Recertification Exams

Important Information Regarding 2018 Exams
As part of Continuous Certification, a new assessment is being introduced in 2018 for general surgery. While the traditional General Surgery Recertification Exam will be offered in 2018, diplomates who pass the 2018 exam will still be required to begin the new assessment process by 2020.
A similar 40-question, online, open-book assessment will available as of 2019 for vascular surgery, pediatric surgery, and surgical critical care. Diplomates with certificates expiring in 2018 will need to pass the recertification exam to continue their certification; certificates will not be extended. Specialty certificate holders whose certificates do not expire in 2018 and choose to take the secure exam will not receive a 10-year certificate. Please see this announcement for more information.

The ABS offers recertification examinations in the following specialties:

  • Recertification exams are generally offered each year in the fall over a 2-week window at computer-testing centers across the U.S. The online registration process will open on Aug. 1 for general surgery, and by mid-May for all other recertification exams.

When to Take Exam

  • Diplomates are eligible to take a recertification exam starting 3 years before their certificate's expiration; this includes the final year of certificate validity. If you have a certificate that will expire in 3 years or less, you may register to take the exam by submitting a 12-month operative log, reference forms, and a registration fee. Diplomates who no longer operate may submit alternative information.
  • Diplomates who register for multiple recertification exams within a five-year period do not need to submit most materials twice; however fees must be submitted for each exam.
    Diplomates must be meeting Continuous Certification requirements to register for a recertification exam in any ABS specialty.

Exam Format

  • Recertification exams consist of multiple-choice questions designed to assess a surgeon's cognitive knowledge and clinical judgment. Examinations are developed by committees consisting of ABS directors and other experienced surgeons in community and academic practice. Content outlines are available for all exams. The examinations are 5 hours in length (three consecutive 90-minute sessions, with 10-minute breaks between sessions). The HPM Recertification Exam, given through ABIM, is 8 hours in length.

General Surgery vs. Surgical Specialties

  • As of 1997, maintaining a certificate in general surgery is not required for maintaining certification in other ABS specialties. Surgeons who allow their general surgery certificate to lapse while maintaining a certificate in another ABS specialty will no longer be reported as certified in general surgery, but will still be considered as certified by the ABS.
  • Diplomates who become certified in general surgery and then wish to certify in another ABS specialty must be in compliance with the ABS Continuous Certification Program to be admissible to the certification process.

CME Credit

  • The ABS will waive 60 credits of CME with self-assessment toward the ABS Continuous Certification Program for passing a traditional recertification exam given by the ABS or another ABMS board. For the ABS, a waiver will appear automatically in your CME Repository. For another ABMS board, you will need to enter those credits into your CME Repository and provide documentation if requested.
  • In addition, these surgeons may apply to the AMA to receive 60 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Please see the AMA website and the direct CME application (pdf) for details.