer 2027 D-ABFA Exam (new format)

  • July 1 – December 1: Accepting applications for the 2028 Diplomate (D-ABFA) Exam (new format)

  • May/November: How to Apply Sessions—Analyst/Diplomate—New exam format information

Exam Format

 The ABFA multilevel certification program consists of two sequential levels: Analyst (A-ABFA) and Diplomate (D-ABFA). The Analyst certification examination evaluates laboratory skills and fundamental knowledge. One in-person A-ABFA examination will be administered annually. The A-ABFA Exam will test the listed Analyst Competencies and will include, but will not be limited to, the evaluation and measurement of specimens. Diplomate certification builds on Analyst competencies and evaluates advanced knowledge, synthesis, and interpretation. One remote D-ABFA Exam will be administered annually using examination software. The descriptions below provide a summary of each exam. The competencies detailed on the ABFA webpage provide detailed information of the knowledge, skills, and abilities assessed by the examinations. While the Analyst Exam will be in-person and the Diplomate Exam will be electronic, both exams will have what may be considered practical and written components.

Multilevel Certification Competencies include knowledge, skills, and abilities that vary depending on certification exam. 

Analyst (A-ABFA) Examination

  • Redesigned examination using physical specimens, radiographs,  laboratory instruments, as well as written questions covering Analyst competencies

  • Competency-based assessment with varying question formats (e.g., multiple-choice & short answer questions)

  • Exam content focuses on technical capabilities and foundational knowledge, for example:

    • Osteology

    • Knowledge and proper application of analytical methods (e.g., scoring the pubic symphysis or basic knowledge about isotopic analyses)

    • Osteometrics

    • Identify and describe classic characteristics of major classes of skeletal trauma

    • Knowledge of ethics and professional standards

    • Knowledge of landmark court decisions and relevant Federal Rules of Evidence, including their impact on expert witness testimony, evidentiary standards for admissibility, and forensic anthropology practice.

    • Note: the above are just examples – refer to the Analyst competencies for a full list of expectations.
       

Diplomate (D-ABFA) Examination

  • Redesigned exam will assess advanced knowledge of methods, theory, and application

  • Competency-based assessment with varying question formats (e.g., multiple choice & short answer questions)

  • Questions based on mock case scenarios with contextual information (e.g., background information, images, bench notes, and/or analytical output) will assess the ability to synthesize information and interpret findings.

  • Exam content focuses on synthesis and interpretation, for example: 

    • Develop a biological profile by interpreting and synthesizing the output of various methods and analyses

    • Interpret trauma, pathology, or postmortem interval from descriptions and/or high-quality images

Multilevel Certification Timeline FAQs

I submitted an application in July 2023, what does this change mean for me?

  • If you are found eligible to sit for the exam:

    • You will sit for the Aug/Sept 2024 Diplomate Exam (traditional format)

    • You may defer once (must let VP know by June 1st) and you will sit for the Aug/Sept 2025 Diplomate Exam

    • If you fail the 2025 Diplomate Exam you may put in an Expedited Analyst Application to sit for the 2026 Analyst Exam.

    • If you fail either portion of the 2024 exam, you may retake the failed section in 2025 (with a retake exam fee)

    • If you fail a second time in 2025 or postpone the retake for a year, you will need to submit an Analyst Application and sit for the Analyst Exam going forward. You may qualify for an Expedited Analyst Application.

  • If your application is denied, you may reapply the next year (July 2024) using the existing Diplomate Application requirements (see below for 2024 applications)

I am planning on submitting an application before the July 1, 2024, deadline. What does this change mean for me?

  • If you are found eligible to sit for the exam:

    • You will sit for the Aug/Sept 2025 Diplomate Exam (traditional format)

    • If you defer or fail either portion of the 2025 Diplomate Exam (written or practical) you will have to submit a new Analyst Application. If you want to sit for the 2026 Analyst Exam, you may submit an Expedited Analyst Application by April 1, 2026, which consists of formally petitioning the Board to request the use of your previously accepted D-ABFA Application towards your Analyst Application. You may also petition to waive the Analyst Application fee, but you will be required to pay the Analyst Exam fee.

I am planning on submitting an application in 2025 or later, what does this mean for me?

  • You will be submitting under the new Application and Exam process, starting with an Analyst Application. As additional information about the application process is finalized and approved by the Board of Directors, it will be posted on the ABFA website.

  • New application requirements, forms, and instructions are forthcoming.

Once the Multi-level Certification is fully implemented, can an individual with a PhD apply to take both the Analyst and Diplomate exams in the same year?

  • No. Analyst level certification is required for the Diplomate level application. The Diplomate level application, if submitted in the same calendar year as the Analyst level application, would be rejected because the applicant would lack one of the credentials (Analyst certification). Applicants can, however, submit a Diplomate Application immediately following their passing of the Analyst Exam if they have prepared those materials and all updated requirements are met. In such cases, individuals may want to be working on their Diplomate Applications (e.g., case file submissions) prior to taking their Analyst Exam.

Multilevel Certification Program Implementation Timeline Document:

Details regarding the application process and fee schedule are forthcoming.

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