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New System for Reporting of Exam Results

July 22, 2016 Media Contact: Christine Shiffer, 215-568-4000

ABS moving to new system of scaled scores for reporting of exam results

Beginning with the 2016 General Surgery Qualifying Examination, the American Board of Surgery (ABS) is moving to a clearer, more consistent system for the reporting of results of all written summative examinations (i.e., written qualifying, certifying and MOC examinations). Results will now be reported to examinees as scaled scores, rather than raw scores.* Raw exam scores will be converted to a scale of 100 to 900, with a consistent passing scaled score of 400 for all exams.

Because examinations can vary slightly in difficulty across administrations, the ABS uses the psychometric process of equating to ensure the passing standard remains consistent. Although the passing standard itself does not change from year to year, reporting exam results as raw percent correct scores, as previously done, can make results difficult to interpret due to minor variations in question difficulty from one exam to the next. The new fixed scaled score, by comparison, better reflects the consistent standard that must be achieved on an exam and will allow examinees to directly compare how they performed across exams.

Scaled scores can be interpreted as standard deviation units from the passing score. For example, an examinee with a score of 500 scored one standard deviation above the passing score, giving further insight into an individual's exam performance.

The move to scaled scores for the reporting of exam results in no way impacts how the ABS equates across exams or determines and applies its passing standards. For each exam, individuals have the same chance of passing regardless of examination year, changes in exam difficulty, or the ability of the overall examinee group. Theoretically, all examinees can pass (or fail) each year; there is no pre-designated failure rate for any ABS exam. The new scaled scores are intended to provide greater clarity to the ABS examination process, and more useful information to examinees as they seek to achieve or maintain their certification.

  • *One exception has been the the General Surgery Qualifying Examination (QE), which previously used a scaled score with a passing score of 75. QE scores will now also be reported on the 100 to 900 scale, with a passing score of 400.
About the ABS
  • The American Board of Surgery is an independent, nonprofit organization founded in 1937 for the purpose of certifying individuals who have met a defined standard of education, training and knowledge in the field of surgery. Surgeons certified by the ABS have completed at least five years of surgical training following medical school and successfully completed a written and oral examination process administered by the ABS. They must then maintain their board certification through ongoing learning and practice improvement activities.
  • The ABS offers board certification in general surgery, vascular surgery, pediatric surgery, surgical critical care, complex general surgical oncology, surgery of the hand, and hospice and palliative medicine. It is one of the 24 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties.