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Board Certification General Policies

1. Purpose of Certification2. Scope of Certification3. Examination Development and Administration

4. Applications for Certification and Recertification

5. Examination Timelines

6. Application Fees

7. Examination Fees

8. Annual Management Certification Fee

9. Refund Policy

10. Examination Registration11. Certification/Recertification Credentialing12. Examination Security

13. Test Site Regulations

14. Examination Scoring and Reporting

15. Examination Complaints and Appeals

16. Certification Designation

17. Non-Discrimination Policy

18. Accommodations for Religious Reasons and Disabilities

19. ABPS Code of Ethics

Purpose of Certification

The ABPS affiliated Boards of Certification (BOC) are committed to the certification of qualified physicians. Certification is based on education, practice, and experience-based requirements, against which a physician can be assessed, that suggest suitability for specialty certification. The purposes of these boards of certification are as follows:

  1. To define the domain of knowledge and clinical skills expected of a physician;
  2. To provide a valid assessment of the knowledge level demonstrated by a physician;
  3. To encourage continued professional development in a specialty field;
  4. To formally recognize physicians who meet the high standards set by the boards of certification; and
  5. To serve the public by encouraging quality patient care in the practice of a specialty.

Scope of Certification

Eligibility requirements and examinations of the boards of certification have been developed based on a substantial review and analysis of the current state of clinical knowledge in the field of a particular specialty, as reflected in medical literature and the patient-care setting. Members of the boards of certification have developed a certification process that assesses, meets, and/or exceeds accepted levels of knowledge and expertise in the specialty, with the goal of improving patient care. The boards of certification constantly monitor advancements in the field of the particular specialty and make revisions in their certification examinations.

Examination Development and Administration

Each BOC utilizes the services of ABPS to assist in the planning, development, and administration of certification and recertification examinations as required by the ABPS affiliation requirements. ABPS assists the certifying bodies by guiding the planning, development, and psychometric evaluation of assessment procedures designed to measure professional competency.

Applications for Certification and Recertification

All applications are available through the individual “Boards of Certification” areas located in the left-hand navigation links. All applications are in PDF format and require Adobe Acrobat Reader to be viewed and printed.

Applicants must complete the application process by December 1 for the May examination cycle and by April 1 for the October examination cycle.

All information submitted by the applicant is subject to primary source verification. Submission of false or misleading information constitutes grounds for exclusion from the certification process. By signing and having the application notarized, the applicant agrees to hold harmless the ABPS-affiliated boards of certification and all parties responding in good faith during such verification and for actions taken by the boards of certification during a thorough review of the information contained in the application.

If a physician has been accepted as a candidate, but cannot take the examination, he or she may request a deferment. Requests for deferment must be submitted in writing to the ABPS Certification Department. If the ABPS Certification Department receives no notification of deferment and the candidate does not respond by the deadline for exam registration, the candidate will be charged with a deferment.  Three deferments are allowed within the application timeline. However, a candidate must take the examination by the next time it is offered, otherwise, the application will become INVALID. The physician may reapply, but must meet the current eligibility requirements, in effect at the time of the new application, to be considered for an examination.

If, after a period of one (1) year from your submission of your application, all of the application materials are not deemed complete and the application has not been approved by the appropriate board of certification, your application will become invalid; thereby, requiring you to submit a new application and application fee in order to pursue certification. You must meet the requirements in effect at the time the second or subsequent application is received by ABPS.

Certification/Recertification Credentialing

As a usual and customary procedure, ABPS verifies credentials for both certification and recertification applicants using various sources including, but not limited to, the Federation of State Medical Boards Credentials Verification service and the American Medical Association Physicians Profiling services.

Examination Timelines

Specialties with a Two-Level (written/computer-based and an oral/simulation) Exam Process

The candidate is allowed a maximum of six (6) consecutive years to complete the entire exam process. The time limit commences on the first available examination date after the application is accepted or officially approved by the Board of Certification in the appropriate specialty.

The candidate is allowed:

  • a maximum of three attempts to pass the written/computer based exam
  • a maximum of three attempts to pass the oral/simulation exam

If a candidate fails to pass any of the steps after three attempts, the application timeline is considered ended. The candidate must wait at least one (1) year before reapplying for certification and must meet the eligibility requirements in effect at the time of the new application. Additionally, the physician must provide verification of courses, or seminars, taken to remedy deficiencies demonstrated during the examination process.

The specialties which require a two-step (written/computer-based and oral/simulation) exam process include:

  • Anesthesiology
  • Diagnostic Radiology
  • Disaster Medicine
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Family Medicine Obstetrics
  • Obstetrics & Gynecology
  • Ophthalmology
  • Orthopedic Surgery
  • Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
  • Psychiatry
  • Radiation Oncology
  • Surgery

Specialties with a Single-Level (written/computer-based) Exam Process

The candidate is allowed a maximum of three (3) consecutive years to complete the exam process. The time limit commences on the first available examination date after the application is received. The candidate shall be allowed a maximum of three attempts to pass the written/computer based exam. If a candidate fails to pass after three attempts, the application timeline is considered ended. The candidate must wait at least one (1) year before reapplying for certification and must meet the eligibility requirements in effect at the time of the new application. Additionally, the physician must provide verification of courses, or seminars, taken to remedy deficiencies demonstrated during the examination process.

These specialties include:

  • Administrative Medicine
  • Dermatology
  • Family Practice
  • Geriatric Medicine
  • Hospital Medicine
  • Integrative Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
  • Urgent Care Medicine

Extending the Exam Process

Candidates who cannot complete the process in a timely manner due to one of the following reasons may appeal, in advance in writing, to the ABPS Board for an extension of the exam-cycle process.

  • Serious illness of the candidate
  • Serious illness/death of a defined first degree relative
  • Travel conditions that significantly delay travel to the exam site, such as severe weather conditions, highway or airport closures.

Candidate must provide documentation of the above-mentioned circumstances, such as medical reports, airline cancellation or delay notices, etc. This information should be sent to the Director of Certification who will forward this appeal to the ABPS Board. The Board may request additional documentation. The documentation must be received by the Director of Certification within ten (10) business days of the exam date. The documentation must be sent by traceable mail/courier.

An exam-cycle extension fee may be levied at the discretion of the appropriate Board of Certification. An exam candidate is allowed only one extension per exam-cycle.

PDF IconClick here to download Sample Timeline

Certification Application Fees*

A non-refundable application processing fee for certification applicants, must be submitted with the specialty application and supporting documents. NOTE: Only the application processing fee is to be paid at this time. Failure to submit this fee with the application will result in the rejection of an application. Please refer to the fee schedule for application fees. Payment must be in the form of money order, personal or certified check, or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover are accepted).

Certification Examination Fees*

Upon approval to sit for the examination, invoices for the Written and/or Oral examinations, will be mailed. Each approved candidate for certification will receive an examination invoice, which must be paid before the candidate receives confirmation to sit for examination. Please refer to the fee schedule for examination fees. Payment must be in the form of money order, personal or certified check, or credit card (Visa MasterCard, American Express, and Discover are accepted). NOTE: Do not submit the examination fee until you receive the examination invoice, as it will be declined and returned to you.

Recertification Application Fees*

A non-refundable application processing fee for recertification applicants, must be submitted with the specialty application and supporting documents. Failure to submit this fee with the application will result in the rejection of an application. Please refer to the fee schedule for application fees. Payment must be in the form of money order, personal or certified check, or credit card (Visa MasterCard, American Express, and Discover are accepted).

*There will be a $35.00 charge for any insufficient funds processing, which will also delay the processing of your application.

Certification Management Fee (CMF)

The annual CMF is due and payable on the first day of every new year. The CMF is required to maintain your certification and is used to cover, in part, all expenses for sustaining certification and recertification. This fee is prorated for first year Diplomate(s).

Refund Policy

The application processing fee will be retained by ABPS. No other exceptions or refunds will be made unless approved by the specialty boards of certification.

Examination Registration

Candidates approved to sit for the examination will be notified after review and approval from the Credentials Committee. The notification will include detailed information regarding the examination, as well as an invoice for the examination fee. If a candidate has not received the aforementioned confirmation within two months prior to the date of the examination, please contact the ABPS Certification Department at (813) 433-2277.

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Examination Security

Strict security measures are maintained throughout all phases of examination development and administration. Trained independent proctors supervise the administration of the examination, maintaining the strictest security throughout the testing period. Irregularities observed during the testing period, such as disturbances, giving and/or receiving unauthorized information or aid to other candidates or attempting to remove testing materials and/or notes from the testing room, may be sufficient cause to terminate participation in the examination administration, or invalidate or cancel the scores of the offending candidate(s).

Irregularities may be identified by observation of suspicious activities by examination proctors, or may be evidenced by subsequent statistical analysis of testing materials. The ABPS reserves the right to investigate each incident of misconduct or irregularity reported by a specialty board of certification under its policies on fair process.

Test Site Regulations

  1. All candidates must present photo identification (limited to driver’s license/state issued identification card, hospital identification with photograph, or passport) at the test site in order to be permitted to take the examination. No exceptions to this requirement will be made.
  2. Candidates must arrive at the test site at least 30 minutes prior to the announced examination time. Late arrivals will not be admitted to the testing site.
  3. Devices with memory capabilities, books, paper, and notes are not permitted in the testing room. Personal possessions such as briefcases, backpacks, or large purses will be collected by the proctors and returned after the test session.
  4. Unauthorized visitors will not be allowed at the test site. Observers approved by the boards of certification may be present during the testing session.

Examination Scoring and Reporting

Written (computer-based) examinations are electronically tabulated, following the completion of the examination period. Candidates will be given the results of their written examination within 60 days of the close of the examination administration period. Candidates failing the written examination will not be permitted to take the oral examination (if the specialty board requires an oral examination).

Oral examinations are scored following the examination. The results of the oral examination will be available to candidates after all testing is completed and all scores are recorded, reviewed, and approved by the specialty board of certification.  Oral exam candidates will receive their results in writing within 45 days of the examination date.

No information regarding written or oral examination results will be given to candidates verbally. The total examination process is designed as a professional competency test and is not intended to distinguish between scores achieved above the passing point. Therefore, no numeric scores will be reported to any candidate.

Candidates are permitted to take each of the written examinations and oral examinations (applicable only to the specialties requiring oral examinations), as many as three times in order to pass. For initial certification, candidates are required to pay the full exam fee for each exam attempt. For recertification, an $800 exam fee is charged for each attempt.

If a candidate does not pass all the required examinations within the numbers of allowable attempts, he or she must wait at least one year before reapplying for certification, and must meet the eligibility requirements in effect at the time of the new application. Additionally, the physician must provide verification of courses or seminars taken to remedy deficiencies demonstrated during the examination process.

Scoring and Reporting
All responses by candidates on the written examinations administered via computer-based testing are submitted and scored electronically. Follow-up audits of scoring procedures and examination results may be conducted. If an audit indicates an error in scoring resulting in a change in the results of a candidate, ABPS will rescore and provide the candidate the revised results. As with the written examinations, the scoring of the oral examinations undergo review following each administration to verify accuracy of the results.

Cancellation of Scores
An examinee taking any ABPS Board examination, either written or oral, may elect to cancel his or her scores, provided the request from the candidate is in writing and is received in the ABPS Executive Offices within 10 days after the examination was administered. ABPS will send an acknowledgment of the cancellation of the score within 5 working days. A candidate who cancels his or her scores will be charged with an attempt on the test, with no indication of a pass/fail status maintained in the candidate’s record. No refunds will be given candidates withdrawing from the examination process.

Examination Complaints and Appeals

  1. Certification examinations should be fairly administered and accurately scored.
  2. A candidate for certification (“Candidate”) should be able to raise complaint(s) about the administration, construction or contents of an examination. A Candidate should be able to appeal the results of an examination.
  3. Each Board of Certification shall adopt written procedures for handling complaints and appeals for each written or computer-based examination, oral examination and, if applicable, clinical examination offered by the Board.
  4. Every Candidate shall be provided with a copy of the procedures applicable to any examination upon being approved to take the examination. This will enable a reasonable candidate to familiarize himself or herself with the complaint and appeal procedures.
  5. Prior to being admitted to any examination, a Candidate shall, in writing, acknowledge receipt of a copy of the procedures for that examination and certify that the Candidate is familiar with the procedures for complaints and appeals applicable to that examination.
  6. Any complaint about the conditions or administration of the examination must be raised by the candidate promptly and in writing. The written complaint must be reported to and documented by the Proctor at the exam administration site within thirty (30) minutes of the conclusion of the exam. A complaint that could have been addressed before or during the examination but was not raised until later will not be considered, except in extraordinary circumstances.
  7. A Candidate who raised a complaint before or during the exam administration but is unsatisfied with the means by which a complaint about exam conditions or administration was addressed must give written notice thereof, stating the reason(s), immediately following the examination and in all events before the examination is scored. The written complaint must be postmarked within seven (7) days of the examination.
  8. Any complaint about the construction or contents of an examination must be raised promptly and in writing immediately following the examination and in all events before the examination is scored. The written complaint must be postmarked within seven days of the examination.
  9. A Candidate may appeal the scoring of an examination in writing within thirty (30) days of notification of examination results. An appeal shall specify the reason(s) for the appeal. An appeal based on exam conditions, administration, contents or construction cannot be considered unless previously raised in a complaint by the Candidate done in compliance of the above mentioned procedures.
  10. When an appeal is filed, the Candidate shall be provided a Contact Person who will be the Candidate’s sole point of contact and source of information until a final ruling by ABPS.
  11. An appeal shall be referred to an Appeals Committee of Diplomates appointed by the Board of Certification in the specialty. The Appeals Committee shall investigate and make a recommendation to ABPS. The ABPS shall rule on the appeal after considering the recommendation of the Appeals Committee.
  12. A Candidate shall be notified in writing of the results of an appeal within two weeks of the Appeals Committee’s decision.
  13. The ABPS decision on an appeal shall be final.

Certification Designation

Candidates passing all phases of an examination process will:

  • Receive a certificate suitable for framing.
  • Be permitted to designate themselves as Diplomates of the board of certification in their particular specialty.
  • Be permitted to use and display on business cards and stationery those certification trademarks of the Association appropriate for their particular specialty (such as “BCEM” for those certified in Emergency Medicine). Additionally, Diplomates making learned presentations at seminars, conferences and similar gatherings may also use and display the logo trademark in their biographical materials provided they advise the audience that their presentations represent their own views, opinions and experiences and do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or experiences of the Board or all members of the American Association of Physician Specialists.

Non-Discrimination Policy

ABPS and its affiliated boards of certification do not discriminate against any person on the basis of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, national origin, medical condition, physical disability, or marital status.

Accommodations for Religious Reasons and Disabilities

The American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) provides alternate testing dates for candidates whose religious practices pose a conflict in taking an examination on the published date. Candidates wishing to request a change in the test because of religious practice must submit to ABPS no less than six weeks before the published examination date a written, signed request for such accommodation. The request must also include the name of the religion and a statement attesting to the religious tenets that restrict such activity such as taking an examination on the date normally scheduled for the examination. ABPS reserves the right to request the candidate to provide documentation from a cleric of the religion verifying the requirements of the religion and that the candidate is currently a practicing member in order for ABPS to honor the request.

ABPS also provides accommodations to candidates with disabilities, as governed by the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA). All requests for accommodations due to disabilities governed by ADA must be submitted to ABPS no less than two months before the published examination date. ABPS will make every reasonable effort to provide the accommodations requested, provided they are applicable to your diagnosed disability. For ABPS to provide the accommodations, it may be necessary to administer the examination on a day different from the published date.

Requests for examination administrations with special accommodations must be presented to ABPS on letter-head stationery from a licensed, certified evaluator of your disability, at least two months in advance of the published examination date. The evaluator must provide information regarding his or her specialty, and applicable licenses and certifications. The request for special examination accommodations should include the following information from the evaluator:

Clearly worded statement of the diagnosed disability.

  1. Description of the limitations resulting from the disability.
  2. Complete description of the accommodations being requested.
  3. Comprehensive description of the documentation available to support the diagnosis of the disability and the conclusion that you need the accommodations being requested. All documentation must be current, minimally within the last 5 years for learning disabilities, the last 6 months for psychiatric disabilities: or the last 3 years for all other disabilities which are not permanent physical or sensory nature.
  4. Complete history relevant to the disability for which testing accommodations are being requested, including descriptions of situations in which the same accommodations were provided the applicant.
  5. Explanation describing how the requested testing accommodations are relevant to the disability.

Depending upon the nature and extent of the accommodations, ABPS reserves the right to schedule the examination on a date different from the published schedule in order to adequately provide the necessary accommodations. If documentation submitted with the request is incomplete or requires significant clarification, it may be necessary to delay the administration with the accommodations to the next published testing date. ABPS advises candidates to submit such requests as early as possible to provide for adequate time to resolve all issues that might arise.

ABPS administers all of its examinations only in English. Responses from an examinee to examination questions must be in English for the candidate to be eligible to receive credit toward his or her examination score.

ABPS Code of Ethics

As a Diplomate of the American Board of Physician Specialties I pledge myself to:

  • Maintain the highest standard of personal conduct.
  • Promote and encourage the highest level of medical ethics in medicine.
  • Maintain loyalty to the goals and objectives of the American Board of Physician Specialties
  • Recognize and discharge my responsibility and that of the profession to uphold the laws and regulations relating to the practice of medicine.
  • Strive for excellence in all aspects of my medical practice.
  • Use only legal and ethical means in the provision of care to my patients.
  • Provide patient care impartially; provide no special privilege to any individual patient based on the patient’s race, color, creed, sex, national origin or handicap.
  • Accept no personal compensation from any party that would influence or require special consideration in the provision of care to any patient.
  • Maintain the confidentiality of privileged information entrusted or known to me, by virtue of my role as a physician.
  • Cooperate in every reasonable and proper way with other physicians and work with them in the advancement of quality patient care.
  • Use every opportunity to improve public understanding of the role of the physician specialist.
  • Abide by the highest ethical standards in activities designed to attract patients to my practice.