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About the CE

Surgical Critical Care Certifying Exam

  • The Surgical Critical Care (SCC) Certifying Examination is offered annually to achieve board certification in surgical critical care. The exam consists of about 200 multiple-choice questions designed to assess a surgeon's cognitive knowledge and clinical judgment in SCC. See also the exam's content outline (pdf).
  • It is a one-day exam lasting approximately 5 hours and is held at computer-testing facilities across the U.S. The exam is administered in three 90-minute sessions, with optional 10-minute breaks between sessions. Once a session has concluded, you will not be able to revisit those questions.
  • Results are posted approximately 4 to 8 weeks after the exam; you will be notified by email when they are available. The exam's contents are copyrighted and may not be reproduced or disclosed in any manner.
    Next Exam: TBD
    Application Deadlines: July 15 (initial deadline) and Aug. 31 (late deadline)

General Requirements

To be eligible for this exam, applicants must:

  • Accredited Program: Have satisfactorily completed a one-year training program in surgical critical care or anesthesiology critical care accredited by the ACGME. The ABS will also accept completion of a two-year training program in adult critical care medicine accredited by the RCPSC.
  • Training Time: Have acquired no fewer than 48 weeks of full-time training in each year of the training program. See Leave Policy for further details.
    Part-Time Option: At the discretion of the program director, the ACGME-accredited training may be completed over two consecutive years on a part-time basis. The completed training must be equal to 48 weeks of full-time experience.
  • Case Log: Submit a report of your critical care experience during the fellowship for ABS approval. Cases must be from the applicant's fellowship and verified by the program director.
    New Case Minimums: New case number requirements (view pdf) were implemented for surgeons who complete training in the 2019-2020 academic year and thereafter. These surgeons will be required to have met the new case requirements by the time of their application to the SCC CE.
  • Certification/Continuous Certification: Be currently certified in general surgery by the American Board of Surgery and in compliance with the ABS Continuous Certification Program. The ABS will also accept applicants currently certified in vascular surgery who completed an integrated training program, as well as current diplomates of other ABMS surgical boards, provided their primary certifying board supports their application.
    ABEM Diplomates: The ABS has created a pathway for ABEM diplomates to achieve SCC certification.
  • Professional Activity: Be actively and primarily engaged in the practice of surgical critical care as indicated by holding full surgical privileges in this discipline at an accredited health care institution, or be currently engaged in pursuing additional graduate education in another recognized surgical specialty. An exception to this requirement is active military duty.
  • 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.

Examination While in Residency

  • Applicants who complete an ACGME-accredited surgical critical care or anesthesiology critical care (ACC) fellowship after completing 3 progressive years of ACGME-accredited residency may apply for SCC certification and take the exam while still in residency. A full and unrestricted medical license is not required at the time of application.
  • The SCC certificate will not be awarded, however, until primary certification is achieved. Applicants must have a guaranteed categorical residency position in an ACGME-accredited residency program available to them upon completion of SCC or ACC training.

Examination While in Process of Obtaining Primary Certification

  • Applicants who have completed residency training in an ACGME-accredited program and are taking either the general surgery written exam (QE), the general surgery oral exam (CE), the vascular surgery written exam (QE) or the vascular surgery oral exam (CE) may apply for and take the SCC CE exam while in the process of obtaining primary certification.
  • The SCC certificate will not be awarded until primary certification is achieved.

Application Process

  • Individuals who meet ABS requirements may apply for the exam through the online application process, which is posted in early spring (see How to Apply). After your application is approved, you will be sent instructions on how to register for this year's exam.
  • Once you are registered for the exam, you will be mailed an exam admission authorization letter with final details and instructions on reserving a place at a computer-testing center. You must have this letter to reserve a testing center spot.
  • Active duty military personnel who may encounter difficulty taking the exam due to their service should contact the ABS as soon as possible. Please see How to Apply for information about other exam accommodations.

Exam Opportunities

  • Individuals who complete a surgical critical care fellowship during the 2019-2020 academic year or thereafter will have 7 years following training to achieve certification in surgical critical care.
  • Once an application is approved, the applicant will have a maximum of 5 opportunities within 5 consecutive years to take and pass the exam. If you decide not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity as the five-year limit is absolute.
  • During the five-year period, examinees who postponed or were unsuccessful will be able to register for the next exam without completing a new application; the original application will suffice.
  • Individuals who exhaust their seven-year admissibility period should contact the ABS regarding the readmissibility requirements in effect at that time.

Continuous Certification

  • If successful on the exam, and if already certified in general surgery or another specialty as noted above, you will be deemed certified in surgical critical care 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.


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