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 physicians-in-training 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.

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Medical organizations throughout North America understand that our rigorous certification standards prove that ABPS Diplomates are capable of delivering the best patient care possible.

The American Board of Physician Specialties has provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of internal medicine through board certification. As a hospitalist, board certification is an expected credential, and hospitals recognize the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) as one of the three standard credentialling bodies for Internal Medicine. Additionally, the ABPS has helped me develop leadership skills as a Board member and Committee Chairperson. ABPS has also helped me sharpen critical thinking skills as a test question developer and reviewer. The Allopathic (MD) and Osteopathic (DO) physicians in the ABPS are lifelong learners and frequently pursue multiple board certifications. I enjoy the camaraderie of my peers in ABPS.

Loren Jay Chassels, DO
Internal Medicine
When I think historically, advancement in medicine and patient safety and care has been driven by the diversity of people and scientific thought. That’s what I found at the ABPS and more. For over 60 years that is just who we are. I found a physician certifying body that provides a choice and voice to all physicians ensuring that patients are always placed first.

Jerry Allison, MD
Emergency Medicine
When I decided to pursue a full time role as a physician executive it was important to me to obtain additional professional training, education and work experience. Board certification through the ABPS in Administrative Medicine is validation of my efforts and a demonstration of dedication to professional development. We need more physicians to become full time health care executives, knowing there is a board certification option in Administrative Medicine encourages physicians to take the leap from full time clinical practice to healthcare organizational leadership.

Richard Paula, MD
Administrative Medicine