Less than 20% of the questions on the certification exam are on electronics, which is great for many of you preparing to take the test because your electronics theory is less than current. I never had a course in transistors, op amps, or digital logic, as they all came along after I was out of college. Like many of you, I understand how they work but I am not capable of teaching them.

In reviewing the various study guides, I noted a good number of questions on transistors. In today’s equipment it is difficult to locate transistors on a PCB, let alone replace one. The eyesight is not that sharp, and most shops are not equipped to do component-level work on multilayered surface-mount boards. Also, getting the replacement components is not easy; and with the financial requirements departments are under, we have to get the equipment back online quickly—meaning board swaps, not component-level repairs. Unfortunately, the money push in health care has changed how we do our jobs, but it is not fully reflected in the exam as yet.

Also, many of the questions on these study guides pertain more to design and development than the support of technology in health care. I have never used Boolean algebra working on a device, but there are questions on the exam that ask you to use Boolean. Most of the circuit questions are simple—asking about gains, bias voltage, current, and voltage gains, which you should be able to handle if you reread your Electronics 101 textbook. Be sure to get the differences between NPN and PnP transistors clear in you mind. The resistor color code also appears in several questions, along with the tolerance bands, so be prepared.

Most of those planning to take the certification exam need to take a close look at their strengths and weaknesses and prepare a study plan accordingly. Make sure that when you start the plan you have looked over the application form and the free study material provided with the exam. Also, make sure that your information is current. That is, do not prepare for an exam in 2008 with information from 2004, as things change, so recheck your information.

You should spend some time reviewing power supplies, switching, high frequency, high power, half, and full wave, as they appear to be a little more common on the exam then amplifiers and comparators. Do spend some time on digital logic, making sure you know the functions of AND/OR/NOR, exclusive OR, FLIP/FLOP, one shots, and level detectors. Please be careful not to use guides that are more than 5 years old, as some of the older ones may not have current techniques. In starting my background work for this article, the transistor information I found, in my files, was all from the early 1970s. After doing more digging it became clear that my electronics knowledge was outdated and that it would serve you readers best to admit it and give you some suggestions as to where to look for your help.

My son, Bryan, who did an article in this series in 2005, passed on the following to me, and it is a good review of some basic IT information. The people writing the test will throw in a bit/byte question from time to time because they think the BMET should speak the computer’s language. It is used mostly on the networks like PACS.

  • There are 8 bits to a byte;
  • There are 1,024 bytes to a kilobyte;
  • There are 1,048,576 bytes to a megabyte;
  • There are 1,073,741,824 bytes to a gigabyte;
  • There are 1,099,511,627,776 bytes to a terabyte; and
  • There are 1,125,899,906,842,624 bytes to a petabyte.

So, how is this information of use?

  • A collection of 260,000 songs takes up about a terabyte;
  • 20 terabytes of photos are uploaded to Facebook each month;
  • The Hubble space telescope has collected about 120 terabytes of information and images;
  • All the videos on YouTube, as of July 1, 2008, consume 530 terabytes;
  • The genealogy database Ancestry.com has 600 terabytes; and
  • Google’s servers process 1 petabyte every 72 minutes.

David Harrington, PhD, is a health care consultant, Medway, Mass, and is a member of 24×7’s editorial advisory board. For more information, contact .