Regaining admissibility

Regaining Admissibility to General Surgery Examinations

  • Individuals who seek certification in general surgery by the American Board of Surgery may lose their admissibility for a variety of reasons. The following pathways have been established to allow such individuals to regain admissibility to the General Surgery Qualifying Examination (QE) and General Surgery Certifying Examination (CE).
  • For each examination, there are two types of pathways offered. The standard pathway requires a year of formal training in an accredited residency program. The alternative pathway allows individuals to demonstrate their surgical knowledge through a detailed application process and completion of a specific examination for readmissibility.

Time Limitations

  • If an individual has not actively pursued admissibility or readmissibility to the certification process within 10 years after completion of residency, he or she will be required to reenter formal residency training for PGY-4 and PGY-5 level training in a surgery program accredited by the ACGME or RCPSC to regain admissibility to the certification process.

QE Readmissibility Pathways

These pathways apply to individuals who:

  • Did not apply for certification within three years after completion of residency. (Applicable only to individuals who completed residency prior to July 1, 2012.)
  • Did not take the QE within two years of having an approved application. (Applicable only to individuals who completed residency prior to July 1, 2012.)
  • Exhausted their examination opportunities or time limit.

Individuals who wish to pursue one of the readmissibility pathways below must first contact the ABS coordinator to initiate the process.

QE Standard Pathway
  • 1. Requirements
  • The individual must complete an additional year (12 months) of structured education in surgery in an ACGME-accredited general surgery residency program, in which the program director has agreed to provide an educational program that meets ABS guidelines. The structured educational program must be submitted to the ABS in advance for approval and must be a full-time activity. The program director must also submit quarterly summaries to the ABS of the individual's progress. Upon completion of the year, the program director will provide written attestation that the candidate has successfully completed all requirements. The individual must then submit the Application for Readmissibility form and provide documentation of a current full and unrestricted medical license.
  • 2. Admissibility and Exam Opportunities
  • Upon application approval, the applicant will be admissible to the QE for four opportunities within four years and will be considered "in the examination process." The start of the four-year period of admissibility begins upon application approval and continues for four consecutive academic years thereafter.
  • If the individual does not pass the QE during this period, he or she must appeal to the Credentials Committee of the ABS for re-entry to the certification process.
QE Alternative Pathway
  • 1. Overview
  • The alternative pathway allows individuals to acquire and demonstrate adequate surgical knowledge through a detailed application process and completion of a specific examination for readmissibility.
    Effective with the 2013-2014 academic year, upon application approval individuals will receive one opportunity to successfully complete the required readmissibility examination and the QE. The application process, readmissibility examination and the QE must all be successfully completed in the same year (12-month period). If unsuccessful, the applicant must repeat the entire pathway, including the application process. Up to three consecutive opportunities are permitted to successfully complete this pathway, including the QE. See below for further details.
  • 2. Application for Readmissibility
  • To begin the alternate pathway, an individual must submit the following:
    1. A completed application for readmissibility
    2. Documentation of a valid and unrestricted medical license
    3. Documentation of 60 credits of Category 1 CME with self-assessment completed within the last 24 months
    4. Evidence of successful completion of the most recent version of the American College of Surgeons' Surgical Education and Self Assessment Program (SESAP). This may be used to satisfy the CME requirement above
    5. Application fee of $200 paid by credit card through the ABS website
    6. Reference letters from the chief of surgery and chair of the credentials committee at the hospital where the majority of the surgeon's work is done
    7. An operative case log for the most recent 12-month period
  • If the applicant has not been actively practicing surgery, the last two items may be waived. However, in this circumstance the individual must be practicing clinical medicine in some venue and submit reference letters from two individuals in a supervisory capacity who are familiar with the applicant's practice. These reference letters must describe the applicant's practice and attest to the applicant's performance, ethics and professionalism.
  • All application items must be received by February 20, 2017.
  • 3. Readmissibility Examination
  • Upon approval of the application, the applicant is granted one opportunity to pass the examination described below. Both the examination and the QE must be successfully completed in the same year (12-month period) that the readmissibility application is approved.
  • Completion of a secure examination of approximately 175-200 questions derived from the clinical management section of the ABS In-Training Examination (ABSITE) with a score at or above the 20th percentile achieved by PGY-5 residents
  • This examination is offered yearly from mid-March through mid-May (see exam dates). The exam may be completed at a computer-testing center at a location and time selected by the applicant within the designated examination window.
  • 4. Admissibility and Exam Opportunities
  • Upon successful completion of the readmissibility examination, the applicant will be admissible to the QE for one opportunity in the year of application approval and will be considered "in the examination process" during that time.
  • Applicants who fail to successfully complete the readmissibility examination or the QE will be required to repeat the entire pathway, including the application process and the readmissibility examination, to regain admissibility to the QE. Up to three consecutive opportunities are permitted to successfully complete this pathway, including the QE.
  • Once the three opportunities are exhausted, the individual must appeal to the Credentials Committee of the ABS for re-entry to the certification process.
Previous Pathway Applicants
  • Individuals who entered a QE readmissibility pathway prior to the 2013-2014 academic year and are unsuccessful in completing the pathway or in passing the QE during the readmissibility period must appeal to the Credentials Committee of the ABS for re-entry to the certification process.
  • An additional alternative pathway is currently in development in partnership with the American College of Surgeons - details regarding this pathway will be available soon.

CE Readmissibility Pathways

These pathways apply to individuals who:

  • Exhausted their examination opportunities or time limit.

Individuals who wish to pursue one of the readmissibility pathways below must first contact the ABS coordinator to initiate the process.

CE Standard Pathway
  • 1. Requirements
  • The individual must complete an additional year (12 months) of structured education in surgery in an ACGME-accredited general surgery residency program, in which the program director has agreed to provide an educational program that meets ABS guidelines. The structured educational program must be submitted to the ABS in advance for approval and must be a full-time activity. The program director must also submit quarterly summaries to the ABS of the individual's progress. Upon completion of the year, the program director will provide written attestation that the candidate has successfully completed all requirements. The individual must then submit the Application for Readmissibility form and provide documentation of a current full and unrestricted medical license.
  • 2. Admissibility and Exam Opportunities
  • Upon application approval, the applicant will be admissible to the CE for three opportunities within three years and will be considered "in the examination process." The start of the three-year period of admissibility begins upon application approval and continues for three consecutive academic years thereafter.
  • If the individual does not pass the CE during this period, he or she must appeal to the Credentials Committee of the ABS for re-entry to the certification process.
CE Alternative Pathway
  • 1. Requirements
  • To regain admissibility to the CE through the alternative pathway, individuals must successfully complete the entire QE alternative pathway as described in the previous section.
  • 2. Admissibility and Exam Opportunities
  • Upon successful completion of the QE, the applicant will be admissible to the CE for three opportunities within three years and will be considered "in the examination process." The start of the three-year period of admissibility begins upon successful completion of the QE and continues for three consecutive academic years thereafter.
  • If the individual does not pass the CE during this period, he or she must appeal to the Credentials Committee of the ABS for re-entry to the certification process.

Updated: January 2017

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