Continuous Certification Assessment Entry Pathway
General surgery, vascular surgery, pediatric surgery, surgical critical care, complex general surgical oncology and/or hand surgery certificate holders who have a certificate that has recently lapsed have the option of regaining their certification using the Continuous Certification Assessment process. In a change from the initial pathway pilot that was available to lapsed general surgery diplomates from 2018-2020 and lapsed specialty diplomates from 2019-2021, this entry pathway is currently only available to ABS certificate holders whose certificate has lapsed or expired within the past two years (December 31, 2022, or later).
Registration to enter the lapsed pathway in 2024 for any ABS specialty will be available as of Aug. 1, 2024.
Once registered, diplomates will be required to take and pass the assessment each year for five consecutive years. Diplomates will regain their ABS certification in the same year that they pass the first assessment in this five-year period. Their continued certification will be contingent on passing the assessment each year, as well as meeting the other Continuous Certification Program requirements.
During this five-year period, you will not receive any grace years, and you will not be eligible for the retired designation until the five-year period has been successfully completed.
Diplomates must complete and pass the assessment each year during this five-year period.
If a diplomate misses or fails an assessment during this five-year period, they will no longer be able to participate in this pathway and will need to pass a secure examination to regain their certification and re-enter the Continuous Certification Program. See section “Readmission to Continuous Certification,” below, for additional information.
After the five-year period, diplomates will then take the assessments on the standard schedule of every other year, with a grace year available in the alternating year if necessary.
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 the surgeon’s 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).
- Institutional References: References forms completed by the chair of surgery and chair of credentials committee at the institution where the diplomate performs most of their 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 the diplomate’s practice or current activities (cannot be a relative or close acquaintance).
- Practice Improvement: Verification of the surgeon’s 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.
Diplomates whose certificates have recently lapsed or who hold other ABS certificates may already have some of these items on file and should visit their ABS portal home page for information on their status.
If reference forms were submitted within five years, they do not need to be resubmitted.
All forms are currently available on the ABS website, and diplomates may complete their outstanding requirements prior to assessment registration. While submission of materials is an entirely online process, the information submitted is subject to audit by the ABS.
Going forward, once a diplomate passes 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.
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).
In order to continue meeting ABS certification requirements, diplomates must be current with their annual fee payment. If a diplomate does not pay their annual fee in a given year during the five-year lapsed pathway period, they will not be able to register for that year’s assessment and their enrollment in this pathway will be terminated.
Readmission to Continuous Certification
If a diplomate’s ABS certificate expired prior to 2022, or if they miss or fail an assessment during the five-year period of the lapsed pathway, a traditional recertification exam will again be required to regain ABS certification for those who do not avail themselves of this pathway or who fail to meet requirements once enrolled.
This examination is a full day exam that the diplomate will schedule at a Pearson VUE testing center. The fee for the 2024 readmission exam is $1700, and the exam will be available from Oct. 15-28, 2024.
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 2024, their first Continuous Certification Assessment will be due in 2026.
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.
- General Surgery Continuous Certification Readmission Exam Content Outline (pdf)
- Vascular Surgery Continuous Certification Readmission Exam Content Outline (pdf)
- Pediatric Surgery Continuous Certification Readmission Exam Content Outline (pdf)
- Surgical Critical Care Continuous Certification Readmission Exam Content Outline (pdf)
For specific inquiries regarding this policy, or to gain access to the application for any of the Continuous Certification Readmission Examinations, please contact the Continuous Certification coordinator.
Updated: January 2024