Psychiatry Examination Description

An outline of the subject areas covered on the certification examination is included to help candidates prepare for the exam. Candidates should review this outline carefully and focus study on the areas listed. Candidates should be aware that the outline reflects the responses to practice-analysis questionnaires and enables codification of the examination for subsequent analysis of the results. Each question is linked to a specific area of the outline. No question is meant to be obscure or tricky. The percentage of questions in an area conveys the relative importance of each area of the examination. The information in the outline is meant to serve as a study aid only and not as a guarantee of success in taking the certification examination.

Psychiatry Classification System

Subject Area # of Questions on Exam
1 Interviewing/Diagnosis Testing DSM-IVTR 15
2 Mood/Anxiety/Adjustment Disorders 25
3 Psychotic Disorders 20
4 Delirium/Dementia 10
5 Infancy/Childhood/Adolescence 10
6 Impulse Control, Psychosexual, Eating Disorders 10
7 Treatment 20
8 Forensic/Legal/Ethical Issues 10
9 Somatoform/ Factitious/ Malingering/ Depersonalization 10
10 Amnestic/Sleep Disorders 10
11 Substance Abuse Disorders 20
12 Neurology 25
13 Personality Disorders 15

Psychiatry Examination Study References

You may wish to use the study materials to prepare for the written certification or recertification examinations. The Examinations Committee uses these references to create questions for the examinations.

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Description of the Oral Examination in Psychiatry

The Oral Certification Examination in Psychiatry is an opportunity for the Board to examine your ability to diagnose and treat patients requiring psychiatric services. The cases you will be presented will be based upon real or hypothetical patients. For each case you will be given a brief history of the patient’s present symptoms or complaints. You may need to probe for more information. You will be expected to describe the treatment process. Additionally, the examinee may be questioned regarding the risks related to a treatment process or what other treatment options might be considered. In obtaining the information, you should speak clearly and be cognizant of time constraints applicable to your handling each case. You may ask the examiner to repeat information that you did not hear clearly. Be certain that you understand what is being asked of you before responding.

The examination consists of 3 (three) case studies. For each case study a threshold score has been established. The threshold score represents the minimum passing score that is expected of a practicing physician in Psychiatry. The threshold score for each case has been established prior to its administration. Board Diplomates in Psychiatry, with the guidance of a psychometrician, have estimated the expected minimal performance for each area within each case. These minimal performance expectations are combined to obtain the minimum expected score on a case.

For each case, an examinee is scored in several areas. An examinee’s performance is typically scored in each of the following areas:

  • History of the patient—The examinee is expected to probe for the history of the patient (e.g., onset/course/associated symptoms, allergies, medications, past medical history; social/family history, surgical history, and psychological history).
  • Physical examination—The examinee is expected to request information about specific aspects of the patient’s physical condition (e.g., heart, mental status, neurological, and other areas applicable to the case).
  • Requested laboratory tests and diagnostic examinations—The examinee will order appropriate laboratory tests and diagnostic examinations; the examinee will be provided the results.
  • Management of the patient—The examinee will indicate what treatment is recommended, including acute hospitalization, acute outpatient, and chronic or ongoing management. The examinee may be asked to provide a rationale.
  • Disposition/Pathophysiology—The examinee may be presented with follow-up conditions of the patient, including complications—to which the examinee will be asked to recommend appropriate actions; or the examinee may be asked to describe possible complications/outcomes and appropriate corrective actions. Additionally, other related questions regarding the patient’s condition may be asked.

A candidate’s score on any one case is completely independent of his or her score on any other case. To pass, the examinee must minimally obtain a total score (sum of the scores from all cases) that equals or exceeds the sum of the threshold scores for the studies. Therefore, it is possible that an examinee may score less than the threshold score for one case, but still pass the examination, provided he or she scores well on the remainder of the cases to offset the lower score. Each case contains approximately the same number of possible points. Therefore, the cases are approximately equally weighted in the overall calculation of examinee’s total score.

The cases presented will address a variety of situations. No cases will address exactly the same topic. Topics presented to the examinee may include, but not limited to:

  • General Psychiatric Management
  • Psychiatric Liaison Consultation Service
  • Voluntary / Involuntary Psychiatry
  • Personality Disorder Management
  • Psychotic Disorder Management
  • Affective Disorder Management
  • Addictive Disorder Management
  • Geriatric Psychiatry
  • Child / Adolescent Psychiatry

Examiners will not indicate whether you have passed a case or failed. No comments made by the examiner should be interpreted by the examinee as implying that he or she has either passed or failed a case.

Examinees should plan to arrive one-half hour before the scheduled beginning of the examination and expect to be in the examination room for nearly two hours. For this examination you will be given pencils and paper to use during the course of the examination. Also, you will not be permitted to bring into the examination room books, electronic devices, backpacks, or parcels. The only thing you will absolutely need to bring is a government-issued photo ID card such as a Driver’s License or Passport for examination check-in.

Drinking water will be available in the room. A restroom break is permissible, but only between cases.

ABPS will provide reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities, provided the disabilities are documented and the accommodations requested are applicable to the disabilities. Requests for special accommodations should be made to ABPS at least two months in advance of the examination. ABPS will forward specific instructions for the documentation that will be needed from the examinee or the evaluator of the examinee’s disability. Any requests for special accommodations less than two months before the examination will not be honored since there will not be sufficient time to review the documentation and arrange for the special accommodations.

All ABPS examinations are administered only in English. Responses from examinees to examination questions must be in English for the candidate to be eligible to receive credit towards his or her examination score.

The results of the examinee’s performance on the Oral Examination are mailed within 75 days of the examination. A careful review of the scoring and analyses of the results are conducted after the examination and before issuing reports, to verify the accuracy and validity of the results.

Examinees who fail to pass an Oral Examination have the opportunity to take an examination consisting of different cases at the next scheduled administration. Oral Examinations in Psychiatry are administered once a year—during the all administration (September-October). At the current time, an examinee is permitted no more than three attempts to pass the Oral Examination.

Should you have any questions, please call ABPS at 813-433-2277.

Save the Date
House of Delegates & Annual Scientific Meeting
Innovation & Overcoming Challenges
June 10-15, 2022
Patient Care Is Our Priority

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

On October 18, 2007, President George W. Bush released Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD-21), calling on our nation, among other initiatives, to “collectively support and facilitate the establishment of a discipline of disaster health”. It is a great testament to the wisdom and foresight of the American Board of Physician Specialties that it immediately set to work and created, within the short span of only one year, an educational blueprint and set of certification examinations, both written and oral, for a new subspecialty of disaster medicine—and it is why I chose to be part this vital initiative and this wonderful organization. This is but one of the many innovative programs initiated by the American Board of Physician Specialties over the years, and why I am proud to support its work on behalf of our nation’s public health.

Art Cooper, MD
Disaster Medicine
When the American Board of Physician Specialties offered to host the American Board of Integrative Medicine, ABPS became a landmark organization working to move medicine into the twenty first century. Certifying physicians who have completed rigorous academic training in Integrative Medicine ensures that the field of Integrative Medicine will continue to develop academically, clinically, and professionally. The leadership of ABPS continues to impress me - they are diligent in constantly innovating to provide certifications for physicians who want to advance their careers and their areas of expertise. I am honored to be a part of this organization.

Ann Marie Chiasson, MD
Integrative Medicine
There are many ways board certification advances a physician career. ABPS Board examination verifies your accuracy, precision, and reflects your mastery of your residency training verifying your expertise. ABPS Board certification demonstrates your level of expertise beyond your practice experience, primary education degrees, and training which are necessary for insurance reimbursement and practice privilege requirements. Attaining your ABPS Board Certification will clarify your purpose, secure your practice growth, and expand into leadership positions. Board certification can serve as an indication of a physician’s commitment to medicine, beyond the minimal standards and competency of training, their measurement to quality of care, and attaining an award for excellence.

Chris Kunis MD
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
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