About the CE

General Surgery Certifying Exam

  • The General Surgery Certifying Examination (CE) is the last step toward board certification in general surgery. It is an oral exam consisting of 3 consecutive 30-minute sessions, each conducted by a team of two examiners.
  • The CE's purpose is to evaluate a candidate's clinical skills in organizing the diagnostic evaluation of common surgical problems and determining appropriate therapy. Emphasis is placed on candidates' ability to use their knowledge and training to safely, effectively and promptly manage a broad range of clinical problems.
Next Exam: Mar. 13-15; 18-20, 2024 - Virtual

Certifying Exam Delivery

  • All Certifying Exams are now delivered virtually via Zoom. Exams are handled in the same way as an in-person exam, with each examinee participating in 3 consecutive 30-minute sessions and each session conducted by a team of two examiners. Each exam session also includes a proctor, and may include one or two additional observers. These individuals are simply there to oversee the administration of the exam, and will have no bearing on your score.
  • You do not need to download any software or applications for this exam. You will have the ability to launch the Zoom session from your browser using the link that you will receive via email in the week prior to the exam. If you are launching Zoom for the first time, the web browser client will download automatically when you start or join your first Zoom meeting. If you choose to download the Zoom application to your computer, please check to be sure you have the most updated version installed. See this tutorial from Zoom for information about how to upgrade to the latest version.

Exam Content

  • The CE is designed to assess a candidate's surgical judgment, clinical reasoning skills and problem-solving ability. Technical details of operations may also be evaluated, as well as issues related to a candidate's ethical and humanistic qualities.
  • The CE is aligned with the SCORE Curriculum Outline. For further details about the exam's content, see What to Expect and Candidate Video.
  • The contents of the CE are copyrighted and may not be reproduced or disclosed in any manner.

Exam Registration

  • Failure to select a date is considered a lost opportunity. See General Surgery CE Registration for more on the exam registration process. Active duty military personnel who may encounter difficulty taking the exam due to their service should contact the ABS as soon as possible.
    One Opportunity Per Year
    All candidates are offered no more than one opportunity per academic year in each year of admissibility to take the CE. If you fail to select a CE date, or opt not to take the CE in a given year, it is a lost opportunity. See below for more on exam opportunities and admissibility.

Medical License Requirement

  • A full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in the U.S. or Canada is not required to register for the CE. However, a full and unrestricted state medical license will be required before a candidate will be considered certified by the ABS. Candidates must provide proof of medical license before they will be issued their certificate, and will be listed in the ABS verification system as "in the examination process" until proof is submitted. Temporary, limited, educational or institutional licenses will not be accepted, even if you are currently in a fellowship.

Exam Opportunities

The admissibility period for the CE begins immediately upon successful completion of the General Surgery Qualifying Exam (QE). Candidates are strongly encouraged not to delay taking the CE for the first time as such delays may adversely affect performance.

Current Candidates:

  • Candidates who complete residency after July 1, 2012, will have no more than 7 academic years following residency to complete the certification process, including passing the CE. The 7-year period begins immediately upon completion of residency.
  • These candidates will be granted up to 3 opportunities within a 3-year period to pass the CE, immediately following successful completion of the QE. If an applicant decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity.
  • See the ABS' exam admissibility policy for further details.

Prior Policy:

  • Candidates who completed residency before July 1, 2012, were granted up to 5 opportunities within a 5-year period to pass the CE. immediately following successful completion of the QE. If an applicant decided not to take the exam in a given year, it was a lost opportunity.

Only one opportunity per academic year will be granted to all candidates. All of the above limits are absolute; exceptions will only be made for active duty military service outside the U.S. Individuals who exceed any of the above restrictions will lose their admissibility and must pursue a readmissibility pathway to re-enter the certification process.

Candidates may also refer to the ABS Booklet of Information - Surgery (pdf).

Continuous Certification

  • If successful on the exam, you will be deemed certified in surgery and receive your official certificate within 6 months. You must participate in the ABS Continuous Certification Program to maintain your certificate. The ABS will waive 60 credits of CME with self-assessment toward Continuous Certification for this certification; the waiver will appear automatically in your CME Repository.
  • Surgeons who achieve ABS certification may also apply to the AMA to receive 60 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Please see the AMA website and the direct CME application (pdf) for details.

For specific inquiries, please send an email to the exam coordinator.