ABEM Committed to Maintaining Certification Standards

Feb 08, 2021

The American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) understands that this past year was particularly challenging for emergency physicians, especially early career physicians. Every physician member of the ABEM Board of Directors is clinically active and understands the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The disruptions affecting our specialty have also affected ABEM certification.

At the onset of the pandemic, ABEM took quick action to protect certification and board eligibility, including extending board eligibility for physicians whose initial certification was delayed due to COVID. The closing of Pearson VUE testing centers and the elimination of large gatherings created major disruptions to certification, including cancellations of the ABEM Oral Certification Examinations. Both examiners and candidates supported the cancellations as being a responsible action to take in 2020.

Consequently, ABEM pivoted to a new Oral Exam process and began testing in the virtual environment. ABEM administered the first virtual Oral Exam in December 2020 and will be administering three additional exams in early 2021. ABEM expects to examine a record number of candidates this year, administering the Oral Exam to most, if not all, physicians seeking certification in 2021.

It is true that we are in the midst of unprecedented circumstances, but despite this situation, ABEM expects to have a solution to remedy delays in certification by the end of 2021. While notice for some exams has been shorter than ideal, ABEM is working diligently to improve the process. The pandemic has created scheduling challenges for everyone involved, including the nearly 500 ABEM oral examiners, all of whom are clinically active emergency physicians themselves.

Since its inception, the purpose of ABEM certification has been to independently and validly verify a physician’s competencies that have been acquired during residency training. That verification must be fair, valid, reliable, and nationally based rather than on local or regional practice variations. Over the years, ABEM has published significant data that support the validity of the Oral Exam. Eliminating the Oral Exam would diminish the rigor of ABEM certification and reduce the distinction between ABEM-certified physicians and other physicians and providers of emergency care. The stakes for the public and our profession are too high to not maintain this differentiation.

The ABEM Board of Directors is committed to providing physicians passing the 2019 and 2020 Qualifying Exams the opportunity to become certified in 2021. We will communicate about these efforts in as timely a manner as possible.

The past year has taxed our community in unprecedented ways. I am grateful for your service and proud of our Emergency Medicine community. I am confident there are brighter days ahead.   


Mary Nan Mallory, M.D., M.B.A.

  • Become Certified
  • Oral
  • Stay Certified
  • Program Directors

Media Contact

For media and news-related inquires, contact the ABEM Communications Team via email, or 517-332-4800. 

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