Vascular Surgery Qualifying Exam - Overview

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About the Exam
  • The Vascular Surgery Qualifying Examination is offered annually as part of the board certification process for vascular surgery. The exam consists of approximately 240 multiple-choice questions designed to assess a surgeon's cognitive knowledge.
  • It is a one-day exam lasting six hours and is held at computer-testing facilities across the U.S. Results are posted and mailed approximately four weeks after the exam. The exam's contents are copyrighted and may not be reproduced or disclosed in any manner.
  • Next Exam: Sept. 15, 2014

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General Requirements
  • To be eligible for this exam, applicants must:
  • Prerequisite Exam: Have successfully completed either the General Surgery Qualifying Exam or Surgical Principles Exam (SPE). See Training Pathways and SPE for details.
  • Medical License: Have a currently registered full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in the U.S. or Canada. Applicants are required to immediately inform the ABS of any conditions or restrictions in force on any active medical license they hold.
  • Accredited Program: Have satisfactorily completed a training program in vascular surgery accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC).
  • Training Time: Have acquired no fewer than 48 weeks of full-time surgical experience in each year of the training program. See Leave Policy for further details.
  • Responsibility: Have obtained increasing levels of responsibility during vascular surgery training, including serving as chief resident for a 12-month period.
  • Number of Programs: Have completed their vascular surgery training at no more than two programs. For integrated programs, the final two years must be completed at the same institution. For independent programs, the final 18 months must be completed at the same institution. Individuals in independent programs must also have completed their general surgery residency at no more than three programs.
  • ACLS, ATLS and RPVI: Have completed the programs Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS), Advanced Trauma Life Support® (ATLS®) and Registered Physician Vascular Interpretation® (RPVI®). Applicants are not required to be currently certified in these programs; they must only provide documentation of successful completion.
  • Professional Activity: Be actively and primarily engaged in the practice of vascular surgery as indicated by holding full surgical privileges in this discipline at an accredited health care institution, or be currently engaged in pursuing additional graduate education in another recognized surgical specialty. An exception to this requirement is active military duty.
  • Operative Log: Submit an operative experience report as surgeon and assistant surgeon that is deemed acceptable to the ABS, not only as to volume, but as to spectrum and complexity of cases. This includes at least 250 major vascular reconstructions. Cases must be from the applicant's vascular surgery residency or fellowship and verified by the program director.
  • Adhere to the ABS Ethics and Professionalism Policy.

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Full-Time Research Limits
  • For individuals in integrated programs, no more than six months of residency may be devoted to research. For individuals in independent programs, no more than 10% of the total required vascular surgical experience may be devoted to research. Any research time beyond 10% requires prior ABS approval.

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How to Apply
  • Individuals who meet ABS requirements may apply for the exam through the online application process, which is posted in early spring (Application Instructions).
  • After your application is approved, you will be sent instructions on how to register for this year's examination and submit payment of the separate exam fee.
  • Once you are registered for the exam, you will be mailed an exam admission authorization letter with final details and instructions on reserving a place at a computer-testing center. You must have this letter to reserve a testing center spot.
  • Active duty military personnel who may encounter difficulty taking the exam due to their service should contact the ABS as soon as possible.

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Canadian Applicants
  • Canadian applicants must adhere to all of the above requirements and must have completed all general surgery and vascular surgery training in programs accredited by the RCPSC or ACGME. Effective with applicants who will complete an independent vascular surgery program in the 2014-2015 academic year, 12 months of rotations related to vascular surgery must have been completed during general surgery residency. Canadian applicants should also make certain that any "block rotations" will meet VSB-ABS requirements.

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Exam Opportunities and Admissibility
  • Applicants who complete vascular surgery training in the 2012-2013 academic year or thereafter:
  • Will have no more than seven academic years following vascular surgery training to complete the certification process. The seven-year period begins upon completion of training, not when an individual's application is approved. If individuals do not apply immediately after training, they will lose exam opportunities.
  • Upon application approval, they will be offered a maximum of four opportunities within a four-year period to pass the Vascular Surgery Qualifying Exam. If an applicant decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity as the four-year limit is absolute.
  • The granting of four opportunities in four years is contingent on sufficient time being left in the applicant's seven-year eligibility period. See the ABS' new exam admissibility policy for further details.
  • Applicants who completed vascular surgery training prior to July 1, 2012:
  • Upon application approval, they will be offered a maximum of five opportunities within a five-year period to pass the Vascular Surgery Qualifying Exam. If an applicant decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity as the five-year limit is absolute.
  • During the exam admissibility period, examinees who postponed or were unsuccessful will be contacted each year regarding the next exam; a new application is not necessary.
  • Individuals who exceed any of the above restrictions will lose their admissibility and must pursue a readmissibility pathway to re-enter the certification process.

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Vascular Surgery Certifying Exam
Upon successful completion of the Vascular Surgery Qualifying Exam, an applicant is admissible to the Vascular Surgery Certifying Exam, an oral examination, and will be contacted with registration information for the next exam.


For complete requirements regarding certification in vascular surgery, refer to the Booklet of Information - Vascular Surgery (pdf).

See also:

For specific inquiries, please send an e-mail to the exam coordinator.

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