Examination Accommodations Policy

Policy outlining the procedure for requesting testing center or virtual examination accommodations for ABS examinations.

Policy outlining the procedure for requesting testing center or virtual examination accommodations for candidates with disabilities, learning differences*, pregnant and lactating mothers, and/or other medical conditions**.

Note: This policy applies only to ABS examinations for initial certification, the Qualifying Examination (QE) and Certifying Examination (CE). Accommodation requests for learning differences for both QE and CE examinations must be submitted by April 15.

All accommodations must be approved prior to scheduling an exam center. Scheduling a center without prior ABS approval will result in an examination appointment without accommodations.

Accommodations for In-Training Exams are at the discretion of the program and do not require ABS approval.

I. Overview

Commitment to a Fair and Equitable Examination Experience for all Candidates

It is the commitment and policy of the American Board of Surgery (ABS) to fully comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the ADA), all amendments thereto and any accompanying applicable regulations. Therefore, consistent with and in accordance with the ADA, the ABS endeavors to administer its examinations, where feasible, in a manner that best ensures equal access for individuals with documented qualifying disabilities, medical conditions, or who are lactating or pregnant, and who demonstrate and request a need for accommodation(s), provided that the requested accommodation is reasonable, not unduly burdensome, and does not fundamentally alter the measurement of the skills or knowledge being assessed.

The ADA defines a person with a disability as someone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities such as walking, seeing, hearing, or learning. The ABS recognizes that surgeons with disabilities may wish to gain access to the ABS’s initial certification activities and will attempt to make reasonable accommodations for candidates with verified disabilities and other conditions who follow these policies and procedures.

Purpose of Examination Accommodations

The purpose of an examination accommodation is to provide equal access to obtaining ABS certification, not certification itself. It is important to note that the objectives of the written and oral certification examinations are different: the written examination tests the examinee’s fund of cognitive information relevant to surgery; the oral examination tests the ability to utilize that knowledge in time-sensitive technical and judgmental situations related to the proper management of a broad spectrum of surgical conditions. The essential nature of the oral examination is to evaluate a candidate’s ability to promptly and efficiently address clinical situations and make treatment decisions under real-world conditions. Numerous situations in surgery, both in the diagnostic arena with emergencies and in the operating room when encountering unexpected events, require rapid decision making and the analytical skill to quickly evaluate alternatives. The oral examination is designed to test a candidate’s ability to make similar decisions under similar time constraints.

As such, no candidate shall be excused from either the written or oral examination for initial certification. Further, no candidate will be granted an accommodation that would compromise either examination’s ability to accurately assess the skills and knowledge it is designed to measure. Similarly, no auxiliary aid or service will be provided that would fundamentally alter either examination or would result in an undue burden to the ABS.

The ABS allows appropriate accommodations in order to best ensure that the results of the examination reflect each individual’s proficiency in the content areas, rather than reflecting an individual’s impaired sensory, manual, cognitive, or psychological skills (except where those skills are the factors that the examination purports to measure). While the intent of the use of an examination accommodation is to enable an individual to demonstrate their proficiency in the knowledge being assessed, granted, or approved, accommodations are not a guarantee of improved performance, test completion, a passing score, or ABS certification.

All accommodations requests must be approved by the ABS prior to scheduling an exam center. Scheduling a center without prior ABS approval will result in an exam appointment without accommodations.

The ABS strictly adheres to a policy of confidentiality and does not disclose names of applicants with disabilities or information concerning the application or accompanying documentation.

II. Procedure for Requesting an Accommodation

Candidates with Disabilities or Learning Differences

An applicant who wishes to request modification of the ABS’s QE and/or CE examination procedures on the basis of disabilities or learning differences should complete the following steps:

  1. Read the ABS Examination of Persons with Disabilities Policy in its entirety, review the applicable documentation guidelines included in sections III, IV, V, and IV of that policy, and share those guidelines with the professional who will be preparing the accompanying documentation.
  2. Complete the Questionnaire & Exam Accommodation Request Form For Candidates With Disabilities.
  3. Upload documentation according to the policy’s guidelines of the disability and the need for accommodation with the questionnaire and examination application via the ABS portal.
  4. Applicants must ensure that they are submitting complete documentation as required by this policy. Incomplete documentation will delay processing of the request.
  5. The questionnaire and accompanying documentation of disability must be received no later than April 15. No requests for test accommodations after this date will be accepted.
Candidates Who are Pregnant and/or Lactating

The ABS will consider requests for medically necessary testing accommodations to support candidates who are lactating or who are pregnant. Pearson VUE has specific designated centers that are able to offer such accommodations, and these locations fill up on a first-come, first-served basis. The ABS has no control over these accommodations. As set forth below, a candidate who is a lactating mother may be afforded additional break time in order to express breast milk.

Important note: Currently in the Pearson Professional Centers in the Americas region, a private venue to pump at each location has been established. The private venue at each test center varies. It may be either a breakroom with a door or a break area with a privacy screen. Each venue has a chair, table, and electrical outlet, and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. At any given test center, there may be multiple candidates with a Nursing Mothers Accommodation. Upon check-in on the day of the exam, individuals must inform the center staff that they have been approved for a Nursing Mothers Accommodation. The test center administrator will assist these individuals in reserving the room. Pearson center staff will not interrupt the exam to remind examinees of their scheduled time for accessing the private venue. Examinees are responsible for accessing the private venue at their reserved time.

Children are not permitted at Pearson VUE test centers. For candidates who are exclusively breastfeeding, please contact us to discuss options.

To request a testing accommodation, candidates must submit the Accommodation Request for Pregnant and/or Lactating Candidates form at the time of exam registration or application, or least 30 days prior to the applicant’s exam date. Requests received less than 30 days prior to the exam date will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Supporting documentation may be requested.

Note: The accommodation must be approved prior to scheduling an exam center. Scheduling a center without prior ABS approval will result in an examination appointment without accommodations.

Pregnant Candidates

Pregnant candidates may request a “frequent break accommodation” (taken during an exam session) and/or an “access to medication accommodation.”

Additional Break Time Accommodations for Lactating Candidates

  • The General Surgery Qualifying Examination (GSQE) and the Vascular Surgery Qualifying Examination (VSQE) will start with a bank of 70 minutes of break time.
    • To express breast milk during the GSQE or the VSQE, lactating candidates will receive an additional 60 minutes of break time added to the break bank, for a total of 130 minutes of break time.
  • The Pediatric Surgery Qualifying Examination (PSQE), the Complex General Surgical Oncology Qualifying Examination (CGSO QE), and Surgical Critical Care Certifying Examination (SCC CE) will start with a bank of 20 minutes of break time.
    • To express breast milk during the PSQE, the CGSO QE, or the SCC CE, lactating candidates will receive an additional 30 minutes of break time added to the break bank, for a total of 50 minutes of break time.
  • With break banking, the candidate has the flexibility to choose how much break time (if any) to use at scheduled breaks between exam sections during the examination. To add further flexibility and more break time, any unused exam time from the previous exam section will be added to the break bank. An examinee’s break bank balance will appear in the dialog box when their exam is placed in scheduled break mode. Examinees may wish to make note of this balance. Examinees are responsible for managing their own break time. Pearson VUE staff will not monitor break time and will not provide examinees with reminders.
  • Note: If an examinee exceeds the break time allotted in their bank, that time will be deducted from their next exam section.
  • The Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Focused Practice Designation Examination (MBS FPD Exam) includes one scheduled break of 10 minutes. To express milk during the MBS FPD Exam, an additional 30 minutes of break time will be added to the break, for a total of 40 minutes of break time (no break bank for this exam).
GSQE VSQE PSQE, CGSO QE, SCC-CE MBS FPD Exam
Tutorial – 7 min.
Instructions – untimed
Section 1 – 115 min.
Scheduled break – Bank
Section 2 – 115 min.
Scheduled break – Bank
Section 3 – 115 min.
Scheduled break – Bank
Section 4 – 115 min.
Survey – 3 min
Tutorial – 7 min.
Instructions – untimed
Section 1 – 90 min.
Scheduled break – Bank
Section 2 – 90 min.
Scheduled break – Bank
Section 3 – 90 min.
Scheduled break – Bank
Section 4 – 90 min.
Survey – 3 min.
Tutorial – 7 min
Instructions – untimed
Section 1 – 90 min.
Scheduled break – Bank
Section 2 – 90 min
Scheduled break – Bank
Section 3 – 90 min.
Survey – 3 min.
Intro – untimed
NDA – untimed
Tutorial – 10 min.
Section 1 – 120 min.
Scheduled break – 40 min. (with accommodation)
Section 2 – 120 min.
Survey – 10 min
Candidates with Other Medical Conditions

The ABS recognizes that some of our candidates may have a medical condition that may require an accommodation while taking an ABS examination. Examples of other medical conditions include, but are not limited to: accessing glucose monitoring supplies; taking frequent breaks during an examination session; and accessing medication. In support of our candidates, the ABS will work with Pearson VUE to consider requests for medically necessary accommodations on a case-by-case basis.

Requesting an Accommodation for a Medical Condition

Candidates who have other medical conditions that may necessitate an accommodation must submit the Accommodation Request for Candidates with Other Medical Conditions form at the time of exam registration or application, or at least 30 days prior to the date of the exam for which they are applying. Requests received less than 30 days prior to the exam date will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Supporting documentation may be requested.

Important Note: If needed, private space may be provided on a first-come, first-served basis and is subject to test center availability. This may require a candidate to travel to a more distant center with an available private space.

Upon receipt of the Other Medical Conditions Accommodations Request form, accommodations for candidates with medical conditions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Note: The accommodation must be approved prior to scheduling an exam center. Scheduling a center without prior approval will result in an examination appointment without accommodations.

III. Review and Evaluation of Requested Accommodation

The ABS will conduct a review and evaluation of the request for an accommodation. This review is conducted at no expense to the candidate.

After reviewing any supporting documentation, the ABS may need to request additional information to verify the existence of a disability (or impairment) and the need for a testing accommodation. The supplemental documentation must be provided within two weeks of the ABS’s request.

The ABS cannot delay the administration of an examination pending submission of any missing documentation. In addition, in some cases, the ABS may require an independent review. Therefore, if in ABS’s judgement it is not clear whether a candidate is disabled or whether a requested accommodation is needed, the ABS may engage an outside expert at its own expense to review all submitted documentation and to render an opinion.

This review may result in an examination administered without accommodations.

IV. Notification of Determination

The ABS will notify the candidate in writing of its determination. If the ABS is unable to accommodate the candidate because the request constitutes a fundamental alteration of the examination or an undue burden, the ABS will also notify the candidate in writing of the basis for that determination.

In some instances of an offered accommodation, a candidate will be required to return a signed acceptance of the accommodation before scheduling a center with Pearson VUE.

Upon notification that an accommodation is available, the candidate is responsible for scheduling the desired available center with Pearson VUE as soon as possible. These options are on a first-come, first-served basis, and delays in contacting Pearson VUE may result in fewer options.

For additional information about Person VUE testing center accommodations, please see our FAQs for computer-based examinations.

If you have any questions about this policy or accompanying form, please contact us.

 

UPDATED: March 2024

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