Becoming certified in surgical oncology

Complex General Surgical Oncology

Exams Offered

Use the links below to learn more about the following examinations in complex general surgical oncology (CGSO):

  • Successful completion of the CGSO Qualifying and Certifying Exams is required for board certification in complex general surgical oncology. The Qualifying Exam is an 5-hour, multiple-choice examination held once per year on a single day at computer-testing centers across the U.S. The Certifying Exam is an oral exam consisting of, as of 2019, 4 consecutive 30-minute sessions. It is held once per year in Philadelphia.
  • Applicants for certification in complex general surgical oncology must be currently certified by the ABS in general surgery, in addition to completing the required training in complex general surgical oncology.

About the Certificate

  • The ABS received approval in 2011 to offer a new subspecialty certificate in complex general surgical oncology (CGSO). The certificate was established to assess qualifications for the treatment of complex cases typically seen in cancer centers and specialized institutions, while recognizing that the vast majority of surgical oncology cases are, and will continue to be, treated by general surgeons practicing in the community.

7-Year Limit for Certification

Surgeons who complete a surgical oncology fellowship during the 2018-2019 academic year or thereafter will have no more than 7 academic years following training to achieve certification in complex general surgical oncology, 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 four years following training.

  • QE: Applicants who apply immediately after fellowship will receive up to 4 opportunities within 4 years to pass the QE. If you delay in applying for the QE after fellowship, 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.

Issue of Grandfathering

  • After much deliberation, the Surgical Oncology Board of the ABS and the Society for Surgical Oncology jointly decided against grandfathering for the new certificate as it would be extremely difficult to establish a fair basis for restricting eligibility to a certain group of individuals. Arbitrarily selecting individuals who completed surgical oncology fellowships in the last five years vs. last ten years or some other length of time could not be defended.
  • It was felt to be equally difficult and arbitrary to grandfather general surgeons whose practice was focused in this area, since nearly all general surgeons perform some degree of oncologic surgery. Thus it was felt that the only valid and defensible manner in which to institute the certificate was to offer it only to individuals who complete an accredited fellowship.