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Continuous Certification FAQs

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About the Program

About the Assessment


FAQs - About the Program


General Program Information
New diplomates are automatically enrolled once they initially certify in any ABS specialty. Their first Continuous Certification Assessment is due two years after the academic year in which they initially certified. For example, residents who passed the Certifying Exam in either the fall of 2018 or the spring of 2019 have their first assessment due in 2021. New diplomates will start to pay their annual fee in the year that their first assessment is due.

Current diplomates who have 10-year certificates that are expiring must enroll in the program before their certificate expires by registering for their first assessment in order to continue their certification. However, they must continue to maintain all other program requirements on an ongoing basis.
Once a diplomate registers for an assessment, they are automatically enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program. New diplomates are automatically enrolled in the program upon initial certification. Assessment registration must be completed every year in which an assessment is due, but program enrollment does not have to be repeated.
Once a diplomate registers for their first Continuous Certification Assessment and enrolls in the program, an annual fee of $285 will be required. If a diplomate maintains more than one ABS certification, they will be charged an additional annual fee of $150 for each additional certification once they take their first Continuous Certification Assessment in that specialty. Newly certified diplomates are automatically enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program but do not have to pay this fee until their first assessment is due.

Diplomates should check their status periodically at My Continuous Certification to see if there are any Continuous Certification program requirements that are due. Diplomates must be up to date with all program requirements when registering for an assessment. At that time, diplomates must have two letters of reference that are no older than five years and an operative log that is no older than ten years (in any ABS specialty).

In order to enroll in the Continuous Certification Program and take the first Continuous Certification Assessment, diplomates must have 150 Category 1 CME credits, 50 of which must be self-assessment. After passing the first Continuous Certification Assessment, this requirement will be reduced to 125 Category 1 CME credits with no self-assessment required. In both cases, the CME must be no more than five years old.

For diplomates participating in Continuous Certification for more than one ABS specialty, these requirements do not need to be repeated for each certificate that a diplomate holds. The only requirements that must be repeated for each certificate are the assessment and the annual fee.

Given how quickly surgical knowledge and practice are changing, ABS felt it was important to move to a more modern program of ongoing education and assessment. The new program is also designed to be more convenient, flexible and practice-related, to better reflect how diplomates practice today. The goal is to support diplomates in improving the care they provide, while upholding the high standards of ABS certification.
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 assessment process, which requires development of hundreds of new questions with explanations and references, as well as an online delivery platform. The annual fee of $285 covers all general program participation, including one assessment every other year. Diplomates will start paying the fee once they enroll in the program. If a diplomate maintains more than one ABS certification, they will be charged an additional annual fee of $150 for each additional certification once they take their first Continuous Certification Assessment in that specialty.
Diplomates who are enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program will not lose their certification until the end of the grace year. Once that occurs, successful completion of a secure exam will be required to regain certification. Diplomates who do not register for their first assessment for entry into the Continuous Certification Program will not be enrolled and therefore, will not receive a grace year. These diplomates will lose certification once their current certificate expires.
Diplomates who no longer operate but still see patients may participate in Continuous Certification by fulfilling the program requirements in ways relevant to their current activities.

Diplomates who no longer see patients at all but are active in an administrative role (clinically inactive) must meet all requirements except for practice improvement. Refer to the ABS Clinically Inactive Policy for more details.

Diplomates who are no longer active in practice in any capacity (including in an administrative role) and do not wish to participate in the ABS Continuous Certification Program, may request a retired status. Please see our Retired policy for more information. These diplomates are welcome to participate in the Continuous Certification Program if they choose; please contact the ABS office for more details.
Enrollment
Once a diplomate registers for an assessment, they are automatically enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program. New diplomates are automatically enrolled in the program upon initial certification. Assessment registration must be completed every year in which an assessment is due, but program enrollment does not have to be repeated.
New diplomates are automatically enrolled once they initially certify in any ABS specialty. Their first Continuous Certification Assessment is due two years after the academic year in which they initially certified. For example, residents who passed the Certifying Exam in either the fall of 2018 or the spring of 2019 have their first assessment due in 2021. New diplomates will start to pay their annual fee in the year that their first assessment is due.

Current diplomates who have 10-year certificates that are expiring must enroll in the program before their certificate expires by registering for their first assessment in order to continue their certification. However, they must continue to maintain all other program requirements on an ongoing basis.
Yes; diplomates in fellowships will still need to keep their Continuous Certification profiles updated (go to My Continuous Certification), including submitting fellowship information. Diplomates in a fellowship will have the CME and practice improvement requirements waived during their time in training. To qualify for this waiver, the fellowship must be at least 12 months (and no more than 2 years) in duration and accredited by the ACGME or a surgical organization with a formal accreditation process (e.g., SSO, ASTS, ACS, Fellowship Council, etc.). Newly certified diplomates are automatically enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program but do not have to pay this fee until their first assessment is due.
Once a diplomate registers for their first Continuous Certification Assessment and enrolls in the program, an annual fee of $285 will be required. If a diplomate maintains more than one ABS certification, they will be charged an additional annual fee of $150 for each additional certification once they take their first Continuous Certification Assessment in that specialty. Newly certified diplomates are automatically enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program but do not have to pay this fee until their first assessment is due.
Diplomates who are enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program will not lose their certification until the end of the grace year. Once that occurs, successful completion of a secure exam will be required to regain certification. Diplomates who do not register for their first assessment for entry into the Continuous Certification Program will not be enrolled and therefore, will not receive a grace year. These diplomates will lose certification once their current certificate expires.
Program Requirements

Diplomates should maintain their Continuous Certification program requirements on an ongoing basis, including CME, hospital or surgical center privileges (if clinically active), references, and participation in practice improvement activities. A 12-month operative log (in any specialty) must be on file and no older than ten years.

In order to enroll in the Continuous Certification Program, diplomates must have 150 Category 1 CME credits, 50 of which must be self-assessment. After passing the first Continuous Certification Assessment, this requirement will be reduced to 125 Category 1 CME credits with no self-assessment required.

Diplomates can check their status anytime at My Continuous Certification to view when items are due and submit any necessary information. ABS will also keep diplomates regularly informed of their status, so it is very important for diplomates to keep their contact information updated, especially their email address.

Once a diplomate registers for their first Continuous Certification Assessment and enrolls in the program, an annual fee of $285 will be required. If a diplomate maintains more than one ABS certification, they will be charged an additional annual fee of $150 for each additional certification once they take their first Continuous Certification Assessment in that specialty. Newly certified diplomates are automatically enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program but do not have to pay this fee until their first assessment is due.

Diplomates should check their status periodically at My Continuous Certification to see if there are any Continuous Certification program requirements that are due. Diplomates must be up to date with all program requirements when registering for an assessment. At that time, diplomates must have two letters of reference that are no older than five years and an operative log that is no older than ten years (in any ABS specialty).

In order to enroll in the Continuous Certification Program and take the first Continuous Certification Assessment, diplomates must have 150 Category 1 CME credits, 50 of which must be self-assessment. After passing the first Continuous Certification Assessment, this requirement will be reduced to 125 Category 1 CME credits with no self-assessment required. In both cases, the CME must be no more than five years old.

Diplomates may update their account regarding progress towards completion of ongoing program requirements at any time. All requirements must be met in order to complete registration for an assessment, even when the assessment is taken in the grace year.

For diplomates participating in Continuous Certification for more than one ABS specialty, these requirements do not need to be repeated for each certificate that a diplomate holds. The only requirements that must be repeated for each certificate are the assessment and the annual fee.

The CME activity will provide Category 1 credits and use a written or electronic question-and-answer exercise to assess a diplomate's understanding of the material presented. The CME credits are generally not awarded until a test or quiz is submitted. A passing score of 75% or higher must be required. See our CME page for more details and resources.
The authorization code is posted under "Operative Experience Report" once logged in to the diplomate portal, available under My Continuous Certification.
Diplomates will receive an email from the ACS when a transfer has been completed. Cases are transferred immediately and will be listed in the operative experience report. In case of technical difficulties, please contact the ABS IT department for assistance.
The form(s) should be filled out by a physician of a comparable position at the institution where a diplomate performs most of their work, such as the medical director or chief of staff. The two forms may not be filled out by the same person, or by someone who is a close friend or relative.
When updating practice improvement information (go to My Continuous Certification), diplomates will be asked to indicate or describe the type of practice improvement activity in which they are participating. No data is required. Note that the ABS audits a percentage of the submitted forms each year. If audited, diplomates will be asked to provide verification of enrollment or participation. No patient data will be collected.
Many outcomes tracking and quality assessment programs are hospital-based, so diplomates should first check with their hospital to see if any such programs are available. In addition, some surgical societies have programs for individual surgeons. If there are no programs available, diplomates should conduct their own practice assessment activity — please see the Practice Improvement page on the ABS website for further details and resources.
On the ABS operative experience report, instead of entering cases, diplomates should go to the final section of the form to provide an explanation. For the two reference forms, they may be completed by supervisors or peers who are familiar with the diplomate's clinical activities and can provide knowledgeable attestation to their ethical and professional status.

Diplomates who are clinically inactive (meaning they no longer see patients in any capacity) should follow similar guidelines. See the ABS Clinically Inactive policy for more details.
Diplomates may use whichever time period works best — either a full calendar year or one year back from when they are submitting the report.
The ABS operative experience report must be submitted online through the diplomate portal. The report asks only for the number of primary procedures performed in each category during the past calendar year or recent 12-month period at the institution where the diplomate performs most of their work. No other information is collected. ABS seeks a general profile of a diplomate's practice; there is no required minimum of cases. Diplomates may also transfer case numbers from the ACS Surgeon Specific Registry to the report.
Diplomates who no longer operate but still see patients may participate in Continuous Certification by fulfilling the program requirements in ways relevant to their current activities.

Diplomates who no longer see patients at all but are active in an administrative role (clinically inactive) must meet all requirements except for practice improvement. Refer to the ABS Clinically Inactive Policy for more details.

Diplomates who are no longer active in practice in any capacity (including in an administrative role) and do not wish to participate in the ABS Continuous Certification Program, may request a retired status. Please see our Retired policy for more information. These diplomates are welcome to participate in the Continuous Certification Program if they choose; please contact the ABS office for more details.

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 in the program who do not pass an assessment when it is due, whether they do not register for the assessment or they are unsuccessful in their assessment attempt.

Diplomates who are unsuccessful in the assessment should ensure that their requirements stay up to date to be eligible to register for the assessment in the grace year.

Diplomates who are participating in the lapsed pathway do not receive any grace years during the five years in which they are completing the pathway requirements.

Most ongoing program requirements for Continuous Certification cover all certifications that a diplomate holds. Although there are no additional program requirements for maintaining multiple certificates, all program requirements must be up to date whenever registering for an assessment, so it is important to make sure that no previously fulfilled requirements have become outdated.

Diplomates should check their status periodically at My Continuous Certification to see if there are any Continuous Certification program requirements that are due.

Diplomates who are enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program will not lose their certification until the end of the grace year. Once that occurs, successful completion of a secure exam will be required to regain certification. Diplomates who do not register for their first assessment for entry into the Continuous Certification Program will not be enrolled and therefore, will not receive a grace year. These diplomates will lose certification once their current certificate expires.

Lapsed diplomates have a special pathway that allows them to regain their certification within a short timeframe (year 1), but also ensures they are satisfactorily meeting the requirements of the Continuous Certification Program. Upon registration for their first Continuous Certification Assessment, all diplomates must be submit information regarding the program requirements including:

  • Medical license
  • Hospital or surgical center privileges
  • Professional references
  • Operative log
  • Practice improvement activities
  • CME

Lapsed diplomates must also submit two additional reference letters, from peer surgeons who are familiar with their practice or current activities. Once a diplomate has fulfilled all of these requirements, they may register to take a Continuous Certification Assessment. This is an entirely online process that can typically be completed within a few days. Recently lapsed diplomates or diplomates with other ABS certificates will already have many of the items submitted.

Please note that letters of reference require ABS review upon submission and should be started in a timely manner to ensure that the reference has time to complete the documentation, and also to ensure that the diplomate will still have enough time to complete the assessment.

Lapsed diplomates must also take and pass two extra assessments during the initial five-year period of the pathway (in years 2 and 4); however, once the five-year period is completed, they will take the assessment on the standard schedule of every other year.

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 assessment process, which requires development of hundreds of new questions with explanations and references, as well as an online delivery platform. The annual fee of $285 covers all general program participation, including one assessment every other year. Diplomates will start paying the fee once they enroll in the program. If a diplomate maintains more than one ABS certification, they will be charged an additional annual fee of $150 for each additional certification once they take their first Continuous Certification Assessment in that specialty.

Diplomates who are not yet enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program must still meet ongoing requirements to remain in good standing. This includes 150 Category 1 CME credits, 50 of which must be self-assessment. Most program requirements should be updated no less than every five years. Diplomates are encouraged to log in to their ABS portal periodically to check the status of their requirements.

Maintaining Multiple Certificates

Most ongoing program requirements for Continuous Certification cover all certifications that a diplomate holds. For example, diplomates do not need to submit additional reference forms for additional specialties, or complete additional CME. However, the assessment must be competed and annual fee be paid for each certificate that a diplomate maintains. The CME, practice improvement and operative log requirements should be completed in whichever areas best reflect the diplomate’s practice.

Once a diplomate registers for their first Continuous Certification Assessment and enters the program, an annual fee of $285 will be required. If a diplomate maintains more than one ABS certification, they will be charged an additional annual fee of $150 for each additional certification once they take their first Continuous Certification Assessment in that specialty.

Although there are no additional program requirements for maintaining multiple certificates, all program requirements must be up to date whenever registering for an assessment, so it is important to make sure that no previously fulfilled requirements have become outdated.

Most ongoing program requirements for Continuous Certification cover all certifications that a diplomate holds. Although there are no additional program requirements for maintaining multiple certificates, all program requirements must be up to date whenever registering for an assessment, so it is important to make sure that no previously fulfilled requirements have become outdated.

Diplomates should check their status periodically at My Continuous Certification to see if there are any Continuous Certification program requirements that are due.

Each diplomate is required to pay the annual fee of $285 and stay current on the other program requirements to maintain their certification status. If a diplomate maintains more than one ABS certification, they will be required to pay an additional annual fee of $150 for each additional certification once they take their first Continuous Certification Assessment in that specialty.

For example, if a diplomate has a general surgery certificate expiring in 2019, they must pay the annual fee of $285 and take the 2019 General Surgery Assessment to enter the Continuous Certification Program and maintain their general surgery certificate. If that same diplomate has a surgical critical care certificate expiring in 2022, they will not have to take their first Surgical Critical Care Assessment until 2022, and when they register for their first Surgical Critical Care Assessment, they will be asked to pay an additional $150 for a total annual fee of $435.

Diplomates have the option to reset their assessment schedule if they wish. Please contact the ABS office for information on how to change to an even- or odd-year assessment schedule. Diplomates participating in Continuous Certification for more than one discipline may do this if there is a preference for the assessments to fall in the same year or in alternate years.

If a diplomate who holds multiple certificates wishes to take all assessments in the same year, the assessments may be started at different times within the eight-week assessment window. Diplomates will receive up to two weeks to complete each assessment - the last day to begin any assessment to ensure that a diplomate has the full two weeks is Monday, Oct. 21, 2019.

If a diplomate has recently initially certified in general surgery or vascular surgery, they must hold that primary certificate to be eligible for certification in another ABS specialty. However, once that is achieved, they do not have to continue to maintain the primary certificate.

FAQs - About the Assessment


General Assessment Information
Once a diplomate registers for an assessment, they are automatically enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program. New diplomates are automatically enrolled in the program upon initial certification. Assessment registration must be completed every year in which an assessment is due, but program enrollment does not have to be repeated.

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. Once participating in the new assessment, a diplomate's certification status will be contingent on passing the assessment every other year, as well as meeting other program requirements. However, if a diplomate does not pass the assessment in a given year, they will be able to retake it the following year (grace year) without loss of certification status. Please see New Assessment Enrollment for more details.

A Continuous Certification Assessment for Complex General Surgical Oncology will be introduced in 2020. See the ABS Recertification Exam FAQs for information about Hospice and Palliative Medicine or Hand Surgery.

Diplomates should check their status periodically at My Continuous Certification to see if there are any Continuous Certification program requirements that are due. Diplomates must be up to date with all program requirements when registering for an assessment. At that time, diplomates must have two letters of reference that are no older than five years and an operative log that is no older than ten years (in any ABS specialty).

In order to enroll in the Continuous Certification Program and take the first Continuous Certification Assessment, diplomates must have 150 Category 1 CME credits, 50 of which must be self-assessment. After passing the first Continuous Certification Assessment, this requirement will be reduced to 125 Category 1 CME credits with no self-assessment required. In both cases, the CME must be no more than five years old.

For diplomates participating in Continuous Certification for more than one ABS specialty, these requirements do not need to be repeated for each certificate that a diplomate holds. The only requirements that must be repeated for each certificate are the assessment and the annual fee.

Registration for the 2019 Continuous Certification Assessments will be available as of Aug. 1; ABS will notify diplomates at that time. To register for the new assessment, diplomates will need to be up to date with the other program requirements of Continuous Certification; diplomates can check their status anytime at My Continuous Certification. ABS will also keep diplomates informed of their status and when action is required to maintain a certification.

Diplomates should make sure to keep all contact information up to date, especially their email address. Diplomates may update their account at any time, including adding CME credits and requesting references.

ABS reviewed general surgery diplomates’ operative experience reports from the past few years, and those four areas (general surgery, abdomen, alimentary tract, breast) cover what were clearly the most frequently performed procedures. Additional practice-related areas are planned for the future, based on feedback from diplomates and surgical societies. Please note that the addition of any new modules will not be based just on feedback, but on meeting the needs of as many diplomates as possible.

The General Surgery Continuous Certification Assessment was the first to be offered in 2018 as general surgery is the largest ABS specialty. Similar assessments are launching in fall 2019 for vascular surgery, pediatric surgery and surgical critical care.

A Continuous Certification Assessment for Complex General Surgical Oncology will be introduced in 2020. See the ABS Recertification Exam FAQs for information about Hospice and Palliative Medicine or Hand Surgery.

The ABS Continuous Certification Program has been designed to provide flexible, high-quality, practice-related learning and assessment to support surgeons in their practice. To support this goal, ABS provides topics for diplomates to focus their study efforts and references to provide transparency about the sources that support the development of the assessment.

The references reflect that the assessment primarily focuses on important evidence-based recent updates to surgical practice. Diplomates are neither required nor expected to read all of these references before or during the completion of the assessment, but are encouraged to review them to prepare for the questions that they will be presented with. Diplomates may also review the references as they complete their assessment, as individual questions are untimed to allow for self-study before choosing an answer.

ABS does not endorse or critically evaluate any review courses, and we do not believe that review courses are necessary to successfully complete any of the assessments.

Assessment Registration, Timing and Completion
Once a diplomate registers for an assessment, they are automatically enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program. New diplomates are automatically enrolled in the program upon initial certification. Assessment registration must be completed every year in which an assessment is due, but program enrollment does not have to be repeated.

To register for a Continuous Certification Assessment, diplomates must be meeting all other program requirements, which include:

  • Medical license
  • Hospital or surgical center privileges
  • Professional references
  • Operative log
  • Practice improvement activities
  • CME

As long as a diplomate is meeting these requirements, they may register to take a Continuous Certification Assessment. Assessment registration is a completely online process — no hardcopy paper submissions are required.

The online registration process for all Continuous Certification Assessments will be available under My Continuous Certification by Aug. 1. A notice will be posted on the homepage at that time and notifications sent to eligible diplomates. Once logged in, diplomates will be able to access the forms needed to complete assessment registration. Diplomates should make sure to keep all contact information up to date, especially their email address. Diplomates may update their account at any time, including adding CME credits and requesting references.

Diplomates are encouraged to check that all registration items have in fact been completed. Registration is complete once all fees are paid, the digital signature is signed and all necessary requirements are marked with a green check. In most cases, registration is approved automatically within 24 hours. If the automated system finds any issues with an application, manual review by ABS staff will be required. If a diplomate’s application is under review, it is recommended that they continue to check back over the next couple of weeks.

Diplomates will be notified by email at the start of the start of the eight-week assessment window on Sept. 6, 2019 and may then choose their own start date. As a reminder, diplomates will be granted two weeks to complete the assessment when there are at least two weeks remaining in the assessment window. For 2019, the last day for a diplomate to begin the assessment to ensure that they have the full two weeks is Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. Diplomates are able to begin the assessment as late as Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, but must submit the assessment by 11:59 p.m. EST on Nov. 4, 2019. Your personal window begins the moment the assessment is launched and does not restart at any point.

In most cases, registration is approved automatically within 24 hours. If the automated system finds any issues with an application, manual review by ABS staff will be required. If a diplomate’s application is under review, it is recommended that they continue to check back over the next couple of weeks. Therefore, if a diplomate has any concerns about the timing of their registration, it's better to begin the registration process before the assessment window begins.
Correctly answering 80% of the questions is required to pass, with two chances to answer. A score of at least 40% must be achieved on the first attempt to qualify for a second attempt in the same testing administration, so frequent guessing is not a recommended strategy. Those who do not answer a minimum of 16 questions (40%) correctly on their first attempt or 32 questions (80%) correctly by their second attempt will be granted a grace year and will be able to retake it the following year without loss of certification status.
Diplomates who score at least 40% on their first assessment attempt will receive a second attempt.
Diplomates will be granted two weeks to complete the assessment when there are at least two weeks remaining in the assessment window. For 2019, the last day for a diplomate to begin the assessment to ensure that they have the full two weeks is Monday, Oct. 21, 2019. Diplomates are able to begin the assessment as late as Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, but must submit the assessment by 11:59 p.m. EST on Nov. 4, 2019. Your personal window begins the moment the assessment is launched and does not restart at any point.

ABS encourages diplomates to do their best on all assessment attempts. Correctly answering 80% of the questions is required to pass, with two chances to answer. A score of at least 40% must be achieved on the first attempt to qualify for a second attempt in the same testing administration, so frequent guessing is not a recommended strategy. Those who do not answer a minimum of 16 questions (40%) correctly on their first attempt or 32 questions (80%) correctly by their second attempt will be granted a grace year and will be able to retake it the following year without loss of certification status. A $50 fee will be charged for taking the assessment in the grace year.

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 in the program who do not pass an assessment when it is due, whether they do not register for the assessment or they are unsuccessful in their assessment attempt.

If a diplomate does not pass the assessment in the grace year, they will lose certification. Regaining certification after the grace year will then require successful completion of a secure exam.

Diplomates who are participating in the lapsed pathway do not receive any grace years during the five years in which they are completing the pathway requirements.

Diplomates who are enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program will not lose their certification until the end of the grace year. Once that occurs, successful completion of a secure exam will be required to regain certification. Diplomates who do not register for their first assessment for entry into the Continuous Certification Program will not be enrolled and therefore, will not receive a grace year. These diplomates will lose certification once their current certificate expires.
Certificate status will be updated once results have been validated - several weeks after the close of the assessment window but no later than Dec. 31 of that year.
Grace Year

ABS encourages diplomates to do their best on all assessment attempts. Correctly answering 80% of the questions is required to pass, with two chances to answer. A score of at least 40% must be achieved on the first attempt to qualify for a second attempt in the same testing administration, so frequent guessing is not a recommended strategy. Those who do not answer a minimum of 16 questions (40%) correctly on their first attempt or 32 questions (80%) correctly by their second attempt will be granted a grace year and will be able to retake it the following year without loss of certification status. A $50 fee will be charged for taking the assessment in the grace year.

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 in the program who do not pass an assessment when it is due, whether they do not register for the assessment or they are unsuccessful in their assessment attempt.

If a diplomate does not pass the assessment in the grace year, they will lose certification. Regaining certification after the grace year will then require successful completion of a secure exam.

Diplomates who are participating in the lapsed pathway do not receive any grace years during the five years in which they are completing the pathway requirements.

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 in the program who do not pass an assessment when it is due, whether they do not register for the assessment or they are unsuccessful in their assessment attempt.

Diplomates who are unsuccessful in the assessment should ensure that their requirements stay up to date to be eligible to register for the assessment in the grace year.

Diplomates who are participating in the lapsed pathway do not receive any grace years during the five years in which they are completing the pathway requirements.

Diplomates will not be required to share the details of the event, explain why they were unable to complete the assessment, or petition the board as to why they were unable to complete the assessment. As long as the diplomate is enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program, they will be able to remain certified and take the assessment the following year during the grace year. If the diplomate is in their grace year, they must complete and pass the assessment to remain certified.

Diplomates who are in the lapsed pathway do not receive any grace years. See our Lapsed policy for more information. There is no lifetime limit on the number of grace years a diplomate may use. However, diplomates who are currently in a grace year and do not pass the assessment will not be issued another grace year at that time.

Diplomates who are enrolled in the Continuous Certification Program will not lose their certification until the end of the grace year. Once that occurs, successful completion of a secure exam will be required to regain certification. Diplomates who do not register for their first assessment for entry into the Continuous Certification Program will not be enrolled and therefore, will not receive a grace year. These diplomates will lose certification once their current certificate expires.

Grace years are available for everyone in good standing and participating in the Continuous Certification Program, whenever an assessment is normally due. There is no “predetermined” maximum number of grace years that a diplomate could receive. However, those who are currently in a grace year and do not pass the assessment will not be issued another grace year at that time.

For example, if a diplomate fails the assessment in 2020 and passes during the grace year in 2021, their next regularly scheduled assessment is in 2022. If that same diplomate fails the assessment in 2022, they will receive a grace year in 2023. However, if they fail the assessment in 2021 (during the grace year), they will lose certification. Regaining certification at that point will require successful completion of a secure exam.

Using the grace year does not reset the schedule of when assessments are due. For example, if a diplomate fails the assessment in 2020 and passes during the grace year in 2021, their next regularly scheduled assessment is due in 2022.

However, all diplomates have the option to reset their assessment schedule if they wish. Please contact the ABS office for information on how to change to an even- or odd-year assessment schedule. Diplomates participating in Continuous Certification for more than one discipline may do this if there is a preference for the assessments to fall in the same year or in alternate years.

Lapsed Diplomates

Lapsed diplomates have a special pathway that allows them to regain their certification within a short timeframe (year 1), but also ensures they are satisfactorily meeting the requirements of the Continuous Certification Program. Upon registration for their first Continuous Certification Assessment, all diplomates must be submit information regarding the program requirements including:

  • Medical license
  • Hospital or surgical center privileges
  • Professional references
  • Operative log
  • Practice improvement activities
  • CME

Lapsed diplomates must also submit two additional reference letters, from peer surgeons who are familiar with their practice or current activities. Once a diplomate has fulfilled all of these requirements, they may register to take a Continuous Certification Assessment. This is an entirely online process that can typically be completed within a few days. Recently lapsed diplomates or diplomates with other ABS certificates will already have many of the items submitted.

Please note that letters of reference require ABS review upon submission and should be started in a timely manner to ensure that the reference has time to complete the documentation, and also to ensure that the diplomate will still have enough time to complete the assessment.

Lapsed diplomates must also take and pass two extra assessments during the initial five-year period of the pathway (in years 2 and 4); however, once the five-year period is completed, they will take the assessment on the standard schedule of every other year.

Certificate status will be updated once results have been validated - several weeks after the close of the assessment window but no later than Dec. 31 of that year.
Diplomates who are participating in the lapsed pathway do not receive any grace years during the five years in which they are completing the pathway requirements. If a diplomate does not pass the assessment at any time during this five-year, they will lose certification. Regaining certification will then require successful completion of a secure examination at a testing center.
 

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