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Orthopedic Residents Have a Choice for Board Certification

Orthopedic Residents Have a Choice for Board Certification Have you ever wondered if there is another legitimate orthopedic certifying board besides the ABOS? If so, you should know that since 1976, the Board of Certification in Orthopedic Surgery (BCOS) has been certifying orthopedic surgeons across America. In fact, some of the nation’s most highly qualified orthopedic surgeons are certified with the BCOS, a Member Board of the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS).

To be eligible to apply for BCOS certification, candidates must have completed both an accredited internship and an orthopedic surgery residency. Once deemed eligible, they must pass both a written and an oral exam to earn initial board certification in orthopedic surgery. Candidates must pass the written exam first before taking the oral component. Here are some facts regarding the exam:


  • 200 multiple-choice test questions
  • Composed of only clinically relevant and practice-based orthopedic questions
  • A 4-hour exam


  • Candidates must complete 18 consecutive months (post-residency/fellowship training) at a single accredited institution.
  • Candidates must submit a list of all orthopedic surgical procedures performed in the 12-month period preceding the oral exam.
  • Candidates must exhibit mastery in the evaluation, management, and treatment of orthopedic patient-case scenarios.

Orthopedic surgery has long been one of the most competitive medical fields for medical students to match into. Many applicants can match into orthopedic residency programs with the help of scores earned in Part I and, to some extent, Part II of the United States Medical Licensing Examination.

In addition to exam scores, applicants are matched based on criteria that include work ethic, dependability, and integrity, among other qualities. During the process of creating a rank-order list, however, it often becomes clear to residents that inordinate emphasis is placed on USMLE exam scores. If the purpose of the exam is to obtain a medical license, why is a major part of ranking based on scores for a relatively non-orthopedic, all-day-long multiple-choice exam?

During their chief residency year, residents prepare for another multiple-choice test: Part 1 of the ABOS exam. Faced with another long, arduous exam (up to 9 hours) with some questions that have more than eight answer choices, as well as questions about scenarios practicing orthopedic surgeons seldom encounter, residents might wonder if there is another legitimate board certifying body that tests on clinically relevant scenarios. That’s what the BCOS does. To promote safe and effective patient care, the BCOS tests candidates on relevant orthopedic concepts.

Would you like to know more about board certification through the BCOS? Contact the ABPS for more information. As a nationally recognized choice in physician board certification, the ABPS understands today’s demands on orthopedic surgeons and puts patients first above all else.