New Assessment Enrollment

Diplomates are not required to take their first Continuous Certification Assessment until the year their certificate expires. However, diplomates are welcome to enroll early.
ALL diplomates, regardless of certificate expiration date, are required to meet the other requirements of the Continuous Certification Program, including CME, professionalism requirements, and participation in a registry or quality assessment program. Please see our Program Requirements for more information.

Key Dates

  • 2021 Registration:
    Aug. 4-Nov. 8
  • 2021 Assessment Window:
    Aug. 30-Nov. 8
  • The last day to begin the assessment to ensure that you have the full two weeks is Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.

Enrollment Timeline

Once a diplomate registers for an assessment, they are enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program.

Current Diplomates

Continuous Certification Assessment: Diplomates with general surgery, vascular surgery, pediatric surgery or surgical critical care certificates expiring this year may use the new assessment process to continue their certification.

  • All diplomates whose certificates expire in 2021 or later must enroll in the Continuous Certification Program to remain certified.
  • The assessment must be taken every other year.
  • Completing and passing a Continuous Certification Assessment marks an entrance into the Continuous Certification process, in which CME, participation in a registry or quality assessment program, and licensing information must be up to date, as well as an assessment every other year.
Newly Certified Diplomates

As of 2018, diplomates who achieve initial certification through ABS are automatically enrolled in the new assessment process. These diplomates will begin taking the assessment two years after they became certified.

Diplomates who achieve initial certification in either general surgery, vascular surgery*, pediatric surgery or complex general surgical oncology will complete their first Continuous Certification Assessment two years after the academic year in which they become certified (for example, if certified in one of these specialties in the 2021-2022 academic year, you will take your first assessment in fall 2024).

Diplomates who achieve initial certification in surgical critical care will complete their first assessment two years after certification (for example, if certified in surgical critical care in September 2020, you will complete your first assessment in fall 2022).

*Note: Due to the COVID-related rescheduling of the 2020 and 2021 Vascular Surgery Certifying Exams, those who became certified in vascular surgery in either January or July 2021 will take their first Vascular Surgery Continuous Certification Assessment in fall 2023.

Lapsed Diplomates

A special pathway to regain certification has been developed for all ABS specialties. See our lapsed certificate policy for more details.

Registering for the Assessment

Registration for all 2021 Continuous Certification Assessments will be available on August 4. The assessment will be available from Aug. 30-Nov. 8, 2021.

  • To register for the new assessment, diplomates must be up to date on meeting the requirements of the ABS Continuous Certification Program.
  • This includes staying up to date with CME requirements, submitting a 12-month operative log every 10 years and submitting reference forms every five years. We will keep you informed of your status; you may also check your status anytime by going to My Continuous Certification.
  • When diplomates register for their first assessment, an annual fee will be required at the time of registration and every year thereafter.
  • Diplomates who are currently certified but not meeting Continuous Certification requirements will need to re-enter to register for the new assessment. See our re-entry policy for details.
  • You will have up to two weeks to complete the assessment once you begin, with the opportunity to save your progress and continue at a later time during this two-week period. The last day to begin the assessment to ensure that you have the full two weeks is Monday, Oct. 25, 2021.

    Please note: Your personal two-week time limit will start the moment you click the “Begin” button on the ABS portal – do not click it until you are absolutely sure that you are ready to begin your assessment.

For more information about preparing for and taking an assessment, please visit the respective specialty assessment page.

Post-Assessment Score Reports

The preliminary score report that appears in your portal immediately after completing a Continuous Certification Assessment is provided as confirmation of completion until the assessment window closes for all candidates. Once the window closes, ABS psychometricians will review all results and validate all assessments. Final score reports, with detailed feedback, will be provided to diplomates in their portal within 4-6 weeks of the close of the examination window. Diplomate certification status, which reflects the final results of the assessment, will be available on the ABS website BEFORE December 31 of that year.

Certification Status

Once participating in the new assessment process, a diplomate's certification status will be contingent on passing the assessment every other year, as well as meeting the other program requirements. This new paradigm is intended to more accurately reflect the rapid changes in surgical knowledge and practice and better promote high-quality patient care.

However, failing the assessment in the year it is due will not immediately affect certification status. Diplomates in good standing will be able to retake the assessment the following year (grace year) if necessary.

Grace Year

We encourage diplomates to do their best on all assessment attempts.

  • Diplomates who score at least 40% on their first assessment attempt will receive a second attempt.
  • If a diplomate fails to attain 40% on their first attempt or the passing score of 80% by their second attempt, a grace year will be provided in the year following the assessment.
  • Two opportunities are offered to answer a question correctly, even in the grace year, so diplomates have four attempts to pass an open-book assessment before loss of certification status.

Diplomates who are enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program and are not up to date with all program requirements at the time of assessment registration will be unable to take the assessment until those requirements have been fulfilled.

Grace years are provided to diplomates who do not pass an assessment when it is due or if they are unsuccessful in their assessment attempt. For a diplomate to be eligible for a grace year:

  1. Diplomates must be enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program. Enrollment is complete after registering for the first assessment, so diplomates must be up to date on all program requirements including the annual fee.
  2. If a diplomate does not pass (or take) the assessment when it is due but is enrolled in the program, they will receive a grace year in the following year.

Please note: Grace years are available for everyone in good standing and participating in the Continuous Certification Program. Diplomates who are currently in a grace year and do not pass the assessment will lose their certification.

Regaining certification requires participating the lapsed pathway.

Diplomates participating in the lapsed pathway are not eligible for a grace year.

Annual Fee

Once diplomates enroll, an annual fee will be required. The annual fee reflects the ongoing development of all aspects of the Continuous Certification Program, including diplomate status tracking, public reporting of diplomate status, self-service features like the CME Repository, and the new modular assessment process, which will require hundreds of new questions with explanations and references, as well as a new online delivery platform. The current annual fee is $285, and covers all general program participation, including one assessment every other year.

Reduction in CME and Self-Assessment

Once diplomates pass the new assessment, the current Continuous Certification requirement of 150 Category 1 CME credits over five years, with at least 50 including self-assessment, will change to 125 CME credits with no self-assessment required, beginning January 1 of the year following the first successful assessment attempt.

Issuance of Certificates

Upon passing the new assessment, diplomates will be issued a new certificate without an expiration date. A diplomate's current certification status will then be verified using the Check a Certification feature on the ABS website.

Refer also to our PDF Overview and New Assessment FAQs. For specific inquiries, please contact the Continuous Certification coordinator.