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ABS Announces Solution for 2020 General Surgery Qualifying Exam

Aug. 27, 2020 Media Contact: Alyson Maloney, 215-568-4000

The American Board of Surgery (ABS) announced today a solution to the 2020 General Surgery Qualifying Exam (QE). Candidates who were affected by the attempted administration of this exam in July were notified of this solution via email earlier today.

After reviewing and evaluating the many suggestions and solutions proposed by affected candidates, program directors, and other members of the surgical community, the ABS, along with the General Surgery Board, and the Assessment Committee of the ABS Council, have developed a solution that meets the following principles:

  1. Recognizes the negative experience of the 2020 QE candidates;
  2. Allows equitable access to certification in this academic year;
  3. Maintains exam security and reliability;
  4. Maintains standards set by both the ABS and the ABMS;
  5. Minimizes the likelihood of widespread disruption.

The 2020 General Surgery Qualifying Exam (QE) has been rescheduled for Thursday, April 15, and will be held at Pearson VUE exam centers across the country. This is the only date that Pearson VUE was able to provide for this academic year. Pearson VUE will hold ALL seats available (2,600 nationwide) for priority scheduling for the affected group of 2020 QE candidates until January 2021. If candidates reserve a seat prior to January 2021, they will not be competing with candidates for other exams and will have a much wider choice of exam centers.

In recognition of the negative impact of participating in the administration of the July exam, candidates who had registered for the 2020 QE will receive a $400 discount on the next exam, bringing the new price to $950. This applies to either the April or July exams. Additional information on how to register for the April and/or July exam will be available in September.

In addition, ABS is providing to all candidates who were registered for the July exam:

  • A one-year subscription to SCORE
  • Credit and ID monitoring for two years
  • Letters to employers upon request

In recognition of the importance of certification timelines, candidates who wish to do so can take the General Surgery Certifying Exam (CE) before taking the QE. Both exams will be required for certification. In recognition of the need to minimize travel, all General Surgery CEs will all be delivered virtually in the 2020-2021 academic year. Dates will be posted and registration opened no later than the end of September. The requirement for candidates to hold a full and unrestricted state medical license to register for the CE will be waived for those who choose to take the CE first. A full and unrestricted state medical license will be required before a candidate will be considered certified by the ABS.

In addition, candidate eligibility will be extended by one year. If a candidate chooses not to take the QE during the 2020-2021 academic year, their seven-year exam admissibility period will begin July 1, 2021. The July 2021 QE will be delivered as scheduled, and candidates may choose to register for that exam if they wish.

This solution is based upon input from candidates by phone, e-mail and social media, as well as from four town hall discussions with approximately 800 candidate attendees. Additional input came from roundtable discussions had by the ABS with the Association of Program Directors in Surgery (APDS), the Resident Advisory Society of the American College of Surgeons (RAS-ACS), the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the ABS Board of Directors, the General Surgery Board of the ABS (GSB), and the Assessment Committee of the ABS Council. Additional information was solicited from our partner societies, from other ABMS boards, and from stakeholders who use the certification credential.

We hope that this solution will allow candidates affected by the July exam to focus their attention on taking care of patients and the lifelong work of learning to be a surgeon.

Please see our text FAQs and video FAQs for additional details and information.