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Candidate Email 03-20-20

Dear Candidates,

A couple of weeks ago, all of us anticipated that we would be in Phoenix today for the American Board of Ophthalmology examinations. The decision to postpone the examination, for the first time in the ABO’s 104-year history, has been disruptive for all but in retrospect would have been mandated regardless by forces beyond our control. Our goal now is to provide an expedient pathway to certification for everyone who has prepared diligently to achieve this professional milestone. To that end, we will provide a progress update every Friday, or more frequently as appropriate.

The ABO is committed to providing you with an assessment to complete your board certification in 2020.

  • We are aiming to reschedule the Oral Examination sometime this fall and will provide date and location details as soon as possible. Several variables are at play, including the availability of a suitable venue, the assumption that travel will be unrestricted, the need to avoid conflicts with other meetings and holidays, our ability to recruit a sufficient number of volunteers given that the practices of many ophthalmologists at present are limiting patient throughput or are closed, and the desire to provide enough lead time for candidates to adjust their personal and professional calendars.
  • Simultaneously, we are exploring other options to fulfill the purpose of the Oral Examination. Several candidates have asked why the examination cannot simply be given online, as is done with the Written Qualifying Examination. The ABO has been weighing the pros and cons of a “virtual Oral Exam” for several years. It is important to recognize that none of the 24 ABMS medical and surgical certifying boards has such an examination at present and sporadic forays into this realm by a few boards have not been encouraging. Also, at the time of this writing, testing centers such as Pearson Vue and Prometric are closed. Please be assured that the ABO is researching examination formats and technologies that would support the delivery of a reliable, valid assessment. We will keep you apprised as that work moves forward.


  • The seven-year board eligibility window following graduation from residency will be extended by one year if you are unable to sit for the Oral Examination in 2020.
  • Paid examination fees will be credited to the next administration; there is no need to re-register.

Having transitioned to a “virtual office” structure in 2018, the ABO staff is available and eager to respond to your questions, concerns, and suggestions. As always, we encourage you to use care to remain healthy and protect yourselves, your families, your colleagues, and your patients.

Thank you for your understanding and continued support.

George B. Bartley, MD
Chief Executive Officer