Preparing for the Exam

Candidates are encouraged to prepare for the oral examination using the following ABO resources:

  • Candidate Manual / Handbook (link opens in new tab): Read about the examination purpose, format, performance criteria, and scoring, along with important test day information and candidate policies.
  • Candidate Performance Criteria: Understand how exam performance is assessed in three specific areas: data acquisition, diagnosis, and management.
  • Sample Case Content: Review six clinical cases representative of the examination.
  • Sample Case & Explainer Videos: Watch a candidate navigate the sample cases with an examiner and then review the examiner's discussion of the correct answer.

Candidate Performance Criteria

The oral examination will evaluate your ability to apply the cognitive knowledge that you successfully demonstrated on the written qualifying examination in the clinical care of patients. The oral examination consists of a series of cases or Patient Management Problems (PMPs), which are specific clinical scenarios.
Examiners will assess your performance on each case in the categories of  Data Acquisition, Diagnosis, and Management based on how well you address the criteria listed below. The ABO encourages you to treat the performance criteria as a useful checklist for the formation of a clear, systematic, and comprehensive approach to each PMP.
Candidate performance on each PMP is evaluated using the following criteria:
1. Data Acquisition 

Data Acquisition refers to how well the candidate obtains historical and examination information to fully evaluate a particular case. This rating is used to assess the acquisition of data critical to the provision of quality patient care. Candidates are required to:

  • Elicit relevant historical information from the patient.  

  • Identify important findings in the clinical examination and order appropriate testing.  

2. Diagnosis 

Diagnosis refers to the candidate’s ability to synthesize historical and physical evaluation information, along with appropriate ancillary testing data, to arrive at a correct diagnosis and reasonable alternative diagnoses. Candidates are required to:

  • Generate a differential diagnosis based on information collected in the history, ocular examination, and ancillary testing. 

  • Identify the most likely diagnosis.   

3. Management 

Management refers to the appropriateness of the treatment plan, including prognosis, follow-up, and the ability to manage complications. Other important components of management that may be evaluated are communication, professionalism, and systems-based practice competencies. Candidates are required to:

  • Provide a safe and effective plan for medical and/or surgical management of patients with the conditions depicted or described, including possible alternatives and/or the proper referral of the patient. 

  • Recognize potential complications of proposed treatments including surgery and make accurate inferences regarding the expected outcomes and prognosis.  

  • Be able to communicate the management plan in a clear and ethical manner, which may include explaining how information is communicated to the patient or family.

Review how this Performance Criteria maps to a sample examination discussion.

Sample Case Content

Each case represents a specific patient or clinical scenario. Your task is to explain, in a clear and organized manner, how you would care for the patient described in each scenario. Because your online exam is divided into three distinct portions or "rooms," you will always know which two of six potential clinical topic areas your case may focus on:

  • (1) Optics, Visual Physiology, & Correction of Refractive Errors / (2) Anterior Segment of the Eye
  • (3) Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus / (4) External Eye and Adnexa
  • (5) Neuro-Ophthalmology and Orbit / (6) Posterior Segment of the Eye

Here are six sample cases designed to represent the style of PMPs you will see on your online exam. Each PMP always contains what's known as the question "stem" or the description/details of the case. Some, but not all, PMPs contain one or more images.

Case Discussion & Analysis Videos

Candidate discussions of each case are provided in the simulation videos linked below. Before viewing the answers, try practicing how you would approach each case using the checklist for Data Acquisition, Diagnosis, and Management listed above.