About the CE

Hand Surgery Certifying Exam

  • The Hand Surgery Certifying Examination is offered annually by the ABS in conjunction with the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and the American Board of Plastic Surgery through Pearson VUE. Successful completion of the exam is required to achieve board certification in hand surgery. A diplomate may enter the exam process only through one certifying board and may not apply to a different board for additional exam opportunities.
  • The exam consists of approximately 175 multiple-choice questions designed to assess a surgeon's cognitive knowledge and clinical judgment. It lasts approximately four hours and is administered in four 60-minute sessions, with 15 minutes of total break time allotted for use between sessions. See also the exam content outline (pdf).
  • Results are posted approximately 10 to 12 weeks after the exam; you will be notified by email when they are available.
  • Active duty military personnel who may encounter difficulty taking the exam due to their service should contact the ABS as soon as possible.
  • Next Exam: Aug. 2, 2023
    Application Deadline: Mar. 1 (initial deadline) and Mar. 15 (late deadline)

General Requirements

It is expected that trainees meet all requirements listed below. If a trainee is unable to meet a specific requirement(s) due to COVID, requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

To be eligible to apply for this exam, applicants must:

  • Accredited Program: Have satisfactorily completed a one-year training program in hand surgery accredited by the ACGME.
  • Training Time: Have acquired no fewer than 48 weeks of full-time clinical activity in the training year. See Leave Policy for further details.
  • Certification/Continuous Certification: Be currently certified in general surgery by the American Board of Surgery and in compliance with the ABS Continuous Certification Program.
  • Professional Activity: Have been in the active practice of hand surgery for at least 2 years following completion of training and be currently engaged in the practice of hand surgery.
  • Professional References: Receive satisfactory references from the chair of surgery and chair of credentials at the institution where the majority of work is performed. If necessary, another physician of comparable rank may be used.
  • Medical License: Have a currently registered full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in the U.S. or Canada. Applicants are required to immediately inform the ABS of any conditions or restrictions in force on any active medical license they hold.
  • Adhere to the ABS Ethics and Professionalism Policy.
  • Operative Log: Submit for the ABS' review a list of at least 125 cases managed during a consecutive 15-month period within the 2 years preceding application. Hand surgery includes only those procedures performed on the upper extremity distal to the elbow.

    The 125 cases must be separated by category (see list below) and meet the following minimums in at least 5 of the following 9 categories:

    Category - Minimum Number of Cases

    • Bone and Joint - 20
    • Nerve - 20
    • Tendon and Muscle - 20
    • Skin and Wound Problems - 14
    • Contracture and Joint Stiffness - 10
    • Tumor - 10
    • Congenital - 3
    • Microvascular - 3
    • Nonoperative - 6
    • Nonoperative cases are those which require significant evaluation, such as pain problems, and must be documented with consultation reports. No more than 6 nonoperative cases will be accepted.
    • Complex cases can satisfy up to 3 categories. For example, the management of a complex mutilating injury involving repair of muscle, tendon, nerve, vascular injury, and skin would count for muscle and tendon, nerve, and vascular repair, but not for the skin. This example clearly indicates a more complex operative experience than a simple, single-task surgery. Those cases in which the involvement of 2 categories is part of a single-focus surgery, such as the use of a tendon in ligament reconstruction and tendon interposition of the basal joint, would count as only one case.
    • Applicants should refer to the Case List Instructions and Sample Format (Microsoft Word Document).

Exam Opportunities

  • Once an application is approved, the applicant has a maximum of 3 opportunities within a 5-year period to pass the examination.
  • During the five-year period, examinees who postponed or were unsuccessful will be contacted regarding the next exam; a new application is not necessary.
  • Applicants who exceed the above restrictions lose admissibility to the examination and should contact the exam coordinator regarding the readmissibility requirements in effect at that time.

Continuous Certification

  • If successful on the exam, you will be deemed certified in surgery of the hand and will receive your official certificate within 6 months. You must thereafter participate in the ABS Continuous Certification Program to maintain your certificate, including completing an online assessment every other year. The ABS will waive 60 credits of CME with self-assessment toward Continuous Certification Program requirements for passing the Hand Surgery Certifying Exam; 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 application forms and additional information, please send an email to the exam coordinator.