Becoming certified in general surgery

General Surgery

Exams Offered

Use the links below to learn more about the following general surgery examinations:

  • See also Training Requirements for information on the required training for certification in general surgery.
  • Successful completion of the General Surgery Qualifying and Certifying Exams is required for board certification in general surgery. Typically, the QE is an 8-hour, multiple-choice exam held once per year on a single day at computer-testing centers across the U.S. For 2020, the QE will be delivered as an online, virtual exam. The CE is an oral exam consisting of 3 consecutive 30-minute sessions. It is held 5 times per year in various U.S. cities.
  • The ABSITE is a multiple-choice exam taken by surgeons while in residency; it is not required as part of the board certification process.
  • QE After PGY-4: The ABS will permit residents to apply for and take the General Surgery QE following their PGY-4 year. See Taking QE After PGY-4 for eligibility requirements.

2020 Virtual Qualifying Exam

  • The 2020 QE will be delivered over two days, July 16 and July 17, with start times between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET on both days. Candidates must take the exam on both days. On each day, the exam will be administered in four one-hour sessions with a five-minute break between each session. Candidates with a Lactating Mothers Accommodation Request form on file with the ABS and candidates with prior ABS approval for additional exam time will receive additional break time. Please see our General Surgery Qualifying Exam page for more information.
  • System Requirements
  • Operating SystemMac: OSX High Sierra 10.13 or higher
    PC: Windows 7 or higher
    Processor RamMac: Intel/AMD Processor, 2 GB RAM or better
    PC: Dual-core 2.4 Ghz CPU, 2 GB RAM or better
    Recommended Web BrowsersMozilla Firefox or Google Chrome
    PLUG-INSJava script Enabled & Third party Cookies Enabled
    CAMERA RESOLUTION800 x 600 resolution or better
    INTERNET CONNECTIONCable Modem. DSL Or better (300 kbps download. 250 kbps upload)
  • Smartphone Requirement: You will also need your Android phone or iPhone for this remote exam. The smartphone is required for the room scans and acts as a secondary camera for remote proctoring.
  • Android Smartphone Requirements iPhone Requirements
    Android OS version 6.0 or lateriOS 10 or later
    Battery backup (min 50%) or charger plugged inBattery backup (min 50%) or charger plugged in
    Minimum Free Storage: 512 MBMinimum Free Storage: 512 MB
    Front & Rear facing cameras and Continuous Internet connectivityFront & Rear facing cameras and Continuous Internet connectivity

Booklet of Information

  • The ABS Booklet of Information - Surgery (pdf) is published annually to outline the requirements for board certification in general surgery. Potential applicants are encouraged to review it.

7-Year Limit for Certification

Surgeons who complete general surgery residency after July 1, 2012, will have no more than 7 academic years following residency to achieve certification in general surgery, i.e., pass both the QE and CE.

The 7-year period starts immediately upon completion of training. Only one exam opportunity will be offered in each year of the 7-year period.

You must apply immediately after training to receive the full number of exam opportunities. If you delay in applying, you will lose opportunities to pass the QE, which must be passed within 4 years following training. See below for more details.

  • QE: Applicants who apply immediately after residency will receive up to 4 opportunities within 4 years to pass the QE. If you delay in applying for the QE after residency, or do not take the QE when offered, you will lose exam opportunities.
  • CE: Upon successful completion of the QE, applicants will be offered up to 3 opportunities within 3 years to pass the CE. The three CE opportunities begin immediately upon successful completion of the QE. If you do not take the CE when offered, you will lose an exam opportunity.
  • If you are unable to become certified within the 7-year period, you will be required to pursue a readmissibility pathway to re-enter the certification process. See also our exam admissibility policy for further details.