Exam Content

The Qualifying Exam is a secure, proctored exam administered at Pearson VUE testing centers in the United States and Canada. Exam questions focus on what the practicing emergency physician needs to know when treating patients, and are derived from the The Model of the Clinical Practice of Emergency Medicine (EM Model).

Qualifying Exam Features

The QE contains approximately 305 single-best-answer, standard multiple choice questions. Each question is in paragraph form with an answer set containing one correct answer and three or four incorrect answers.

The exam is divided into two sections or books, each separately timed, and each lasting 3 hours and 10 minutes, separated by a one-hour, scheduled break. The entire exam appointment takes approximately 8 hours to complete with 6 hours and 20 minutes of total testing time.

Each book of the examination consists of both pictorial and non-pictorial multiple choice questions. Pictorial questions refer to stimulus images such as photos of X-rays, ECGs, rhythm strips, pictures, etc. These images will be presented in a separate tab along with the relevant test question on the computer screen. You will need to interpret ultrasound images for pictorial questions on the Qualifying Exam. Two reference documents are available to you during the exam: a list of common abbreviations used in the exam, and a list of normal laboratory values.

Sample Exam Questions

Content Specifications

ABEM selects questions for the exam based on how closely they align with the EM Model, as seen in the EM blueprint. While questions can originate from any content area within the model, some areas are routinely selected. The lists below describe the relative weight given to different elements of the EM Model in constructing the examinations:

Medical Knowledge, Patient Care, and Procedural Skills

  • 1.0 Signs, Symptoms and Presentations: 10%
  • 2.0 Abdominal & Gastrointestinal Disorders: 7%
  • 3.0 Cardiovascular Disorders: 10%
  • 4.0 Cutaneous Disorders: 3%
  • 5.0 Endocrine, Metabolic & Nutritional Disorders: 5%
  • 6.0 Environmental Disorders: 2%
  • 7.0 Head, Ear, Eye, Nose & Throat Disorders: 4%
  • 8.0 Hematologic Disorders: 3%
  • 9.0 Immune System Disorders: 2%
  • 10.0 Systemic Infectious Disorders: 7%
  • 11.0 Musculoskeletal Disorders (Non-traumatic): 3%
  • 12.0 Nervous System Disorders: 6%
  • 13.0 Obstetrics and Gynecology: 3%
  • 14.0 Psychobehavioral Disorders: 2%
  • 15.0 Renal and Urogenital Disorders: 3%
  • 16.0 Thoracic-Respiratory Disorders: 7%
  • 17.0 Toxicologic Disorders: 4%
  • 18.0 Traumatic Disorders: 9%
  • 19.0 Procedures & Skills: 8%
  • 20.0 Other Components: 2%
  • Total: 100%

Acuity Frames: Target (± 5%)

  • Critical: 30%
  • Emergent: 40%
  • Lower Acuity: 21%
  • None: 9%

Physician Tasks

For this dimension, the Board has assigned the following specific percentage weights to the Modifying Factor of age:

  • Pediatrics: 8% minimum
  • Geriatrics: 6% minimum

Answering Exam Questions

Each exam question has only one correct answer and each question is worth one point. Only one answer can be selected for each question and you should try to answer as many questions as possible. Each question answered correctly is counted in the total correct score.

Unanswered questions are treated as incorrect. Incorrect answers do not count in the total correct score, nor is there a subtraction from the total correct score for incorrect answers.

Your best strategy for completing the exam is to first complete the initial book, answering all questions with your initial best answer. You may flag questions you would like to return to for later review. The computer system facilitates this test-taking strategy by requiring one initial pass through an examination book before allowing you to select and go to a specific question in that examination book, in any desired order. Once an initial pass-through is completed, you may review all of the questions in that book in any order you choose before selecting the “End Review” button to finish the examination book. Once you exit an examination book by clicking on the “End Review” button, that section of the examination is completed, and you may not re-enter it.

Some questions are not scored and are used only to assure future question quality. These field test questions will not be apparent to the candidate. Including them on the exam allows ABEM to conduct research to determine if the questions are appropriate for scoring future examinations.