Becoming certified in general surgery

General Surgery

Exams Offered

Use the links below to learn more about the following general surgery examinations:

  • See also Training Requirements for information on the required training for certification in general surgery.
  • Successful completion of the General Surgery Qualifying and Certifying Exams is required for board certification in general surgery. Typically, the QE is an 8-hour, multiple-choice exam held once per year on a single day at computer-testing centers across the U.S. The CE is an oral exam consisting of 3 consecutive 30-minute sessions, and is held several times per year.
  • The ABSITE is a multiple-choice exam taken by surgeons while in residency; it is not required as part of the board certification process.
  • QE After PGY-4: The ABS will permit residents to apply for and take the General Surgery QE following their PGY-4 year. See Taking QE After PGY-4 for eligibility requirements.

Booklet of Information

  • The ABS Booklet of Information - Surgery (pdf) is published annually to outline the requirements for board certification in general surgery. Potential applicants are encouraged to review it.

7-Year Limit for Certification

Surgeons who complete general surgery residency after July 1, 2012, will have no more than 7 academic years following residency to achieve certification in general surgery, i.e., pass both the QE and CE.

The 7-year period starts immediately upon completion of training. Only one exam opportunity will be offered in each year of the 7-year period.

You must apply immediately after training to receive the full number of exam opportunities. If you delay in applying, you will lose opportunities to pass the QE, which must be passed within 4 years following training. See below for more details.

  • QE: Applicants who apply immediately after residency will receive up to 4 opportunities within 4 years to pass the QE. If you delay in applying for the QE after residency, or do not take the QE when offered, you will lose exam opportunities.
  • CE: Upon successful completion of the QE, applicants will be offered up to 3 opportunities within 3 years to pass the CE. The three CE opportunities begin immediately upon successful completion of the QE. If you do not take the CE when offered, you will lose an exam opportunity.
  • If you are unable to become certified within the 7-year period, you will be required to pursue a readmissibility pathway to re-enter the certification process. See also our exam admissibility policy for further details.