New Assessment Enrollment

Diplomates are not required to take their first Continuous Certification Assessment until the year their certificate expires. However, diplomates are welcome to enroll early.
ALL diplomates, regardless of certificate expiration date, are required to meet the other requirements of the Continuous Certification Program, including CME, professionalism requirements, and participation in a registry or quality assessment program. Please see our Program Requirements for more information.

Enrollment Timeline

Once a diplomate registers for an assessment, they are enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program.

Current Diplomates

Continuous Certification Assessment: Diplomates with general surgery, vascular surgery, pediatric surgery or surgical critical care certificates expiring this year may use the new assessment process to continue their certification.

  • All diplomates whose certificates expire in 2019 must enroll in the Continuous Certification Program to remain certified.
  • The assessment must be taken every other year.
  • Completing and passing a Continuous Certification Assessment marks an entrance into the Continuous Certification process, in which CME, participation in a registry or quality assessment program, and licensing information must be up to date, as well as an assessment every other year.
Newly Certified Diplomates

Diplomates who become certified in general surgery, vascular surgery, pediatric surgery, surgical critical care and/or complex general surgical oncology in the 2018-2019 academic year or thereafter will be automatically enrolled in the new assessment process. These diplomates will begin taking the assessment two years after the academic year in which they became certified. For example, if someone becomes certified in the 2019-2020 academic year, they will take their first assessment in fall 2022.

Lapsed Diplomates

General Surgery: As part of the new assessment process, we are inviting surgeons whose general surgery certificates have lapsed to regain their certification through a special pathway. This pathway will only be available for three years: 2018, 2019 and 2020. See our lapsed certificate policy for more details.

Other Specialties: A special pathway to regain certification is also available for vascular surgery, pediatric surgery and surgical critical care surgeons whose certificates have lapsed. Like the general surgery lapsed pathway, it will only be available for three years: 2019, 2020 and 2021. See our lapsed certificate policy for more details.

Registering for the Assessment

Registration for all 2019 Continuous Certification Assessments will be open sometime in summer 2019. The assessment will be available for several weeks in fall 2019.

  • To register for the new assessment, diplomates must be up to date on meeting the requirements of the ABS Continuous Certification Program.
  • This includes staying up to date with CME requirements, submitting a 12-month operative log every 10 years and submitting reference forms every five years. We will keep you informed of your status; you may also check your status anytime by going to My Continuous Certification.
  • When diplomates register for their first assessment, an annual fee will be required at the time of registration and every year thereafter.
  • Diplomates who are currently certified but not meeting Continuous Certification requirements will need to re-enter to register for the new assessment. See our re-entry policy for details.
  • You will have up to two weeks to complete the assessment once you begin, with the opportunity to save your progress and continue at a later time during this two-week period.

    Please note: Your personal two-week time limit will start the moment you click the “Begin” button on the ABS portal – do not click it until you are absolutely sure that you are ready to begin your assessment.

For more information about preparing for and taking the General Surgery Assessment, please see our General Surgery Assessment page. Additional details are forthcoming for the vascular surgery, pediatric surgery and surgical critical care assessments.

Certification Status

Once participating in the new assessment process, a diplomate's certification status will be contingent on passing the assessment every other year, as well as meeting the other program requirements. This new paradigm is intended to more accurately reflect the rapid changes in surgical knowledge and practice and better promote high-quality patient care.

However, failing the assessment in the year it is due will not immediately affect certification status. Diplomates in good standing will be able to retake the assessment the following year (grace year) if necessary.

Grace Year

We encourage diplomates to do their best on all assessment attempts.

  • Diplomates who score at least 40% on their first assessment attempt will receive a second attempt.
  • If a diplomate fails to attain 40% on their first attempt or the passing score of 80% by their second attempt, a grace year will be provided in the year following the assessment.
  • Two opportunities are offered to answer a question correctly, even in the grace year, so diplomates have four attempts to pass an open-book assessment before loss of certification status.

Diplomates who are enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program and are not up to date with all program requirements at the time of assessment registration will be unable to take the assessment until those requirements have been fulfilled.

Grace years are provided to diplomates who do not pass an assessment when it is due or if they are unsuccessful in their assessment attempt. For a diplomate to be eligible for a grace year:

  1. Diplomates must be enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program. Enrollment is complete after registering for the first assessment, so diplomates must be up to date on all program requirements including the annual fee.
  2. If a diplomate does not pass (or take) the assessment when it is due but is enrolled in the program, he or she will receive a grace year in the following year.

Please note: Grace years are available for everyone in good standing and participating in the Continuous Certification Program, whenever an assessment is normally due. Diplomates who are currently in a grace year and do not pass the assessment will not be issued another grace year at that time.

Regaining certification after the grace year will then require successful completion of a secure exam. Diplomates participating in the lapsed pathway will be eligible for a grace year after five years.

Annual Fee

Once diplomates enroll, an annual fee will be required. The annual fee reflects the ongoing development of all aspects of the Continuous Certification Program, including diplomate status tracking, public reporting of diplomate status, self-service features like the CME Repository, and the new modular assessment process, which will require hundreds of new questions with explanations and references, as well as a new online delivery platform. The current annual fee is $285, and covers all general program participation, including one assessment every other year.

Reduction in CME and Self-Assessment

Once diplomates pass the new assessment, the current Continuous Certification requirement of 150 Category 1 CME credits over five years, with at least 50 including self-assessment, will change to 125 CME credits with no self-assessment required.

Issuance of Certificates

Upon passing the new assessment, diplomates will be issued a new certificate without an expiration date. A diplomate's current certification status will then be verified using the Check a Certification feature on the ABS website.

Refer also to our Video & PDF Overview and New Assessment FAQs. For specific inquiries, please contact the Continuous Certification coordinator.