American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) Field Testing—Foundational Knowledge Exam

Source: Shawn K. West, MSFS, ABC Vice President

On August 2, the ABC began the lengthy process of field testing the new Foundational Knowledge Exam (FKE).


Education:  There is no post-secondary educational requirement to sit for the examination; however, a background in natural science (e.g., chemical, physical, or biological science) or forensic science is recommended.

Experience: Applicant must be currently employed by a Forensic Science Service Provider (FSSP) performing work as an analyst, technician, laboratory support personnel, or a laboratory manager. The applicant must also have a minimum of one year, full-time or equivalent, experience analyzing or processing physical evidence for an FSSP.

The Lengthy Process:

This will be a lengthy process as the ABC is following the International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC) 17024 process for validating these certification examinations. The ISO/IEC 17024 process requires a minimum number of test takers that is equal to the number of questions on the exam. Once that minimum has been achieved, the exam will be analyzed using psychometrics (the science of measuring mental capacities and processes []), and the cut score will be determined.

The ABC plans to field test this examination at regional meetings and at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference. Private offerings can also be scheduled. Please see the ABC website for details. Testing will continue until the required number of exam test takers is achieved, at which time the evaluation described above will be conducted. Therefore, it will be some time before you are notified about your results of the exam.

The ABC plans to offer field tests at:

  • California Association of Criminalists meeting on October 22, 2021.
  • Midwestern Association of Forensic Scientists meeting on October 31, 2021.
  • Northeastern Association of Forensic Scientists meeting on November 5, 2021.
  • American Academy of Forensic Sciences conference in February 2022.
  • California Association of Criminalists meeting on April, 2022 (the day is to be determined, check the ABC website).
  • Southern Association of Forensic Scientists on April 27, 2022.

Once field testing is complete:

If you are notified you passed the FKE, you will have to pay the $75 application fee to begin the credentialing process.  Once the fee is received and the credentialing process is completed, the Board of Directors will vote to confer certification (certification eligibility).

If you are notified that you did not pass the FKE, your application will be destroyed and there will be no record that you ever sat for an ABC Certification Examination.

If you are interested in sitting for the FKE, please complete and submit an application by US Mail at least 45 days prior to the examination sitting.

Study Guides:

Below is a link to the study guide for each of the FKE. The study guide includes a breakdown of the exam content, the knowledge/skill areas for the exam associated with the tasks that use those knowledge skills, and the references that should be studied for successful preparation. Practice questions are also included.

Foundational Knowledge Exam Study Guide

If you have any additional questions, please contact the Registrar's Office (


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