MOC Exams - Recertification

The ABS offers MOC (recertification) examinations in the following specialties:

  • MOC exams are required for a diplomate to renew his or her certification. By maintaining their certification, diplomates demonstrate their knowledge of contemporary practice and commitment to quality patient care.
  • The exams are generally offered each year in the fall over a 2-week window at computer-testing centers across the U.S. The online application process opens the preceding April, at which time a link to the application process will be posted under each specialty in this section and in the log-in area (My Records). Diplomates must meet the application requirements currently in effect.
  • If you are transferring CME information from the ACS or SAGES, or operative data from the ACS Surgeon Specific Registry (case log), the authorization code to conduct the transfer will be available once you log into the exam's online application process.

When to Apply

  • ABS certificates expire on Dec. 31. Diplomates are eligible to apply for an MOC (recertification) exam starting 3 years prior to their certificate's expiration; this includes the final year of certificate validity. For example, a surgeon with a certificate expiring on Dec. 31, 2020, would first be eligible to take an MOC exam in 2018.
  • A complete exam application is required; this is separate from the 3-year reporting required for the ABS MOC Program. Diplomates who no longer operate may submit alternative materials when applying. Diplomates who apply for two MOC exams in the same year do not need to submit the application materials twice; however application and exam fees must be submitted for each exam.
    Diplomates enrolled in the ABS MOC Program must be meeting MOC requirements to apply for an MOC (recertification) exam in any ABS specialty.

Exam Format

  • MOC 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 typically 5 hours in length (6 hours for vascular surgery; 8 hours for HPM) and are generally administered in consecutive 90-minute sessions, with short breaks between sessions.

Exam Opportunities

  • Upon approval of your MOC exam application, you will receive a total of 5 opportunities within 5 years (3 in 5 for hand surgery and HPM) to pass the examination. However this five-year period is independent of your certificate's expiration. For example, if you don't apply until your final year of certificate validity, you will have one opportunity to take the exam before your certificate expires, and four opportunities thereafter.

General Surgery vs. Surgical Specialties

  • While diplomates are encouraged to maintain certification in both general surgery and their additional specialty, this is not required. However diplomates who become certified in general surgery and then wish to certify in another ABS specialty must be in compliance with the ABS MOC Program to be admissible to the certification process. If a diplomate's certificate in general surgery expires, he or she will no longer be considered certified in general surgery, even if he or she maintains the validity of another ABS certificate.

Lapsed Certificates

  • Diplomates who allowed their certificate to lapse or who exhausted their 5-year exam admissibility period may apply (or re-apply) for an MOC exam by meeting all application requirements currently in effect. There is no time limit to apply once a certificate has lapsed. See our Lapsed Certificate Policy for more details.

Certificate Duration

  • ABS certificates are valid for a period of 10 years, from the date of issuance through December 31 of the year of expiration. Surgeons who recertify prior to the expiration date of their certificate receive a new certificate with an expiration date extending from the expiration date of the previous certificate, not the date of recertification.

CME Credit

  • The ABS will waive 60 credits of CME with self-assessment toward the ABS MOC Program for recertification 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, surgeons who achieve ABS recertification 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.
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