Written Qualifying Examination

The Written Qualifying Examination (WQE) is a 250 multiple-choice question examination designed to evaluate the breadth and depth of the basic science and clinical knowledge of candidates who have satisfactorily completed an accredited program of education in ophthalmology. It is necessary to pass this examination before being admitted to the Oral Examination.

Getting Started

The next WQE will be administered at nationally-distributed test centers on Saturday, October 9, 2021 in an approximately five-hour testing period that includes a tutorial and break time. Registration for this exam is now open. Eligible residents slated to graduate this spring will receive Invitation to Certification Letters from the ABO via their residency programs in February. To register, follow the instructions in the letter to log into your Candidate Status Page and complete the application steps. You will be asked to submit a copy of your valid, unrestricted medical license, a current photo, and the $1,950 registration fee. Prior to August 1, your program will be responsible for submitting documentation verifying the completion of your training.


The topics covered in the Written Qualifying Examination include the following: 

  • Lens and Cataract
  • Cornea, External Disease, and Anterior Segment
  • Glaucoma
  • Neuro-Ophthalmology
  • Oculofacial Plastic, Lacrimal, and Orbital Surgery
  • Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus
  • Optics and Refractive Management
  • Retina, Vitreous, and Intraocular Tumors
  • Uveitis

The WQE Test Blueprint contains more information about the content of the WQE.


All questions in the Written Qualifying Examination are single one best answer questions. This is the traditional, most frequently used multiple-choice format. It consists of a statement or question followed by four options that are in alphabetical or logical order. The response options in this format are lettered (e.g., A, B, C, D). Examinees are required to select the best answer to the question. Other options may be partially correct, but there is only ONE BEST answer.


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. Click here for more about what to expect when you receive your score report.


Results are released 6-8 weeks following the examination. The ABO does not release information regarding the specific number of items needed to pass. 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. Click here for more about what to expect when you receive your score report.

Successful Completion of the WQE

Candidates who successfully complete the Written Examination are eligible to sit for the Oral Examination. These candidates will be notified of their Oral Examination assignment and sent instructions for registering for the Oral Examination via the ABO's online registration system. 

Failure to Complete the WQE

The Board Eligibility Policy requires successful completion of board certification requirements (written and oral examination) within seven years of residency graduation.