Written Qualifying Examination Content Outline

The American Board of Ophthalmology has developed a content outline for the Written Qualifying Examination (WQE). The purpose of this document is to identify the basic science and clinical knowledge necessary for competent performance by candidates who have satisfactorily completed an accredited program of education in ophthalmology.

About the WQE Content Outline

The content outline for the WQE lists the topics you can expect to see on the examination and the percentage of questions that will come from each topic area. The content outline was updated in August 2017 after a review and revision process. This WQE content outline is effective for the 2019 WQE administration and will remain in effect for 3-5 years from development in accordance with best practices in test development. Changes may be made sooner if there are significant changes to the field that warrant re-review.

Development of the WQE content outline adhered to psychometric guidelines for exam development and relied primarily on existing evidence-based literature and expert consensus. Expert consensus was provided by volunteer practicing ophthalmologists representing the following subspecialties: Lens and Cataract, Cornea/External Disease/Anterior Segment, Glaucoma, Neuro-Ophthalmology, Oculofacial and Orbital Surgery, Pathology, Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Refractive Management and Optics, Retina/Vitreous/Intraocular Tumors, and Uveitis. Volunteers included representatives of the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the subspecialty societies listed below. Volunteers represented a wide diversity regarding gender, age, practice type, and geography.

  • Brandon Ayres, M.D., American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS)
  • Megan Collins, M.D., American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS)
  • Neda Esmaili, M.D., American Society of Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (ASOPRS)
  • Dan Gombos, M.D., American Association of Ophthalmic Pathologists (AAOOP)
  • Jonathan Jonisch, M.D., American Society of Retina Specialists (ASRS)
  • Frank LaRosa, M.D., American Eye Study Club (AESC)
  • Amy Lin, M.D., Contact Lens Assocation of Ophthalmologists (CLAO)
  • Sarwat Salim, M.D., American Glaucoma Society (AGS)
  • Adrienne Scott, M.D., The Retina Society
  • H. Nida Sen, M.D., Uveitis Society
  • Christopher Ta, M.D., The Cornea Society

Following the development of the content outline, the weights (percentages) were established through a practice analysis survey sent to the ABO diplomate community in January 2017. The survey asked diplomates to weigh the importance of each content outline task for safe and effective practice, and 548 unique responses from diplomates were compiled and presented to the ABO Initial Certification Committee for final review and approval.

Candidates are encouraged to use this outline to prepare for the WQE; however, this outline is a study tool, not a study guide. In addition to reviewing the content outline, the ABO suggests talking to peers and colleagues about what resources they have used and found most helpful, or contacting a professional society such as the American Academy of Ophthalmology or a subspecialty organization for advice, recommendations, and information about their educational materials.

The WQE Content Outline is available as a PDF.  


Providing Feedback on the WQE Content Outline

The American Board of Ophthalmology is committed to the continuous improvement of its assessment tools and processes for certification. Suggested updates for the next version of the WQE Content Outline may be sent to ContentOutline@abop.org. Comments must reference the specific section of the outline to which you are referring and provide a source/documentation for the content you are recommending. All comments will be directed to the appropriate review committee. General questions about the certification process and examinations should be sent to info@abop.org.