FAQs for Board Certification

< Return to Main FAQ listing

Information for Candidates:


What is Board Certification?

Certification by the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) is a voluntary process, and is the last step in a long and intensive educational experience designed to assure quality eye care for the American people. Certification is granted to ophthalmologists who successfully complete an accredited course of education in ophthalmology and an evaluation including an examination. The evaluation is designed to assess the knowledge, experience and skills requisite to the delivery of high standards of patient care in ophthalmology.

A candidate who passes both the Written Qualifying and Oral Examinations within the required time limitations, as determined by the ABO in its sole discretion, shall be entitled to receive a certificate without further consideration of his/her qualifications by the ABO. Physicians who have received the certificate are DIPLOMATES of the ABO.

Certificates issued in 1992 and thereafter are valid for a period of ten years and expire December 31 of the tenth year. Thereafter, a diplomate is required to satisfactorily participate in the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) process in order to extend the validity of his/her certificate. Certificates issued prior to July 1, 1992 are valid during the diplomate's lifetime. Diplomates who hold a life-time certificate are also encouraged to participate in the MOC process.

Top


What are the requirements for a physician to become Board Certified?

Information about the ABO's educational and licensure requirements can be found on the Requirements for Certification page.

Top


Will the ABO accept AOA training as meeting the requirements for Board Certification?

No, the Board accepts only training completed at ACGME-accredited programs in the United States or RCPSC-accredited training programs in Canada. This rule applies to the internship year (PGY-1), and extends through the PGY-4 or 5 training years. Training completed in an AOA program will not meet the requirements for ABO certification.

Top


What if I have taken extended time off/medical leave during my residency training program?

Missed time during a training year must be made up by the resident at the discretion of the Program Chair or Director. In addition to a PGY-1, it is an ABO requirement that all candidates for Board Certification complete an entire ACGME-accredited residency training program in ophthalmology of at least 36 months duration (PGY-4 or higher) in the United States or an RCPSC-accredited program of least 48 months duration (PGY-5 or higher) in Canada. 

Top


What are the future dates of Examinations and deadlines for applications?

See our list of examination dates and deadlines.

Top


What is the Written Qualifying Examination (WQE)?

The WQE is a 250 multiple-choice item examination. Since 2006, the WQE has been administered via computer test centers nationwide. Learn more about the WQE, or to review the content of the examination, download the WQE Content Outline.

Top


What is the time limit for passing the Written Qualifying Examination?

Please refer to the Board Eligibility Policy for details.

Top


What is the time limit for passing the Oral Examination?

Please refer to the Board Eligibility Policy for details.

Top


When will I get a refund if I cancel my Examination?

When a candidate registers for an examination, significant costs are incurred by the ABO. If you cancel your examination before the registration deadline, your examination fee will be refunded less a $300 application fee. Fees for examinations are non-refundable, regardless of reason, if you cancel your examination after the registration deadline has passed. However, half the examination fee will be applied to the next offered examination, if taken within the time limit for an active application.

Top


When will I get my Examination results?

  • Results for the Written Qualifying Examination are mailed approximately eight weeks following the examination. WQE score reports provide information to candidates on their performance in each subject area.
  • Results for the Oral Examination are mailed approximately six to eight weeks following the examination.

Top


How is the WQE scored?

The score required to pass the Written Qualifying Examination is determined by a standard-setting methodology. This method requires a group of peers to estimate the minimum level of clinical decision-making and medical knowledge an ophthalmologist requires to practice competently. The examination employs a criterion-referenced passing standard, which means scoring is not done "on the curve," i.e., that a certain percentage of candidates will pass or fail. For every administration, it is possible for all examinees to pass if they achieve a score at or above the passing standard.

Top


Why aren't percentile rankings listed on my WQE score report?

Percentile ranks are not released to candidates because an individual's performance on this examination in relation to peers is not being assessed and does not affect your score. The cut score (minimum score needed to pass) reflects an absolute standard that is independent of the performance of other candidates. 

Top


What is my percentage correct/how many items did I need to answer correctly on the WQE to pass?

Your raw score (number of items answered correctly) on each examination has been transformed to a reporting scale ranging from 200 to 1000 and the cut score (minimum score needed to pass) is 700. Your scaled score is provided for you to determine your level of performance. The ABO does not release information regarding the specific number of items needed to pass.

 Top


Are different questions weighted differently in calculating my WQE score?

All operational questions that appear on the WQE examination carry the same weight. The allocation of content among sub-areas, however, is not equal. See the WQE Content Outline for more information.

Top


Can I have my WQE re-scored?

Please understand that re-scoring/re-reviewing is limited to verifying: 1.) that the responses that were scored were indeed made by the candidate, and 2.) that the scoring process correctly transformed the candidate’s responses into a scaled score. This review is not a review of the content of the items, or a reconsideration of what the correct answer should be. It is also not a reconsideration of the passing standard or of the acceptability of the testing conditions.

Top 


How is the Oral Examination scored?

The score required to pass the Oral Examination is determined by a standard-setting methodology. This method requires a group of peers to estimate the minimum level of clinical decision-making and medical knowledge an ophthalmologist requires to practice competently. The examination employs a criterion-referenced passing standard, which means scoring is not a done  "on the curve," i.e., that a certain percentage of candidates will pass or fail. For every administration, it is possible for all examinees to pass if they achieve a score at or above the passing standard.


Why don’t I receive feedback on my Oral Examination performance in each subject area?

Results of your Oral Examination will be provided as pass/fail only. To ensure fairness, your performance in each of the six mini-examinations is reviewed by all Examiners in the panel at the end of each session and is used to calculate an overall pass/fail result. A pass in all topics is not required to pass the examination; however, individuals who are not successful are required to repeat the entire examination.


Can I have my Oral Examination re-scored?

The ABO employs many quality control procedures to ensure that all examinations are scored accurately. The quality control process is very extensive and is largely the reason that it takes time to provide candidates with their results. If you decide to have your examination reviewed, please understand that the review is limited to verifying: 1.) that the responses that were scored were indeed made by the candidate, and 2.) that the scoring process correctly transformed the candidate’s responses into a scaled score. This review is not a review of the content of the items, or a reconsideration of what the correct answer should be. It is also not a reconsideration of the passing standard or of the acceptability of the testing conditions.

 Top


Can I get a receipt for my paid fee(s)?

If you would like a receipt for an examination fee, please submit your request in writing to the ABO office, and the ABO will mail you a receipt. Receipts will be automatically generated for all online registrations and payments.

Top


Can I pay for the ABO Examinations with a credit card?

The ABO accepts Visa and MasterCard as payment for all Board fees.

Top


How do I change my address with the ABO?

If you would like to change your address with the ABO, you can login to the interactive portion of the web site using the username and password supplied by the ABO. Once you login, you can click on the Update Personal Profile link and make changes to your personal contact information. You can also submit your change of address in writing to the ABO office.

Top


How can I change my name with the ABO?

If you would like to change your name with the ABO, please submit your request in writing, along with legal documentation of your name change (i.e. marriage license, divorce decree, legal name change document).

Top


Why do I need to add the ABO domain to my Email's Safe Senders List?

The ABO uses email to communicate in a timely and efficient manner. However, because email systems are different, communication via email can be interrupted by security settings and spam-blocking features. The cause of blocked mail can be dependent on the organization, internet service provider (ISP), email program, security programs and spam-blocking tools. The ABO encourages all users to place the ABO domain (@abop.org) on a "safe sender" list in order to enable receipt of ABO email correspondence.

Top


How can I add a domain to my Email's Safe Senders List?

Due to the vast number of different email programs available, the ABO does not have specific instructions for each; however, the ABO does suggest the following two methods:

  1. Contact your ISP and ask that email from the ABO be accepted;
  2. View options of the security setting and spam-blocking tools on your email program to determine if you can "whitelist" the ABO yourself. For example, the Microsoft Outlook Email Program will allow you to add a specific email address or a specific email domain (@abop.org) to a Safe Senders List. (To do this in Microsoft Outlook: highlight the email; click on Actions on the toolbar; click on Junk Email; click on Add Sender to Safe Senders List or Add Senders Domain (@abop.org) to Safe Senders List).

Top