Lapsed Certificates

COVID-19 EXCEPTION FOR 2020: Due to the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty as to when the secure examination window for the re-entry examination will be able to be rescheduled in the future, a one-time exception is being made to the lapsed certification policy for only this year, 2020.
Surgeons who were unsuccessful in meeting requirements of the lapsed pathway in 2018 and 2019 will be permitted to re-enter the pathway this year, 2020, by meeting all requirements and registering for, taking and passing the online assessment during this year's assessment window (September 7-November 23, 2020). If successful on this year's assessment, certification will be regained this year (2020). Your continued certification then will be contingent upon passing the assessment for the next four years (2021, 2022, 2023, 2024). After the conclusion of the five year period, you would then take the assessments on the standard schedule of every other year.
There will be NO exceptions to the requirement to take and pass the assessment for five consecutive years, starting this year, 2020. If you fail to take or pass the assessment in this five year period, successful completion of a secure examination at a testing center will be required in order to re-enter the Continuous Certification process.

New Assessment Entry Pathway

  • Lapsed certificate holders now have the option of regaining their general surgery, vascular surgery, pediatric surgery and/or surgical critical care certification using the Continuous Certification Assessment process. This entry pathway will only be available for three years:
  • 2018, 2019 and 2020 for general surgery
  • 2019, 2020 and 2021 for vascular surgery, pediatric surgery and surgical critical care

To regain your ABS certification through this pathway, you will need to register and begin taking the new assessment no later than 2020 for general surgery or 2021 for vascular surgery, pediatric surgery and surgical critical care.

5-Year Period
  • Once registered, you will be required to take and pass the assessment each year for five consecutive years. You will regain your ABS certification in the same year that you pass the first assessment in this five-year period. Your continued certification will be contingent on passing the assessment each year, as well as meeting the other Continuous Certification Program requirements.
  • After the five-year period, you would then take the assessments on the standard schedule of every other year, with a grace year available in the alternating year if necessary.
  • Registration
  • Registration for this pathway will require the following items submitted through the ABS website:
  • CME: Information regarding the completion of 150 Category 1 CME credits related to your practice from the past five years (calendar years or more recent 60-month period), of which at least 50 must include self-assessment (test or quiz that requires at least 75% correct). This can be added now to your CME Repository if you wish.
  • Institutional References: References forms completed by the chair of surgery and chair of credentials committee at the institution where you perform most of your work. If necessary, another physician(s) of comparable rank may complete the form.
  • Peer References: Two additional reference forms from peer board-certified physicians (ABMS or AOA) who are familiar with your practice or current activities (cannot be a relative or close acquaintance).
  • Operative Report: A 12-month operative experience report from the institution where you perform most of your work. Diplomates who no longer operate may submit alternative information about their practice.
  • Practice Improvement: Verification of your participation in one or more practice improvement activities, if clinically active.
  • Fee: Administrative fee of $500.
Diplomates with Both a Current Certificate and a Lapsed Certificate
  • Diplomates who hold an active ABS certificate in any specialty and a lapsed certificate in another specialty are able to take advantage of this pathway without paying the additional administrative fee. Because these are current diplomates with at least one active ABS certificate, they are also not required to obtain the two additional reference letters.
  • However, diplomates in this situation will still be required to take and pass the Continuous Certification Assessment for the specialty in which they are lapsed each year for five consecutive years. Continued certification will be contingent on passing the assessment each year, as well as meeting the other Continuous Certification Program requirements.
  • Diplomates may enroll in the Continuous Certification Program for their lapsed certificate, even if they are not yet enrolled in the program for the certification that they currently maintain. Once a diplomate registers for their first Continuous Certification Assessment and enrolls in the program, an annual fee of $285 will be required. If a diplomate maintains more than one ABS certification, they will be charged an additional annual fee of $150 for each additional certification once they take their first Continuous Certification Assessment in that specialty.
Check Your Status
  • Diplomates whose certificates have recently lapsed or who hold other ABS certificates may already have some of these items on file; go to My Continuous Certification to view your status.
  • If you submitted reference forms within five years, and an operative report within 10 years (in any specialty), they do not need to be resubmitted.
  • All forms are currently available on the ABS website, and you may complete your outstanding requirements prior to assessment registration. While submission of materials is an entirely online process, the information you submit is subject to audit by the ABS.
  • Going forward, once you pass the first assessment, the CME requirement will change to 125 CME credits over five years with no self-assessment.
  • Changes to certification status from "Not Certified" to "Certified" will be updated several weeks after the close of the assessment window, once results have been validated.
Assessment Fees
  • Participation in the new assessment process requires an annual fee of $285 for all diplomates, which covers one assessment every other year and general program participation. A small additional fee of $50 each will be charged for the two extra assessments required during the five-year period (in years 2 and 4).
  • Upon the closing of the window in 2020 (general surgery) or 2021 (vascular surgery, pediatric surgery and surgical critical care), a traditional recertification exam will again be required to regain ABS certification.

Readmission to Continuous Certification

  • If a current or former diplomate with a lapsed certificate is unsuccessful in any of the five consecutive years of taking the assessment, they may re-enter the Continuous Certification Program by successfully completing a secure readmission examination at a testing center.
  • This examination is a full day exam that the diplomate will schedule at a Pearson VUE testing center. The window for the 2020 readmission exam has been postponed due to testing center closures resulting from COVID-19. At this time, we do not have a window of dates when we will be able to provide the readmission examination, but will continue to update candidates as to when we are able to return to Pearson centers for this secure examination.
  • If needed, ABS is able to provide correspondence to third parties, including credentialing organizations or insurers, indicating that we have had to postpone the 2020 readmission examination window, and will provide information to surgeons who wish to take that examination regarding rescheduling as soon as a new window is finalized.
  • If the diplomate is successful in completing this secure exam, they will be certified in the specialty for which they took the exam and will be automatically enrolled in the ABS Continuous Certification Program. They will then take their next Continuous Certification Assessment two years later. For diplomates successfully completing the readmission exam in 2019, their first Continuous Certification Assessment will be due in 2021.
  • Note: To be eligible to apply for the secure readmission exam, individuals must be or become up to date with the ongoing requirements of the Continuous Certification Program.
  • To access the content outlines for the Continuous Certification Readmission Examinations, please use the links below.

To gain access to the application for any of the Continuous Certification Readmission Examinations, please contact the ABS office.

Traditional Lapsed Entry Pathway

For specific inquiries regarding this policy, please contact the Continuous Certification coordinator.

Updated: September 2019