About the QE

Vascular Surgery Qualifying Exam

  • The Vascular Surgery Qualifying Examination (QE) is offered annually as the first of two exams required for board certification in vascular surgery. The exam consists of approximately 300 multiple-choice questions designed to assess a surgeon's cognitive knowledge of core surgery and vascular surgery. See the exam's content outline (pdf) for further information.
  • It is a one-day exam lasting approximately 8 hours and is held at computer-testing facilities across the U.S. Results are posted and mailed approximately 4 to 8 weeks after the exam. The exam's contents are copyrighted and may not be reproduced or disclosed in any manner. Successful completion of the General Surgery QE or Surgical Principles Exam is no longer a prerequisite for this examination.
    Next Exam: Sept. 12, 2016

Seven-Year Limit

  • Individuals who complete vascular surgery training after July 1, 2012, will have no more than 7 academic years immediately following training to become certified. See Exam Opportunities below for details.

General Requirements

To be eligible for this exam, applicants must:

  • Accredited Program: Have satisfactorily completed a training program in vascular surgery accredited by the ACGME or the RCPSC. (See also Osteopathic Trainees Policy)
  • Approved Application: Graduates of independent (5+2) or early specialization programs (4+2) must have an approved application to the General Surgery Qualifying Exam. All application requirements must be met and it must be signed by the general surgery program director.
  • Training Time: Have acquired no fewer than 48 weeks of full-time clinical activity in each year of the vascular surgery training program. The 48 weeks may be averaged; 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 2 programs. For integrated programs, the final 2 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 3 programs.
  • ACLS, ATLS and RPVI: Have been certified in 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 past certification.
  • 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. Specific case requirements:

    • At least 250 major vascular reconstructions must be listed.
    • For individuals who began integrated (0+5) training in July 2015 or thereafter, a minimum of 25 cases in surgical critical care must be listed, with at least one in each of the seven categories: ventilatory management; bleeding (non-trauma); hemodynamic instability; organ dysfunction / failure; dysrhythmias; invasive line management and monitoring; and parenteral / enteral nutrition.
    Cases must be from the applicant's vascular surgery residency or fellowship and verified by the program director.
  • Medical License: While possession of a medical license is not required to apply for the Vascular Surgery QE, candidates must possess a full and unrestricted U.S. or Canadian medical license to take the Vascular Surgery Certifying Exam. Applicants are required to immediately inform the ABS of any conditions or restrictions in force on any active medical license they hold.
  • Adhere to the ABS Ethics and Professionalism Policy.

Full-Time Research Limits

  • For individuals in integrated programs, no more than 6 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.

Application Process

  • Individuals who meet ABS requirements may apply for the exam through the online application process, which is posted in early spring (see How to Apply). After your application is approved, you will be sent instructions on how to register for this year's exam.
  • 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.

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.

Exam Opportunities

Individuals who complete vascular surgery training after July 1, 2012:

  • Individuals who complete the required vascular surgery training after July 1, 2012, will have no more than 7 academic years following this training to complete the certification process. The seven-year period begins immediately upon completion of vascular surgery training.
  • Upon application approval, they will be granted up to 4 opportunities within a 4-year period to pass the Vascular Surgery QE. If an applicant decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity.
  • The granting of four opportunities in four years is contingent on sufficient years being left in the applicant's seven-year eligibility period. See the ABS' exam admissibility policy for further details.

Individuals who completed vascular surgery training prior to July 1, 2012:

  • Individuals who completed vascular surgery training prior to July 1, 2012, will be granted up to 5 opportunities within a 5-year period to pass the Vascular Surgery QE following application approval. If an applicant decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity.
  • During the exam admissibility period, individuals who postponed or were unsuccessful will be contacted each year regarding the next exam; a new application is not necessary.
  • The above limits are absolute. Individuals who exceed any of the above restrictions will lose their admissibility and must pursue a readmissibility pathway to re-enter the certification process.

Vascular Surgery Certifying Exam

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

For specific inquiries, please send an email to the exam coordinator.

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