About the BCOS Orthopedic Surgery Exam for Board Certification

Orthopedic SurgeryThe written portion of the examination for the Board of Certification in Orthopedic Surgery (BCOS) consists of 200 clinically based multiple-choice questions. The oral portion consists of three case studies, for which a brief patient history and symptoms or complaints will be presented. The American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS) administers the BCOS written examination in May and November. The oral exam usually takes place in October; contact the ABPS for details about the examination schedule.

The written portion of the board certification examination for Orthopedic Surgery covers 15 main topics, including, but not limited to:

  • Rehabilitation
  • Fractures/bone healing/grafting
  • Bone and soft tissue infections
  • Joint reconstruction and replacement
  • Sports medicine
  • Arthritis and connective tissue disorders

For more information about the topics covered on the written exam, contact the ABPS or click through to the main examination description page, where a list of suggested study references also can be found.

During the course of the Orthopedic Surgery oral examination, the examinee will be allowed to probe for more information once the patient history and symptoms have been presented. The case studies will include a variety of conditions and situations, such as fractures/trauma, musculo-skeletal injuries, soft tissue injuries, disease processes, metabolic and neoplastic diseases, degenerative disease process, and/or neurologic disorders. Examinees will be scored based on the following aspects of the case studies:

  • Questions asked to gain further knowledge of patient history
  • Information requested about the patient’s specific physical condition
  • Laboratory tests and diagnostic exams requested
  • Diagnosis
  • Patient management
  • Patient disposition, including potential complications

Successful completion of the BCOS examination indicates proficiency in the knowledge of basic Orthopedic Surgery concepts and competency in the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of common orthopedic injuries and disease processes. Rather than test the memorization of obscure facts, the ABPS examination focuses on relevant principles that are utilized in the daily practice of Orthopedic Surgery. It is a comprehensive yet fair evaluation of the basic science and clinical mastery of a physician candidate.

To learn more, contact the ABPS. The ABPS is the official multi-specialty board certifying body of the American Association of Physician Specialists, Inc.


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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.

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
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