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Board Certification General Policies

1. Purpose of Certification

2. Scope of Certification

3. 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 Registration

11. Certification/Recertification Credentialing

12. 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 American Board of Physician Specialties (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:

  • To define the domain of knowledge and clinical skills expected of a physician;
  • To provide a valid assessment of the knowledge level demonstrated by a physician;
  • To encourage continued professional development in a specialty field;
  • To formally recognize physicians who meet the high standards set by the boards of certification; and
  • 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 for certification and recertification are submitted electronically through the CredentialSmart application system. The system can be accessed via a link found on the individual “Boards of Certification” page left-hand navigation links.

Applicants must complete the application process by December 1 for the May examination cycle, February 1 for the August examination cycle, and by May 1 for the October examination cycle. Information regarding early deadlines offering reduced fees, can also be found on the individual “Board of Certification” pages.

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 submitting the application, 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, 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) 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 officially approved by the Board of Certification in the appropriate specialty. The candidate is also allowed a maximum of three attempts to pass the written/computer based exam and a maximum of three attempts to pass the oral/simulation exam. A retake fee is required for each examination attempt.

If a candidate fails to pass any of the steps after three attempts, the application timeline is considered ended, and the application is deemed INVALID. 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) exam process include:

  • Anesthesiology
  • Diagnostic Radiology
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Family Medicine Obstetrics
  • Orthopedic 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. A retake fee is required for each examination attempt.

If a candidate fails to pass after three attempts, the application timeline is considered ended, and the application is deemed INVALID. 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
  • Disaster Medicine
  • Family Medicine
  • Integrative Medicine
  • Internal Medicine
  • Urgent Care Medicine

Deferring the Examination
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.

Up to three deferments are allowed for both the written and oral examinations within the application timeline, and a separate deferment fee will be assessed for each. If a candidate fails to sit for the examination after exhausting their allowable deferrals, 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.

Extending the Examination Timeline
Candidates who cannot complete the process in a timely manner due to one of the following reasons may appeal, in writing, to the ABPS Certification Department for an extension of the examination timeline.

  • 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.  Additional documentation may requested and must be received within ten (10) business days of the request.

An exam candidate is allowed only one extension per exam-cycle.

Certification Application Fees*

Subsequent to submission of the online application, ABPS will invoice the candidate the appropriate non-refundable application processing fee. Payment of the fee must be made within 10 days of receipt of the invoice and must be paid in full before your application can be processed. Failure to submit this fee will delay the Board’s review of your application materials, and may consequently preclude you from taking the exam in your desired administration window. 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. A fee of $800 will be assessed for each retake of a written certification examination. Candidates retaking the oral examination will be assessed the full oral examination fee. Please refer to the fee schedule for initial 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).

Recertification Application Fees*

Subsequent to submission of the online application, ABPS will invoice the candidate the appropriate recertification application processing fee. The fee includes a non-refundable application fee and the exam fee. Payment of the fee must be made within 10 days of receipt of the invoice and must be paid in full before your application can be processed. Failure to submit this fee will delay the Board’s review of your application materials, and may consequently preclude you from taking the exam in your desired administration window. A fee of $600 will be assessed for each retake of a written recertification examination. Please refer to the fee schedule for recertification 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 checks returned due to insufficient funds.

Certification Management Fee (CMF)

Once certified, the annual CMF is due January 31st of each year. The CMF is required to maintain your certification and is used to cover, in part, all expenses for sustaining certification and recertification. Payment of the CMF is required to maintain an active account status, which allows ABPS to provide verification of your certification. There are provisions for reductions in that fee for disability, military, retirement and financial hardship all considered on a case-by-case basis.

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

After review by the Credentials Committee, candidates approved to sit for the examination will be notified via email of their status. Examination registration materials will be mailed 2-3 weeks following the email notification. The materials 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 or certification@abpsus.org.

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. ABPS reserves the right to investigate each incident of misconduct or irregularity reported during the examination process.

Test Site Regulations

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. 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. 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. 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 60-75 days of the close of the examination administration month. 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.

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

All  candidates for certification or recertification have the right to raise complaints or concerns about the administration, construction, or content of any ABPS examination.  Each candidate also has the right to appeal the results of an examination, whether written, oral, or simulation. As part of the examination registration process, all candidates are required to attest that they have read and understand the Examination Complaints and Appeals Policy.

Examination Complaints

Written Examinations – ABPS written examinations are administered by a third-party vendor.  Candidates are provided contact information for the vendor’s customer service as part of their registration paperwork.  Candidates should contact the vendor directly for all issues related to the location of the testing center, scheduled test date or time, rescheduling of examinations, and the online registration process.

Before the ExaminationThe candidate should inform testing center staff of any concerns prior to the start of the testing session.  Once the testing session has begun, the testing center staff cannot stop or pause the testing time for any reason.  It is the responsibility of the candidate to complete the provided computer-based testing tutorial and ensure that they understand the use of the testing system prior to beginning the examination. 

During the Examination – Testing center staff should be informed immediately about any disruption to the testing process including excessive noise in the testing room, inappropriate behavior by other test takers, equipment failure, urgent health or medical situations or any other disruption. Candidates may provide feedback and make comments concerning the content of the examination by using the comment field at the bottom of each question as it is displayed on the screen. All complaints/concerns about the content of the examination must be submitted using comment field the provided in the testing system. This information is securely transmitted directly to ABPS and is reviewed as part of the scoring process. 

After the Examination – Candidates are required to report any issues or disruptions occurring during the testing session to testing center staff before leaving the test site. Candidates are required to report concerns and issues regarding the testing experience to ABPS in writing within 72 hours of the scheduled examination.

Oral Examinations and Simulations –ABPS oral and simulations examinations are administered directly by ABPS staff.

Before the Examination – ABPS staff are available at the registration table before and after the testing sessions to address any concerns or questions.

During the Examination – In the event of a disruption to the testing session, including power failure, weather or medical emergencies, or excessive noise during the testing session, the examiners will instruct the candidate what actions should be taken and will be responsible for pausing or stopping the testing session if necessary.

 After the Examination – Comment forms are provided during check out process and candidates are strongly encouraged to use these forms to document any concerns about the administration and content of the examinations. Candidates are required to report any issues or disruptions during the testing session to ABPS staff before leaving the test site.  If a candidate is unable to report the issue before leaving the test site, they should contact ABPS staff in writing, through email or letter, as soon as possible after the testing session.  Appeals or complaints related to events during examination administration that are reported more than seven (7) days after the testing session or after the release of scores will not be accepted. 

Appealing Examination Scoring

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.

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 the ABPS. If necessary, appeals 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 the ABPS. The ABPS shall rule on the appeal after considering the recommendation of the Appeals Committee. The Candidate shall be notified in writing of the results of an appeal within two weeks of the Appeals Committee’s decision. 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 ABPS board or all members of the American Association of Physician Specialists (AAPS).

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 ABPS provides alternate testing dates for candidates whose religious practices pose a conflict in taking an examination on the published date. Candidates requesting a change due to  religious practice must submit the request in writing to ABPS no less than six weeks before the published examination. The request must 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 with Disabilities Act (ADA). All requests for accommodations due to disabilities governed by ADA must be submitted to ABPS no less than 30 days prior to the  examination date. ABPS will make every reasonable effort to provide the accommodations requested, provided they are applicable to your diagnosed disability.

Requests for examination administrations with special accommodations must be presented to ABPS on letter-head stationery from a licensed, certified evaluator of your disability. 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 should include:

  • Description of the limitations resulting from the disability.
  • Complete description of the accommodations being requested.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.