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. 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. 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.

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 to achieve certification in general surgery (i.e., pass both the QE and CE). The 7-year period starts immediately upon completion of residency. If you delay in applying for certification, you will lose opportunities to take and pass the QE.
  • Within the 7-year period, applicants will receive no more than 4 opportunities within 4 years to pass the QE, and up to 3 opportunities within 3 years to pass the CE. Only one exam opportunity will be offered per year. Failure to take an exam when offered will result in a missed opportunity. The three CE opportunities begin immediately upon successful completion of the QE.
  • If you are unable to become certified within the 7-year period, you must pursue a readmissibility pathway to re-enter the certification process. Please see our exam admissibility policy for further details.
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