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2020 Certifying Exam Format Change FAQs

Updated on November 4, 2020


General Questions and Logistics


1. Will I need to complete an application for the 2020 Specialty CE again? 

No, you will not need to complete another application for the 2020 examination. 


2. I withdrew from the 2020 CE due to travel restrictions from COVID-19. Can I re-register now that you are switching to the computer-based format? 

Yes. Please send an email to the Exams Department at exams@abog.org and request that the tasks and information be re-added to your portal. This must be requested no later than October 30, 2020, to allow time to input case lists and have them reviewed before the examination.   


3. If you have special accommodations already approved for the exam, will those accommodations be transferred and applied to the new exam?

Please submit a new request since the exam will now be administered at Pearson VUE test centers. We cannot assume required accommodations will be the same in the new format in Pearson VUE test centers. If you need an accommodation, please contact us as soon as possible at exams@abog.org or 214-871-1619.


4. If we are requesting accommodations, should we wait for a written/email response from ABOG before scheduling with Pearson VUE?



5. Why are you changing the format for the 2020 Specialty Certifying Examination (CE)? 

The health of all participants (and those with whom they come into contact) is paramount. We cannot ask you or our volunteers to take unnecessary risks by having an in-person examination. Unfortunately, despite working continuously to provide a virtual option, we do not believe we will be able to successfully provide this option by first quarter of 2021. This is why the exam format has changed to a computer-based exam which will be administered at Pearson VUE test centers. This eliminates the need for you to travel a considerable distance and helps prevent possibly spreading the virus.  


6. I’m sure you considered the option of some kind of live web oral exam? The candidate could still go to the Pearson VUE testing center to maintain security and exam integrity and video conference with the examiner.

Pearson VUE centers do not currently have the capability as described with few exceptions. ABOG is working to develop  virtual testing capability. We expect to have this in the future if needed. 


7. Why not just postpone everyone to next year?

We do not have the capacity to double our testing numbers in one year. This means doubling the number of examiners or having every examiner test for two separate weeks. This is not feasible. Additionally, it was important to ABOG that candidates be able to achieve certification in a timely manner, if at all possible without jeopardizing the safety of candidates, volunteers, and staff.


8. Is there any consideration being given to offering a second test date?

Currently Pearson VUE has the capacity to offer the examination to all candidates on February 2nd. We will offer a second test date only if necessary due to COVID-19 impact on Pearson VUE capacity. 


9. If COVID-19 is no longer a consideration in February 2021, is there a chance you could switch the format back to oral exams, or will this exam remain computer-based?

The amount of planning required will preclude ABOG from making any rapid switch back to the original format. This exam will remain computer-based. 


10. How is this exam different than the Qualifying Exam we took at residency graduation?

The format of the exam is also computer-based multiple choice questions. However, the questions will be clinically based and will not cover non-clinically relevant topics. They will also be at the top of Bloom’s Taxonomy to test more than just knowledge. 


11. Since ABOG does not have to pay for examiners to administer the certifying exam, it seems the cost of the exam should go down considerably. Will we receive a refund?

In order to offer an examination for the 2020 cycle, ABOG is paying a substantial amount in contract penalties. Additionally, there is a significant fee for offering the examination at Pearson VUE centers. ABOG will not be offering a refund for candidates who choose to take the examination.


12. If you were in fellowship these past 3 years, are you responsible for knowing updated management strategies, as some guidelines have changed in that time, or will the exam be structured in a manner to assess global clinical concepts.

Everyone will be expected to know the up-to-date clinical management standards. 


13. Is there a chance that the oral subspecialty certifying exams may be changed to this type of format as well? 

No. We are working on other backup options for the subspecialty CEs in the event that we are unable to administer these in person.


14. What is the latest date that we can elect to defer examination until next year’s oral exam?

There is no specific date. We would ask that you make the decision in time to cancel your Pearson VUE appointment. 




Case Lists


15. I understand ABOG will be reviewing case lists. What does that mean, and what is the impact on my eligibility to take the Certifying Exam (CE)? 

ABOG is reviewing all case lists to ensure they meet the standards as outlined in the 2020 Specialty Certifying Examination Bulletin. Please click the “Case List” icon on your ABOG portal to verify that your case list has been approved or to correct any issues if required. The majority of issues that arise relate to the Case List Affidavit Forms. If the case list is submitted and approved, you may take the 2020 computer-based CE. 


16. When will I find out if my case list was approved?

All submitted case lists have undergone initial review. If you look on your portal, you can verify whether your case list is accepted or requires additional attention. 


17. What happens if my case list is not approved? 

Candidates will be notified on their portal if edits are needed to their case lists. You will be given an opportunity to submit necessary corrections to your case list in order to become eligible to take the examination.


18. Is there a due date for the resubmission of case lists and case list affidavits?

While ABOG does not have a specific due date, we encourage everyone to complete this as soon as possible. ABOG needs time to ensure case lists meet requirements, and occasionally a resubmission of a case list or affidavit is still invalid. If your case list is not approved before the examination, you will be withdrawn and your fees will be rolled to 2021.


19. How are our case lists being used for the exam? Is there anything else for which they will be used than as a standard for eligibility? For example, will they be included in scoring considerations?

The case lists are being reviewed for eligibility to take the examination. They will not be used during the examination or for scoring.


20. I understand I can use my current case list for next year, yet I have to meet the requirements for 2021. Since the requirements are different, are we able to add on cases from an 18-month period? How will this discrepancy be solved

We will work with individuals on this issue. Please email exams@abog.org with your specific exception request if required. 


21. Will case list audits be performed more frequently this year?

Case lists are being audited based on standard criteria. 


22. If we have a case list that has been approved, does that mean that there is no need for future audit, or can an audit still occur?

We would only audit a case list after approval if we receive additional information on the case list. 




Pearson VUE


23. Will I need to book a seat at a Pearson VUE test center to take the examination? 

You will need to book a seat at your preferred Pearson VUE test center.  Pearson VUE is working closely with ABOG regarding exam scheduling. As of October 16, you should have a task on your portal to schedule at your preferred test center. If you do not have this task, please contact ABOG at exams@abog.org. If you need an accommodation for the examination or lactation facilities, you must contact ABOG at 214-871-1619 or exams@abog.org prior to scheduling with Pearson VUE.  


24. Is it safe to take an exam in a Pearson VUE test center? 

Pearson VUE is following recommendations from the CDC and the World Health Organization to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect testing candidates and its own staff. You will need to comply with all the health and safety guidelines outlined on the Pearson VUE website. 


25. What safety precautions are the Pearson VUE test centers taking?

Please see the Pearson VUE test center website for specific information on their COVID-19 precautions.


26. I know that in the past there have been very strict rules with what we can and cannot bring to Pearson VUE. Are we allowed to bring our own ear plugs and if so, can we avoid having someone touching them to help prevent exposure to COVID-19? Also, is it going to be an issue if I wear my P95 respirator for protection from COVID-19?

We encourage you to contact your Pearson VUE center directly with these types of questions. You can also visit the Pearson VUE website to review the health guidelines that test centers are enforcing to minimize exposure to their staff and candidates from COVID-19.


27. What if Pearson VUE test centers near me have no more availability?

If you cannot make an appointment at a Pearson VUE center near you, you can choose to travel or move your case list and exam fee to the 2021 CE.


28. Can this exam be taken in an overseas Pearson VUE center?

If you need this option, please contact ABOG at exams@abog.org.


29. Will we have a whiteboard or scratch paper during the exam?

You will be provided with a small erasable whiteboard for use during the examination.


30. If there is a problem with the testing center (no AC, poor testing conditions, etc.) who should we contact the day of the test?

If there are any issues at your testing center, please contact ABOG exams at 214-871-1619. 


31. Pearson VUE sign-up states name has to appear exactly the same on ID as on registration. Does this include middle name or just first name and last name?

First and last name only. 


32. Pearson VUE allows some exams to be administered remotely during COVID-19. If there is a huge spike of cases in a certain area or if inclement weather prevents test centers from opening. Will that be an option?

No. We are currently unable to administer computer-based examinations remotely.




Scheduling Issues or Concerns


33. If I am unable to attend the examination on the scheduled date, or would otherwise prefer not to take the computer-based examination, will I be able to use my case list and fees paid for the 2020 CE? 

Yes, your examination fees and case list would be rolled to the 2021 examination.  However, you will need to complete the online application for the 2021 Specialty CE and meet the requirements as outlined in the 2021 CE Bulletin. 


34. If a candidate is ill with COVID-19 on the testing date and unable to take the exam, will there be an alternative date available for testing once they recover?

ABOG will be offering an alternative to those candidates who are unable to take the examination due to infection with or quarantine for COVID 19. That information will be released soon. 


35. If only certain Pearson VUE centers are unable to open the day of the test (for example, a regional snowstorm), or it became unsafe to travel to a test center, would ABOG offer an alternative date to take the exam?

If a natural disaster/issue prevented candidates from taking the examination, an alternate option would be provided to affected candidates. 


36. Should the situation with COVID-19 become worse, is there a chance that this exam could be delayed again or canceled altogether? If so, will it remain in computer-based form, even if that extends into the 2021 cycle?

If the situation worsens and the Pearson VUE centers cut back on capacity, we would plan to add a second date to allow all candidates to take the examination. If all Pearson VUE centers were closed due to a national increase in COVID-19, we would look for alternate dates later in the Spring.


37. Given the COVID-19 pandemic is likely going to worsen in 2021, is there a possibility the test date can be moved to an earlier date?



38. I am pregnant and my due date is around that time. What if I go into labor? Will I be allowed the same accommodation as someone infected with COVID-19?

No. The exceptions will only be for COVID-19. 


39. If you live overseas, will the test be on Feb 2 where you live or when it is Feb 2 in the US?

Exams are administered beginning at 8 am local time at the location of the test center on Feb.






40. What is the best way to prepare for the exam? Will there be an ABOG-sponsored question bank, practice test, etc.? Would you recommend study materials initially tailored toward the qualifying exam?

Standardized textbooks and ACOG practice information can be helpful study aids. There will not be an ABOG-sponsored question bank. ABOG provided examples in the webinars, which are posted on the ABOG website. The slides utilized at that meeting, which include examples of questions, are also posted on the ABOG website.


41. I found the blueprint, but I cannot seem to find the task statements. Where are they listed?

Appendix B, page 31 has the task statements. They are the terminal topics listed with capital letters.




Exam Format and Content


42. How many questions will be on the exam? Will images and figures be used?

There will be 200 questions, which may include images, figures, etc.


43. Will the exam be standardized (everyone tested on similar material) or related to our individual case list?

The exam will be standardized.


44. What is the content basis of these questions – the practice bulletins/committee opinions? Other material?

All items are based on the CE blueprint, as published in Appendix B of the 2020 Specialty Certifying Examination Bulletin found on abog.org. Multiple sources are used in creating questions. 


45. What types of questions will be on the computer-based certifying exam (CE)? 

This CE will be clinically based, multiple-choice questions. You will have four hours to take the examination. The question distribution will be based on the blueprint, which is included in the 2020 Specialty Certifying Examination Bulletin. The high-level blueprint begins on page 14, and more specific topics are listed beginning on page 31. 


46. How current will the questions be to current recommendations? What is the cut-off month/year?

August of 2020


47. In regard to cervical cancer screening and management, should candidates be prepared to provide answers based on the most recent guidelines and recommendations released by the American Cancer Society or those released by the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology?

Questions will be based on the joint statement from both societies.


48. Will there be questions on biostatistics?

The blueprint includes epidemiology and evidence-based medicine. Clinically relevant questions in this may be included, but not purely biostatistics. 


49. Will there be anatomy questions?



50. Will we need to know histology/pathology?

Only clinically-relevant histology/pathology.


51. Do we need to know mechanism of actions of drugs?

Only if it makes a difference in clinical care. 


52. Are you going to ask about COVID-19 in pregnancy?

There are infectious disease in pregnancy questions. 


53. Will this exam go into as much detail as the certifying exam in the fields of Gyn Onc, REI, and Urogyn?

Those areas will be covered as per the blueprint for the Certifying Examination. 


54. Will the exam include any cancer staging?

The blueprint includes cancer, particularly if found at the time of surgery. 


55. Will the actual steps of a surgical procedure be asked, for example, next step of a hysterectomy?

Yes, procedures are part of the CE blueprint. 


56. Will there be questions where we have to read a short article/drug advertisement and answer questions about it?



57. Are we required to know specific doses of medications that are uncommonly used and exact percentages?

There may be medication information on the examination, but all content will be clinically relevant. 


58. Can you give more examples of “non-clinical” questions that will not be included?

Mostly statistics questions, such as, “What percentage of patients exposed to x will get y.” For example, you would not be asked what percentage of patients that receive a specific antibiotic would get C. Difficile. You could be asked about management of a patient who receives antibiotics and develops C. Difficile. 


59. Will MOC exam questions or articles questions be utilized?



60. Will the OB, GYN, and Office sections be separate? Or will questions be mixed together? Or will the exam be split into separate sections with a mix of questions?

All questions including cross-content will be mixed together. There are no sections in the exam. 


61. Will there be “linked” questions? (those that, once you select an answer, that answer cannot be changed because it leads to another potential question)?



62. Are these single answer questions? Or can we pick multiple answers for the same question?

Select only one answer per question. For most questions, all the choices will be possible, but one will be most correct. 


63. Will the questions be individual multiple choice questions or a set of 4 or 5 questions that will simulate a clinical scenario?

Individual questions based on a short clinical scenario. 


64. Will there be any sort of references available in the computerized interface (i.e., normal lab value ranges, etc.)? If not, do we need to memorize normal ranges?

There will be normal lab ranges provided in SOME questions. Common frequently used labs may not have normal ranges. 


65. Given this is the first time this has ever occurred, are all the test questions going to be newly written and untested prior to our exam? Who is doing this? How are you verifying the questions are accurate, up-to-date, and applicable on such a short timeline?

When ABOG’s computer-based questions are written, a percentage of them are written at the upper level of Bloom’s Taxonomy to test the clinical comprehension that this exam is seeking to evaluate. Many of these questions have been field tested for performance, so we do know that the items function feasibly. Our Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and staff are working diligently to ensure that we have the questions we need and that they are reviewed for accuracy. Exam questions may be modified as needed to fit the requirements of this exam.


66. When we look at 200 questions over 4 hours, that gives us 1.2 minutes per question. Clinical questions tend to be longer with more text compared to other questions. This may not be sufficient time if there are many long questions. Will the question stem length be similar to that in examples from the webinars? 

All questions are written to be able to be answered in 1 minute or less. The stems will be similar to the examples in the presentation.


67. Are the example questions in the presentation representative of the level of difficulty in the real exam?

There will be a variety of difficulty levels of questions on the examination. 


68. Is it 4 hours to answer the questions or 4 hours for the whole process, including intake and exit processing?

The 4 hours is test time. The only requirement, aside from questions, included in the 4 hours is attesting to the security agreement.


69. How difficult will this exam be on a scale from CREOG hard to MOC easy?

We do not have a way to compare our examinations to the CREOG exam as we are not involved in the development or administration of that examination. This will not be an MOC type examination. It will be more like the QE, but without any non-clinical knowledge questions.


70. What will be the layout of the questions and arrows on the screen? Will we have the ability to star a question and go back to it? Will we have the ability to skip and review all questions at the end?

The interface will look very similar to the Qualifying Examination. Candidates will be able to flag questions and go back to them. They will be able to skip and go back to questions. 


71. Are breaks allowed during the exam?

Candidates will be able to take an unscheduled restroom break. Candidates who are lactating will also be able to schedule a 30-minute break for lactation. 


72. Are the PROLOGs still the model question type? Or should we imagine turning the Pearls of Exxxcellence into multiple choice questions?

The questions will be multiple-choice based on clinical scenarios. ABOG does not comment on study resources besides the ABOG Bulletin.






73. How will the Certifying Exam be scored? What will determine pass/fail?

The Certifying Exam will be scored dichotomously (1 for a correct response, 0 for an incorrect response). The cut-score for the examination will be determined through a process called standard-setting which involves analysis of the examination by SMEs.  This is the gold standard for setting the cut-score of any new examination.


74. Can you define psychometrics? What processes will make ABOG confident that the certifying exam is psychometrically sound?

Psychometrics is the science of assessment. Our test development processes use items that have been written, reviewed, and edited items by our SMEs, after which they are field tested for feasibility. Items on the certifying exam will assess the breadth and depth of the blueprint to ensure that physicians who get certified will have similar content assessed as they would have if they had taken an oral certifying examination. The scoring and analysis of the certifying examination is validated by two psychometricians and items that do not meet the statistical quality required for an examination are further reviewed by SMEs to ensure that the exam will be fair for all candidates. The standard will be set by SMEs after review of all questions on the entire exam, and a cut-score will be determined using two complementary standard setting processes for validation purposes. All test statistics, such as pass rates and reliability coefficients, will be reviewed after the exam to ensure the exam delivered was fair, reliable, and valid.


75. Will this exam be curved based on a bell curve or can all candidates pass the exam? Does my score depend on how many questions my colleagues answer correctly? Is there an expected pass rate (for example, the typical oral-based CE pass rate), or if 50% of people fail, is that acceptable?

There is no curve or bell curve for ABOG exams. Passing scores for all exams are set using psychometric analysis. Theoretically, all candidates could pass the exam, and a final score is not impacted by another candidate’s answer. There is no expected pass rate, but it is unlikely that 50% of people will fail. Standard setting will establish that criteria. Historical CE pass rates, as indicated on the ABOG website, also do not have a ”typical” pass rate and vary from 82% to 89%.


76. Will the cut point be normative or criterion-based?

The cut score will be determined psychometrically using standard-setting, which allows for criterion-referenced scores. 


77. Why not just give a Pass/Fail grade?

We will still give a Pass/Fail. We will also release scaled scores associated with your grade, to allow you to see how close you were to the passing standard. 


78. It has been rumored that fewer people are expected to pass this computer-based exam than the oral exam.  Can you comment on this speculation?

There is no basis for this rumor.


79. Will there be a penalty for guessing?



80. If I don’t finish the exam questions due to time constraint, will the remaining questions be marked wrong? Is it best to go through all questions at the end and put down any answer?

Any question left blank will be scored as incorrect. Best strategies should be determined by individual candidates.


81. Will certain questions be weighted differently? For example, if a candidate gets a certain percentage of “easy” questions wrong, does this factor into whether that candidate passes or fails?



82. If I fail the CE this cycle and the take the 2021 CE, will this history be available to the 2021 CE examiners?



83. Will the overall pass rate for all candidates be published after the exam is scored? For example,  “70% of the candidates passed”.

Pass rates are published on the ABOG website for all CEs.




Future of the Certifying Exam


84. If I choose to take the computer-based CE and do not pass, will I be able to use my case list for the 2021 examination? 

Yes, your case list will be rolled to the 2021 examination as long as it meets criteria.  However, you will need to complete the online application for the 2021 Specialty Certifying Examination, meet the requirements as outlined in the 2021 CE Bulletin, and pay the application and examination fees.


85. If I choose to take the computer-based CE and do not pass, will I be able to take the computer-based certifying examination again in the 2021 exam cycle? 

No. This is a one-time-only accommodation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This format will only be offered for the 2020 Specialty CE cycle. 


86. The FAQs suggest that if we take and fail the on-line exam offered 2/2/2021, we may take the certifying exam next year in the 2021 cycle. Is this true for all candidates regardless of ABOG history and their status regarding eligibility?

Yes. If this is the last year of eligibility and the candidate is not successful, their eligibility will be extended, and they will be able to take the 2021 Certifying Examination.


87. Will ABOG continue to offer a computer-based certifying examination in the future?  

No. This is a one-time-only accommodation due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This format will only be offered for the 2020 Specialty CE cycle.


88. How can you say this test is sufficient to make an applicant board certified this year, but it will not be sufficient next year?  And, if it is sufficient, why are we forcing individuals to spend thousands of dollars on a much more expensive test with more expensive travel?

While we appreciate your concerns, ABOG feels it is important to allow candidates to achieve board certification safely in this unprecedented situation. Postponing the exam would mean candidates would postpone their certification, which could possibly cause delays in employment/careers. We are offering a computer-based exam as an option this year only, and are taking measures to create a defensible and psychometrically sound exam. 


We still strongly believe that the in-person, oral exam format is currently the best way to measure a physician’s knowledge, judgment, skills, and individual practice. That is why we will move back to that format as soon as the risks from COVID-19 have passed. 


89. It seems like one could make the argument that case lists are obsolete since a universal written exam is being used this year. Will this change how case lists are used in the future?

We will continue to use case lists in the future. We are always looking at ways to improve the process, but there is no specific plan to change the case list requirement for next year’s exam. 




Implications of New Format on Future Practice


90. Will this exam format “count” in the same way as the regular exams administered using the oral-based format? Will it be a temporary or limited certification with requirements to take an actual oral exam in the future? 

The computer-based CE will determine certification for those candidates who pass. They will be certified and will not require an additional oral exam in the future. 


91. Are future employers going to see our cohort of board certification differently?  What is ABOG going to do to stand by us and prevent discrimination against 2020 diplomates?

We have no way to predict if anyone will see this year’s diplomates differently; however, ABOG will always stand behind its certification policies. 


92. Will our board certification have any type of note or disclaimer moving forward that we did not take the oral exam but instead took the computer-based exam?



93. Do you anticipate that since we will be given a numerical score, it may become routine for prospective employers to ask our cohort for our specific score rather than just pass/fail when considering us for future jobs?

ABOG has no way of predicting if employees will ask candidates for their scores in the future. 


94. Several states require board certification to obtain licensure for candidates who went to medical school outside the US. Will taking the multiple choice exam rather than the oral boards be a cause for states to deny licensure?

No. There are many non-surgical boards (Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, Family Medicine) that do not have an oral exam. 


95. If we were to want to become oral board examiners in the future, would having taken our CE as a multiple-choice exam impact our eligibility?




Have additional questions? Contact the Exams Department at exams@abog.org or 214.871.1619.