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.

The WQE is administered at nationally-distributed Prometric test center locations on one day in an approximately five-hour testing period that includes a tutorial and break time.

The WQE will be given at Prometric locations in the United States, Puerto Rico and some locations in Canada. Click here for more information on Prometric, including test center locations.

Content

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

  • Lens and cataract
  • Cornea, External Disease and Anterior Segment
  • Glaucoma
  • Neuro-Ophthalmology
  • Oculofacial, Plastics, and Orbit
  • Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus
  • Refractive Management and Optics
  • Retina, Vitreous, and Intraocular Tumors
  • Uveitis

The WQE Content Outline contains more information about the content of the WQE.

Questions

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 (eg, 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.

Scoring

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.

Results

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.

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 a maximum of five oral examination attempts) within five years of residency graduation.