Exam Admissibility Policy – General Surgery & Vascular Surgery

Policy outlining examination admissibility time limits for initial certification in general and vascular surgery.

Key Points

  • The 7-year period for achieving certification starts immediately upon completion of training.
  • You must apply upon conclusion of 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.
  • Only one exam opportunity will be offered each year. If you do not take an exam when it is given, that is a lost opportunity.

In 2012, the ABS announced changes to its admissibility requirements for initial certification in general surgery and vascular surgery. This was done in accordance with a new statute of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) that limits the period an individual may be eligible for initial certification to no more than 7 years following completion of training in the specialty.

The new ABS policy applies to individuals who complete their training in general surgery or vascular surgery after July 1, 2012. Individuals who completed their training prior to this date will continue under the ABS’ previous policies.

New Exam Admissibility Policy

The new policy is as follows:

  • Individuals will have no more than 7 academic years (July 1-June 30) following completion of training in general surgery or vascular surgery to achieve certification in that specialty—i.e., pass both the written Qualifying Examination (QE) and oral Certifying Examination (CE) required for certification.
  • The 7-year period starts immediately upon completion of training, not when an individual’s application is approved. If individuals delay in applying for certification, they will lose opportunities to take and pass the QE, the first exam in the certification process.
  • Up to 4 opportunities in 4 consecutive years will be given to pass the QE, providing the individual applies for certification immediately after training. If a candidate decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity as the four-year limit is absolute. After four years, if the QE is not passed, the individual is no longer admissible to the certification process.
  • Up to 3 opportunities in 3 consecutive years will be given to pass the CE, immediately following successful completion of the QE. Candidates will only be permitted one exam opportunity per year. If a candidate decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity as the three-year limit is absolute. After three years, if the CE is not passed, the individual is no longer admissible to the certification process.
  • After 7 years, if the candidate has not passed both the QE and CE, the individual is no longer eligible for certification and must pursue a readmissibility pathway to regain admissibility.
  • Candidates who successfully complete the QE in fewer than four opportunities may not apply unused opportunities toward the CE.

Additional Notes

Vascular Surgery Trainees: For certification in vascular surgery, this new policy applies to graduates of independent vascular surgery training programs as well as integrated programs.

Prior Policies for General Surgery: The ABS’ previous requirements that an individual must apply for the General Surgery Qualifying Examination within three years of completing residency and must take the exam within two years of application approval do not apply to this new policy.

Posted: September 2012

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