The IBMS Higher Specialist Diploma (HSD) will enable you to demonstrate high levels of knowledge, skill and competence within your chosen discipline.

Assessed through a portfolio of experiential learning and four written examinations, it is a professional vocational qualification.

Achieving an IBMS Higher Specialist Diploma (HSD) will make you eligible to upgrade to become an IBMS Fellow.

The HSD is available in the following disciplines:

  • Cellular pathology
  • Clinical chemistry
  • Cytopathology
  • Haematology
  • Immunology
  • Leadership & management
  • Medical microbiology
  • Transfusion science
  • Virology
Fees, criteria and how to apply

£360 for the course fees which includes a space at our annual HSD candidate preparation day.

You can apply for the qualification before you begin your training or while you undertake your training and complete your portfolio of evidence.


To apply, you must be a HCPC registered IBMS Member or Fellow.

You must also have developed skills and theoretical knowledge to a very high standard, be performing an in-depth highly complex role and continuously developing clinical, scientific or technical practice within a defined field.

You may also have management responsibilities for a section/small department or be largely involved in research and development.


Your completed application must be emailed to 

Payment methods

Payment must be made via either of the following methods:

  • Card payment - you will be contacted for your card details once we have received the application form
  • Purchase order - you must provide the PO itself rather than just the PO number and this should accompany the application form.

Please note that a £50 administrative fee will be applied to any refund if you withdraw from the qualification at any time.

Training Grant

From 1 October 2022 the candidates who are currently eligible for support has been widened to include those employed in England who are undertaking the IBMS Higher Specialist Diploma (HSD) in one of the eight scientific disciplines. This means that employers of candidates who are undertaking one of the HSDs in all except Leadership and Management are eligible for the training grant.

The training grant of £1,000 will be provided to the employers of all new candidates who register on the HSD before the 31 December 2023.The grant is also available to the employers of candidates who have already registered on the qualification with the intention to submit their portfolio and sit the exam in 2023 or 2024.

Deferrals, withdrawals and mitigating circumstances

If you wish to defer, withdraw or highlight any mitigating circumstances, please contact

Course and assessment

The IBMS Higher Specialist Diploma portfolio provides a focus for your training. The portfolio's evidence requirements enable you to structure your preparation and demonstrate your experiential learning for the exam.

You must first achieve a pass for the portfolio before you can progress to a written examination.

Portfolio assessment

Your portfolio must include:

  • personal professional profile of 500 words (±10%)
  • two essays each of 3000 words (±10%) 
  • one clinical case study and a managerial report Each must be 1,500 words (±10%)
  • evidence of an oral presentation - slides presented and all accompanying notes. There must also be evidence of feedback from your line manager and another senior colleague, along with your reflection on the presentation given.
  • a reflective learning statement of 2,000 words (±10%). It should be informed by any CPD activities undertaken, preparation/research for completing your essays and any other relevant work. Case studies and oral presentation can be referenced but should not form a significant part of this refection as they will have already been included in your portfolio.

For further information about the requirements for the portfolio, please refer to the HSD fact sheet.

Information for submitting the portfolio to the IBMS via email can be found on the HSD portfolio submission.

For information on portfolio marking, please refer to the HSD indicators form used by examiners.

Written examination

The IBMS Higher Specialist Diploma written examination consists of four papers:

  1. Discipline Specific Short-Answer Question Paper
    You must answer all four short answer questions in one hour.
  2. Generic Paper
    This is the paper which is common to all HSD candidates, no matter their discipline.
    You will be expected to answer three questions in two hours. One of the questions is mandatory and pre-seen. This will be available on the IBMS website three weeks before the first examination date.
  3. Discipline Specific Essay Paper
    You must answer two out of five discipline-specific questions in two hours.
  4. Discipline Specific Case Study Paper
    You will be expected to answer questions about three discipline-specific case studies, one pre-seen and two unseen, in two hours. The pre-seen case study questions will be available on the IBMS website three weeks before the first examination.

IBMS Resource Hub

Find past papers, pre-seen questions and further resources developed to support biomedical science.

Find out more


Course dates and submitting
Key Dates 2022 Exam Series
25 November 2022
Exam Results Released
Key Dates 2023 Exam Series

28 April 2023
Qualification Application Deadline

19 May 2023
Portfolio Submission Deadline

4 - 5 September 2023
HSD Examinations

Candidate preparation days

HSD candidate preparation days include:

  • what makes a good portfolio
  • the examination structure
  • a presentation from a successful HSD candidate and
  • workshops on the generic and discipline-specific examinations with IBMS examiners.
Submitting your portfolio

You must submit your portfolio electronically, hard copies will not be accepted. Please scan your portfolio and training logbook and send via email to to download the files. 

Due to the large file size of the portfolio we recommend that you send your documents using a file sharing system such as Microsoft OneDrive, Google Docs or WeTransfer, then send the link to