• Qualifying Examination Requirements and Process


    Physicians whose certification applications are accepted as fulfilling the credential requirements are offered an assignment to the Qualifying Examination.

    Notification of Assignment

    Physicians whose certification applications are approved at least three business days before the start of the Qualifying Examination will be offered an assignment to the examination. In early May, as applications are approved, ABEM will begin sending Qualifying Examination assignments with instructions for registering and scheduling appointments to take the examination.


    To accept a Qualifying Examination assignment, physicians must register online through the ABEM website using instructions sent with the assignment. Registration deadlines and fees are listed under Qualifying Exam Dates and Fees.


    Physicians who have registered online through the ABEM website must schedule an appointment to take the Qualifying Examination in one of over 200 computer-based testing centers. When physicians complete registration, the ABEM online registration system will display the necessary information for scheduling an appointment.

    Approximately thirty days prior to the Qualifying Examination, ABEM sends each physician with a confirmed registration a link to the Examination Information for Candidates book. It includes confirmation of examination seating, examination logistics, and other information about the examination.

    ABEM anticipates seating all physicians who fulfill the credential requirements and wish to take the Qualifying Examination.

    Taking the Examination

    The Qualifying Examination is administered once per year, usually in the fall. Physicians who have registered for the examination through ABEM schedule a one-day appointment to take the examination at one of over 200 computer-based testing centers.

    The examination is divided into two sections or books, each separately timed and each lasting three hours and ten minutes. Once candidates complete one timed book of the examination, they cannot return to it to review answers. 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. Pictorial questions may also refer to dynamic stimuli, such as ultrasound or rhythm strip videos. These images will be presented along with the relevant test question on the computer screen.

    Test schedules allow adequate time to complete each portion of the examination. Candidates who leave the examination room during the examination will not have compensatory time added to the allotted examination period.

    Candidates arriving after the start of either the morning or afternoon portion of the examination will be given only the remaining time in that session to complete the examination. Time extensions will not be granted.

    To enter the examination, candidates must provide one piece of government-issued picture identification: a driver’s license, state-issued identification card, or passport is accepted. Hospital identification is not acceptable. ABEM does not issue candidates an “entrance ticket” to take to the examination.

    To protect examination validity and ensure a consistent, fair examination administration across all its testing centers, Pearson VUE maintains strict security measures, including tight restrictions on what personal items may be taken into the testing room. These security procedures also include multiple checks to confirm each examinee's identity, such as taking a digital signature, photograph, and fingerprint image. Note that this information is used solely for the purpose of confirming identity, is held in the strictest confidence by Pearson VUE, and is not released to any third parties. Please note that the photo taken at the Qualifying Examination will also be used to identify candidates through the Oral Certification Examination registration process. 

    Candidates may take health-related items that they will need, such as eyeglasses and hearing aids. Visually impaired candidates may use magnifying visual aids. The test administrator reserves the right to inspect these and any other health-related items such as facial tissues and cough drops before allowing you to enter the testing room with them.

    Candidates may not take any items other than those listed above into the examination room. This includes, but is not limited to, briefcases, purses, “fanny” packs, notepaper, cameras, tape players or records, calculators, timepieces with calculators, pens, books, luggage, cell phones, beepers, study materials, or the Examination Information for Candidates book. Computers and electronic storage system devices may not be brought into the examination room. This includes, but is not limited to, hand-held, pocket, laptop, or any similar devices.

    ABEM encourages candidates to make adequate arrangements for storing personal possessions before arriving at the examination, since personal possessions will not be allowed in the examination room. Any personal items that candidates take to the testing center may be stored outside the testing room for the duration of the examination appointment in small, secure lockers provided by the testing center. Candidates are permitted to take storage locker keys into the testing room.

    ABEM neither endorses nor makes any recommendation for specific conferences, textbooks, or other publications used as preparation and review for any ABEM examination.

    ABEM has no connection with nor does it endorse or participate in the preparation of any of the following:

    1. Any programs which involve mock training sessions for the qualifying or oral portions of an ABEM examination, or

    2. Books or other publications which purport to instruct candidates how to take its examination.

    ABEM reserves the right to include in any examination certain questions or cases for the purposes of research and validation. These items will not enter into the scoring for the purpose of certification.

    Scoring the Examination

    Your final score on the Qualifying Examination will be determined by first adding together the number of scored questions you answered correctly. This number-correct score will be used to determine your final score, which will range from 0 to 100. Any candidate receiving a final score of 76 or greater will pass the examination.

    Examination Results Communication

    Physicians are notified of examination results in writing within 90 days of the examination administration. ABEM posts on the News and Notices section of the website the date on which results are mailed. Physicians should not call ABEM to inquire about the mailing date of the results prior to the posted mailing date.

    To ensure the confidentiality of examination results, all information is sent to candidates in written form. Results are not provided at the testing center, over the telephone, or via fax.

    Next Steps

    Physicians who pass the Qualifying Examination will be offered an Oral Certification Examination assignment in the year following the Qualifying Examination.

    Certification applications of candidates who fail an examination, decline an examination assignment, do not appear for an examination for which they are registered, or do not respond to the examination assignment are inactive. To take an examination, candidates with inactive applications must request in writing that ABEM reactivate their applications and must pay application reactivation fees by the reactivation deadline of the examination they wish to take.

    Initial Certification Policies Index