Emergency Medical Services

Dates and Fees

  • EMS Certification Examination

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) involves prehospital emergency patient care, including initial patient stabilization, treatment, and transport to hospitals in specially equipped ambulances or helicopters.

ABEM- and American Osteopathic Board of Emergency Medicine (AOBEM)-certified physicians attain subspecialty certification in EMS by meeting the eligibility criteria, fulfilling specific credential requirements, and passing the EMS Certification Examination.

ABEM develops and administers subspecialty certification examination in EMS, and is responsible for credentialing all candidates. The EMS Subboard is composed of eight EMS physicians charged with creating and editing examination content, reviewing and selecting articles for EMS LLSA tests, revising the passing score, and decision-making authority for credentialing EMS certification applicants. EMS certification is available to all physicians certified by a member Board of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

Minimally Qualified EMS Physician


Physicians seeking to take the certification examination in Emergency Medical Services must:

  1. Be certified by an ABMS Member Board. AOBEM-certified physicians who have completed an ACGME-accredited EMS fellowship may apply through the training pathway.  
  2. Successfully complete the training pathway as specified in the eligibility criteria.
  3. Complete and submit the application to ABEM
  4. Actively participate in the ABEM continuing certification process
  5. Fulfill the Policy on Medical Licensure 
  6. Comply with the Policy on Board Eligibility for Subspecialties

Exam Process

The EMS Certification Examination is offered every two years, in odd-numbered years.


Accredited Fellowship Training Pathway
To apply via the accredited fellowship training pathway, physicians can complete the online application through their ABEM personal page.

To access the online application, sign in to the ABEM portal with your ABEM user ID and password and then select the ABEM Personal Page button a the top of the screen and then click the green EMS Certification button in the middle of the page.

For all applicants, the following must be submitted for an application to be complete:

  • All information requested in the certification application
  • Application fee in U.S. funds

The application fee covers the cost of processing the application only and cannot be refunded.

A final review of an application will be completed when all information is received. Applications that are incomplete will be closed in January the year following the exam administration. Physicians with closed applications who want to take the exam must submit new applications and meet all requirements in place at the time the new application is submitted.

By completing the application form, physicians give ABEM permission to verify information submitted.

ABEM emails notification regarding whether the physician's application has been approved.


Physicians with approved applications will be notified how to register for the examination and schedule an appointment at a Pearson VUE testing center.

Taking the Exam

The EMS Certification Examination appointment time is approximately 8 hours. This criterion-referenced exam has 300 multiple choice questions, each with a single-best answer.

After check-in, the Pearson VUE test administrator will seat you in the testing room. Each EMS Exam appointment is 8 hours in length. However, only 6 hours and 20 minutes of this time is actual testing time, which is divided into two separately timed testing sessions.

Approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes of the appointment time is devoted to a one-hour scheduled break between the two testing sessions, and several accessory activities related to the exam administration. These accessory activities include acceptance of the ABEM Policy on Examination Irregularities, an optional test tutorial, examination instructions, and a candidate survey

Content Specifications

The Core Content of EMS Medicine is the basis for all EMS examination content. The 2019 Core Content of Emergency Medical Services Medicine defines the content for the initial certification examination for EMS.
Core Content of EMS Medicine [Word]
Core Content of EMS Medicine [PDF] 

It is published in Prehospital Emergency Care.

The distribution of test questions on the EMS Certification Examination by Core Content areas are as follows:

Clinical Aspects of EMS Medicine: 40%
Medical Oversight of EMS: 30%
Quality Management and Research: 15%:
Special Operations: 15%

Sample Exam Questions

Passing Criterion and Scoring

The EMS Certification Exam is criterion referenced. A criterion-referenced exam uses a predetermined standard, which is adopted by the EMS Subboard as reflecting its performance standards (The Core Content of EMS Medicine). All candidates meeting the standard will pass the exam. Quotas or required percentages of candidates passing are not used to determine the passing score.

The score on the exam is not a percent correct; rather, it is a scaled score that ranges from 0 to 195 and does not include field test items. In addition to the field-testing process, each question receives a thorough review before being used to score the examination. Questions that do not meet the Subboard's quality standards are not used in determining candidates’ final scores.

Determining a Passing Score

Best practice in testing suggests that the passing score for an examination be substantially connected to the content and performance standards defined by The Core Content of EMS Medicine.

In order to maintain this connection, the passing score is typically reviewed every five to seven years, or when the format or content of the exam changes significantly (such as when the Core Content is revised). The process involves a representative panel of clinically active, EMS-certified physicians who are trained in a process called “standard setting.” This process requires the participating physicians to thoroughly understand the EMS Core Content. The panelists then evaluate each test question and assess how a candidate who meets the ABEM standard would perform. The panel then recommends a passing standard (score) to the EMS Subboard. The Subboard weighs this recommendation and uses it to determine a final passing score. The passing score for the EMS Certification Examination was determined in 2017. The pass rate for the 2023 EMS Certification Examination is 78%.

2023 EMS Certification Examinations Scoring FAQs


ABEM sends candidates the results of their examination in writing within 90 days of the date of the examination. Results are also posted on candidates' ABEM Personal Page.