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General Surgery

Qualifying Examination

The General Surgery Qualifying Examination is offered annually as the first of two exams required for board certification in general surgery.


About the General Surgery Qualifying Examination

The General Surgery Qualifying Examination (GSQE) is offered annually as the first of two exams required for board certification in general surgery. The exam consists of about 300 multiple-choice questions, lasting approximately eight hours, designed to evaluate a surgeon’s knowledge of general surgical principles and applied science.

The exam is administered in four 115-minute sessions with a scheduled break after each session. Once a session has concluded, candidates are not able to revisit those questions.

Candidates will begin the exam with a break bank of 70 minutes and have the flexibility to choose how much break time to use (if any) during each of the scheduled breaks.

To add further flexibility and more break time, any unused exam time from the previous exam section will be added to each candidate’s break bank. A candidate’s break bank balance will appear in the dialog box when the exam is placed in scheduled break mode. Each candidate is responsible for managing their own break time. Pearson VUE staff will not monitor candidates’ break time and will not provide reminders.

Note: If the break time allotted in a candidate’s bank is exceeded, that time will be deducted from their next exam section.

Results are posted approximately four weeks after the exam; candidates 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.

When Can I Take My Exams?

Seven-year limit to certification, four-year limit to the QE

The admissibility period for the GSQE begins immediately upon completion of residency. Candidates are strongly encouraged not to delay in applying for and taking the GSQE for the first time as delays may adversely affect performance. 

This exam is offered only once per academic year. During the exam admissibility period, individuals who postponed or were unsuccessful will be contacted each year regarding the next exam; a new application is not necessary.

The above limits are absolute. Individuals who exceed any of the above restrictions will lose their admissibility and must pursue a readmissibility pathway to re-enter the certification process.

General Surgery Qualifying Examination
Location: Pearson VUE testing centers
Fee: $1,525
Application Deadline: 4/15/2024
Fee: $550
Late App Deadline: 5/13/2024
Fee: $750
3/13 - 3/20
General Surgery Certifying Examination
Location: Virtual
Fee: $1,500
Registration Deadline: 9/1/2023

Registration available following the release of 2023 GSQE results.

Exam Requirements

Candidates must be meeting all requirements at the time of application to the GSQE

To be eligible for this exam, applicants must have satisfactorily completed a residency training program in general surgery accredited by the ACGME or RCPSC.

For applicants who will not complete their residency training by June 30 of their chief year, the program must have obtained prior ABS approval for the extension of training. Applicants will be required to provide documentation of this approval at the time of application to the GSQE. All training must be completed by the end of August to be eligible for that year’s exam.

In addition, candidates must be actively engaged in the practice of general surgery 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 a component of general surgery or other recognized surgical specialty. The only exception to this requirement is active military duty.

Medical License Requirement

While possession of a medical license is not required to apply for general surgery initial certification examinations, candidates must possess a full and unrestricted U.S. or Canadian medical license before they will be considered certified by the ABS. Candidates must provide proof of medical license before they will be issued their certificate, and will be listed in the ABS verification system as “in the examination process” until proof is submitted. Temporary, limited, educational or institutional licenses will not be accepted, even if the candidate is currently in a fellowship.

Applying for the Qualifying Exam

Applicants are encouraged to begin the application process as soon as possible

The application process for the GSQE is posted each year in early spring. Applicants are encouraged to begin the application process as soon as possible.

Candidates who need testing accommodations at the center must submit a request at the time of application, per our Examination Accommodations and Examination of Persons with Disabilities policies.

Once the online application process is available, applicants are required to submit the following items:

This form covers information regarding the applicant’s undergraduate and graduate medical education. All rotations and activities from the beginning of residency must be listed chronologically. Each rotation must be listed separately by clinical activity, not grouped together as a yearly total.

Applicants must also list all time away from training of two days or more outside of any normally scheduled days off, including time taken for research, vacation, interviews, meetings, medical leave, visa issues, and early departures for fellowships.

Applications may be submitted prior to fulfilling ABS case number requirements. However, an operative log meeting required ABS case numbers must be submitted or uploaded no later than June 7, 2024.

Operative logs uploaded prior to meeting the required cases numbers will be deleted and a note regarding its deficiencies will be posted to the applicant’s portal.  Applicants are responsible for monitoring their portal and uploading the case log meeting all case requirements.

Exam registration will be permitted pending the formal ABS review and approval of all electronically submitted application materials; if the operative experience report is not submitted by June 7, exam registration may be revoked and the exam fee refunded. Application fees are non-refundable.

Residents in U.S. programs: Upload a PDF of your ACGME General Surgery Defined Category and Minimum Report (preferred) or the ACGME Experience Report by Role Report via the ABS website.

For the application to be approved, applicants must have:

  • At least 850 total cases.
  • At least 200 chief cases.
  • At least 40 cases listed in surgical critical care (SCC), with at least one in each of the seven categories, as well as cases listed in nonoperative trauma.
  • At least 25 teaching assistant (TA) cases.

Residents in Canadian programs: Complete and submit the ABS operative experience report via the online form. 

Please review our General Surgery Training Requirements for full details.

Review, sign and date the attestation online. Approval of the application is contingent upon approval by the applicant’s program director, who will be contacted separately.

Note: To avoid the late fee, the signature form must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. ET on the deadline date.

Submit the nonrefundable credit card payment (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover) where indicated; a completed application form must be submitted first. A separate exam fee will also be required once the application is approved.

Note: The total application fee due will be based on when the application fee is paid. To avoid the late fee, payment of the application fee must be submitted by 4:30 p.m. ET on the deadline date.

Upload PDF versions of certificates showing that certification in each of these programs was successfully achieved. Applicants do not need to be currently certified in these programs.

    • ATLS: a CME certificate, the history report, and/or a course participation certification do not demonstrate certification was achieved and are not acceptable. These documents will be deleted from the applicant’s portal.
    • ACLS: when the course is in two parts, documentation of both online and hands-on portions must be uploaded as one document. If only one portion of the certificate is uploaded, this document will be deleted.
    • FLS and FES: test vouchers and exam appointment confirmations uploaded in lieu of certificates are not acceptable and will be deleted from the applicant’s portal.
    • When a document is deleted, a note regarding the deficiency will be posted in the portal.

Applicants are responsible for monitoring their own portal and uploading all documentation that meets ABS requirements.

Prior ABS Letters of Approval: If prior ABS approval has been received for credit for foreign medical education training, flexible rotations, an international rotation, an extension of training, etc., these letters must be uploaded via the ABS portal.

PGY 4 chief rotations: The training program is responsible for obtaining prior AGCME approval for chief rotations completed in the PGY-4 year. Documentation of ACGME approval must be uploaded via the ABS portal for any chief rotation completed in the PGY-4 year.

Residents who trained in multiple programs: Documentation of satisfactory completion for years in prior programs must be uploaded via the ABS portal (e.g., copies of certificates of residency year completion or letters from former program directors).

International medical graduates: If the applicant is required to have an ECFMG certificate, a PDF of it must be uploaded to the ABS portal. The certificate must be valid indefinitely. For Canadian residents, the certificate must be valid through the date of application.

Application Approval

Once all items are submitted, applicants will be able to complete the second step and register for the exam while their application is undergoing review.

After registering, an Exam Admission/Authorization Letter will be posted to the applicant’s ABS portal within 2-5 business days. The Exam Admission/Authorization letter will not be mailed or emailed.  Once posted, applicants will need to log on to their portal to access the Exam Admission/Authorization letter in order to schedule a test center with Pearson VUE immediately.

The ABS provides Pearson VUE with the applicant’s mailing address that is on file at the time of registration. If this information is not updated, an incorrect mailing address will be transmitted to Pearson VUE. To facilitate the best exam center scheduling experience with Pearson VUE, applicants should ensure that the ABS has a current mailing address at the time of registration.

If requesting accommodations, applicants must have submitted the appropriate forms and documentation and have obtained ABS approval prior to registering for the examination. Registering and scheduling an exam center without prior ABS approval will result in an examination appointment without accommodations.

Be advised that testing centers have limited capacity and may fill up well before the exam date, particularly in urban areas. Applicants should contact Pearson VUE as soon as the admission letter is posted to their ABS portal to reserve space at a local testing center. If applicants delay, they will likely have to travel outside of the local geographical area in order to schedule the exam.

Once all materials are received, the application will be reviewed by ABS staff. Applicants will be notified via email when their application has been approved. All applicants are responsible for monitoring their application status via their portal to see whether items are missing or incorrect. Applicants should check the status of their application in the ABS portal periodically, as well as keep their contact information current.

If the application process is not complete, materials or fees submitted cannot be carried over to another year.

PGY-4 Applicants

PGY-4 applicants may apply for and take the GSQE

Upon program director recommendation, PGY-4 applicants may apply for and take the GSQE without meeting the required ABS case numbers. A case log meeting the ABS case numbers will be required to be submitted in June of their chief year.

Program directors and program administrators must request access to the online application process for any eligible PGY-4 residents by contacting the exam coordinator before March 1. Requests received after March 1 will not be accepted. Please allow a minimum of 3-5 business days to process these requests. Program directors and program administrators will be emailed the GSQE information letter that will include temporary log-in credentials for their PGY-4 residents.

Taking the exam after PGY-4 will count toward the four opportunities in four years that are granted to successfully complete the GSQE. However, the overall seven-year limit to achieve certification will not go into effect until completion of residency.

Individuals who pass the GSQE after their PGY-4 year will not have any official status with the ABS until their residency training has been satisfactorily completed according to ABS requirements and the application is formally approved. They also will not be eligible to take the General Surgery Certifying Exam (GSCE) until after completion of residency.

To be eligible, the PGY-4 resident must meet all ABS training and application requirements at the time of application to the GSQE. This includes:

  • 48 weeks of full-time clinical activity in each residency year
  • Training completed at no more than three residency programs
  • Current or past certification in ACLS and ATLS

Please refer to our general surgery training requirements for more details and a full list of requirements.

PGY-4 applicants must also be in compliance with all other ABS policies.

The ACGME Defined Category and Minimum Report meeting the ABS case numbers must be uploaded by candidates via their ABS portal in June of their chief year. Case logs submitted during the PGY-4 year will not be accepted and will be deleted from the applicant’s portal.

If the resident completed the GSQE without having submitted documentation showing successful completion of the ABS Flexible Endoscopy Curriculum, the Fundamentals of Laparoscopic Surgery™ (FLS) program, and/or the Fundamentals of Endoscopic Surgery™ (FES) program, this documentation must be submitted.

Upon completion of residency, PGY-4 applicants will be required to submit additional information regarding their PGY-5 year, including rotations, non-clinical time, and operative cases.

The program director will again be required to attest to this information and to the satisfactory completion of the entire residency experience.

All of the supplemental application information must be received and the application formally approved by the ABS before applicants will be provided with registration information for the General Surgery Certifying Examination (GSCE).

Our exam managers are here to help.

Most questions can be answered with the information available on our website. For specific inquiries, please contact the general surgery exam manager.

Next Steps
Upon successful completion of the GSQE, candidates will be admissible to the General Surgery Certifying Examination and may register for an upcoming exam date.

Contact a Coordinator

Please use the form below to contact the appropriate exam coordinator. They will respond as soon as possible.