Surgical Critical Care Certifying Exam - Overview

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About the Exam
  • The Surgical Critical Care (SCC) Certifying Examination is offered annually to achieve board certification in surgical critical care. The exam consists of approximately 200 multiple-choice questions designed to assess a surgeon's cognitive knowledge and clinical judgment.
  • It is a one-day exam lasting five hours and is held at computer-testing facilities across the U.S. Results are posted and mailed approximately four to eight weeks after the examination. The exam's contents are copyrighted and may not be reproduced or disclosed in any manner.
  • Next Exam: Fall 2015

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General Requirements
  • To be eligible for this exam, applicants must:
  • Certification: Be currently certified in general surgery by the American Board of Surgery and in compliance with the ABS MOC Program. The ABS will also accept applicants currently certified in vascular surgery who completed an integrated training program, as well as current diplomates of other ABMS surgical boards, provided their primary certifying board supports their application.

    ABEM Diplomates: The ABS has created a pathway for ABEM diplomates to achieve SCC certification.
  • Medical License: Have a currently registered full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in the U.S. or Canada. Applicants are required to immediately inform the ABS of any conditions or restrictions in force on any active medical license they hold.
  • Accredited Program: Have satisfactorily completed a one-year training program in surgical critical care or anesthesiology critical care accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The ABS will also accept completion of a two-year training program in adult critical care medicine accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
  • Training Time: Have acquired no fewer than 48 weeks of full-time training in each year of the training program. For documented medical problems or maternity leave during a one-year program, the ABS will accept 47 weeks of full-time training.

    Part-Time Option: At the discretion of the program director, the ACGME-accredited training may be completed over two consecutive years on a part-time basis. The completed training must be equal to 48 weeks of full-time experience.
  • Professional Activity: Be actively and primarily engaged in the practice of surgical critical care as indicated by holding full surgical privileges in this discipline at an accredited health care institution, or be currently engaged in pursuing additional graduate education in another recognized surgical specialty. An exception to this requirement is active military duty.
  • Case Log: Submit a report of your critical care experience during the fellowship for ABS approval. Cases must be from the applicant's fellowship and verified by the program director.
  • Adhere to the ABS Ethics and Professionalism Policy.

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Examination While in Residency
  • Applicants who complete an ACGME-accredited surgical critical care or anesthesiology critical care (ACC) fellowship after completing three progressive years of general surgery or integrated vascular surgery residency may apply for SCC certification and take the exam while still in residency. A full and unrestricted medical license is not required at time of application.
  • The SCC certificate is not awarded, however, until certification in surgery or vascular surgery is achieved. When entering the SCC or ACC program, applicants must have a guaranteed categorical residency position in an accredited general surgery or vascular surgery program available to them upon completion.

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How to Apply
  • Individuals who meet ABS requirements may apply for the exam through the online application process, which is posted in early spring (Application Instructions).
  • After your application is approved, you will be sent instructions on how to register for this year's exam and submit payment of the separate exam fee.
  • Once you are registered for the exam, you will be mailed an exam admission authorization letter with final details and instructions on reserving a place at a computer-testing center. You must have this letter to reserve a testing center spot.
  • Active duty military personnel who may encounter difficulty taking the exam due to their service should contact the ABS as soon as possible.

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Exam Opportunities and Admissibility
  • Once an application is approved, the applicant has a maximum of five opportunities within a five-year period to pass the examination. If an applicant decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity as the five-year limit is absolute.
  • During the five-year period, examinees who postponed or were unsuccessful will be contacted each year regarding the next exam; a new application is not necessary.
  • Applicants who have exhausted their five-year admissibility period should contact the ABS regarding the readmissibility requirements in effect at that time.

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Maintenance of Certification (MOC)
  • Successful examinees will be deemed certified in surgical critical care and will receive their official certificate in three to six months. They must thereafter participate in the ABS MOC Program to maintain their certificate.


For more information regarding certification in surgical critical care, refer to the ABS Booklet on Specialty Certification (pdf).

See also:

For specific inquiries, please send an e-mail to the exam coordinator.

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