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Exam limits for certification

Exam Admissibility Policy - CGSO

Key Points

  • The 7-year period for achieving certification starts immediately upon completion of training.
  • You must apply upon conclusion of training to receive the full number of exam opportunities.
  • Primary certification in Surgery is a requirement for certification in CGSO.
  • It is highly recommended that you attain certification in Surgery BEFORE completing your CGSO fellowship.
  • If you delay in applying, you will lose opportunities to pass the CGSO QE, which must be passed within 4 years following fellowship training.
  • Only one exam opportunity will be offered each year. If you do not take an exam when it is given, that is a lost opportunity.
  • In 2019, the ABS announced changes to its admissibility requirements for initial certification in complex general surgical oncology. This was done to mirror the exam admissibility policy for initial certification in both general surgery and vascular surgery.
  • The new ABS policy applies to individuals who complete their training in complex general surgical oncology (CGSO) after July 1, 2018. Individuals who completed their training prior to this date will continue under the ABS' previous policies.

Qualifying Exam

  • Individuals will have no more than 7 academic years (July 1-June 30) following completion of training in CGSO to achieve certification—i.e., pass both the written Qualifying Examination (QE) and oral Certifying Examination (CE) required for certification.
  • The 7-year period starts immediately upon completion of training, not when an individual's application is approved. If individuals delay in applying for certification, they will lose opportunities to take and pass the QE, the first exam in the certification process.
  • Following training, applicants will have a maximum of 4 opportunities in 4 consecutive years to take and pass the QE, providing the individual applies for certification immediately after training. If a candidate decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity as the four-year limit is absolute. After four years, if the QE is not passed, the individual is no longer admissible to the certification process.

Certifying Exam

  • Candidates will have up to 3 opportunities in 3 consecutive years to pass the CE, immediately following successful completion of the QE. Candidates will only be permitted one exam opportunity per year. If a candidate decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity as the three-year limit is absolute. After three years, if the CE is not passed, the individual is no longer admissible to the certification process.
  • After 7 years, if the candidate has not passed both the QE and CE, the individual is no longer eligible for certification and must pursue a readmissibility pathway to regain admissibility. Please contact the exam coordinator to discuss the options that are available.
  • Candidates who successfully complete the QE in fewer than four opportunities may not apply unused opportunities toward the CE.
  • Primary certification in surgery is a requirement for certification in complex general surgical oncology, and is part of the CGSO exam application process. Delays in completing initial certification in surgery will delay the application for CGSO, and therefore diminish the number of available attempts to take the CGSO exam. It is highly recommended that you attain certification in surgery BEFORE the end of your CGSO fellowship.

Prior Policies for CGSO:

  • Qualifying Exam: Individuals who completed a CGSO fellowship prior to July 1, 2018 had a maximum of 5 opportunities within a 5-year period to pass the Complex General Surgical Oncology Qualifying Exam.
  • Certifying Exam: Candidates who completed a CGSO fellowship prior to July 1, 2018 had a maximum of 5 opportunities within a 5-year period to pass the Complex General Surgical Oncology Certifying Exam.

Updated: April 2020


C42D-3806387475-EB03