About the QE

Complex General Surgical Oncology Qualifying Exam

  • The CGSO Qualifying Examination is offered once annually as the first of two exams required for board certification in complex general surgical oncology. It contains about 200 multiple-choice questions designed to assess a surgeon's cognitive knowledge of CGSO. See also the exam's content outline (pdf).
  • It is a one-day exam lasting approximately 5 hours and is held at computer-testing facilities across the U.S. The exam is administered in three 90-minute sessions, with optional 10-minute breaks between sessions. Once a session has concluded, you will not be able to revisit those questions.
  • Results are posted approximately 4 to 8 weeks after the exam; you will be notified by email when they are available. The exam's contents are copyrighted and may not be reproduced or disclosed in any manner.
    Next Exam: September 11, 2023
    Application Deadline: July 3 (initial deadline); July 17 (late deadline)

7-Year Limit

  • Individuals who complete a surgical oncology fellowship in the 2018-2019 academic year or thereafter will have no more than 7 academic years immediately following training to become certified (i.e., pass both the QE and CE). See Exam Opportunities below for details.

General Requirements

It is expected that trainees meet all requirements listed below. If a trainee is unable to meet a specific requirement(s) due to COVID, requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

To be eligible for this exam, applicants must:

  • Accredited Program: Have satisfactorily completed a two-year training program in complex general surgical oncology accredited by the ACGME or in general surgical oncology accredited by the RCPSC.
    To be eligible for CGSO certification, an individual must have been enrolled in either the first or second year of the training program at the time ACGME or RCPSC accreditation was achieved.
  • Training Time: Have acquired no fewer than 96 weeks of full-time clinical activity over the two years of the training program. See Leave Policy for further details.
  • Operative Log: Submit for the ABS' review an operative experience report as surgeon and assistant surgeon which is deemed acceptable to the ABS, not only as to volume, but as to spectrum and complexity of cases. Cases must be from the applicant's fellowship and verified by the program director.
    New Case Minimums: New case number requirements (view pdf) were implemented for surgeons who began CGSO fellowship training on or after July 1, 2016. These surgeons will be required to have met the new case requirements by the time of their application to the CGSO QE.
  • Certification/Continuous Certification: Be currently certified in general surgery by the American Board of Surgery and in compliance with the ABS Continuous Certification Program.
  • Professional Activity: Be actively and primarily engaged in the practice of complex general surgical oncology 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.
  • 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.
  • Adhere to the ABS Ethics and Professionalism Policy.

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 receive an email with instructions on how to register for this year's exam.
  • Once you complete registration and submit the examination fee, it will take up to five business days to process. Following processing, an Exam Admission Card/Authorization Letter with instructions on how to schedule your exam center directly with Pearson VUE will then be posted on your Exam Records and Results page.
  • Active duty military personnel who may encounter difficulty taking the exam due to their service should contact the ABS as soon as possible. Please see How to Apply for information about other exam accommodations.

Exam Opportunities

Current Applicants:

  • Individuals who complete a surgical oncology fellowship in the 2018-2019 academic year or thereafter will have no more than 7 academic years following training to complete the certification process (i.e., pass both the QE and CE). The 7-year period begins immediately upon completion of fellowship training.
  • Upon application approval, applicants will be granted up to 4 opportunities within a 4-year period to pass the QE, providing they applied immediately after training. Individuals who delay in applying will lose opportunities to take and pass the QE.
  • If the applicant decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity. See our exam admissibility policy for further details.
  • Primary certification in Surgery is a requirement for certification in Complex General Surgical Oncology, and is part of the application process. Delays in completing initial certification in surgery will delay the CGSO application, and therefore diminish the number of available attempts to take the CGSO exam. It is highly recommended that you attain certification in Surgery BEFORE the end of your CGSO fellowship.

Prior Policy:

  • Individuals who completed training prior to July 1, 2018, were granted up to 5 opportunities within a 5-year period.
  • During the four-year period, During the five-year period, examinees who postponed or were unsuccessful will be able to register for the next exam without completing a new application; the original application will suffice.
  • The above limits are absolute. Individuals who exhaust their four-year admissibility period should contact the ABS regarding the readmissibility requirements in effect at that time.

CGSO Certifying Exam

  • Upon successful completion of the CGSO Qualifying Exam, you will be admissible to the CGSO 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.