FAQs for Board Certification

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Overview & Eligibility

Written Qualifying Examination (WQE)

Oral Examination

Fees & Administrative Questions


Overview & Eligibility

What is board certification?

American Board of Ophthalmology certification shows peers, patients, and the public that you have met rigorous standards for knowledge, skills, and training in the specialty of ophthalmology. Though certification is voluntary, it is a highly valued professional achievement that more than 90% of practicing ophthalmologists pursue upon completion of their residency and/or fellowship training programs. Your certificate in ophthalmology will be valid for a 10-year period and can be renewed through a program of career-long learning and improvement.

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How do I achieve board certification in ophthalmology?

To become certified by the ABO, you must meet a series of educational and training requirements, pass a written examination of your ophthalmic knowledge, and then pass an in-person examination designed to assess your patient care and management abilities.

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Does the ABO award board certification in any subspecialty areas?

No, the certificate issued by the ABO is for the specialty of ophthalmology.

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What are the education and training requirements for certification by the ABO?

Information about the ABO's educational and licensure requirements can be found on the Requirements for Certification page.

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Will the ABO accept AOA training as meeting the requirements for board certification?

No, the ABO accepts only training completed at ACGME-accredited programs in the United States or RCPSC-accredited training programs in Canada. This rule applies to the internship year (PGY-1) and extends through the PGY-4 or 5 training years. Training completed in an AOA program will not meet the requirements for ABO certification.

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What if I have taken extended time off/medical leave during my residency training program?

Missed time during a training year must be made up by the resident at the discretion of the Program Chair or Director. In addition to a PGY-1, it is an ABO requirement that all candidates for Board Certification complete an entire ACGME-accredited residency training program in ophthalmology of at least 36 months duration (PGY-4 or higher) in the United States or an RCPSC-accredited program of least 48 months duration (PGY-5 or higher) in Canada.

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What are the future dates of examinations and deadlines for applications?

Please see our list of upcoming examination dates and deadlines.

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What happens when I complete the initial certification process?

When you successfully complete both the WQE and Oral Examinations, the ABO will award you a certificate in ophthalmology. As a board-certified diplomate of the ABO, you will be listed as "certified" in our public search tool and in our reporting to credentialing organizations. You may maintain your status through participation in Maintenance of Certification (MOC).

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Written Qualifying Examination

What is the Written Qualifying Examination (WQE)?

The WQE is a 250 multiple-choice-question examination administered via computer at testing centers nationwide. Click here for more about the WQE, or to review the content of the examination, download the WQE Test Blueprint.

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How will I know if I am eligible for the WQE?

Graduating residents receive information about ABO certification through their residency programs. Only applicants who have completed their PGY-1 and entire ophthalmology training program, PGY-4 (for US Programs) or PGY-5 (for Canadian Programs) or higher by August 1 are eligible to apply for the next available WQE.

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How do I register for the WQE?

If you are a graduating resident, you will receive a welcome packet from the ABO delivered by your Residency Program Coordinator. To register for the WQE, log in to your Candidate Status Page using the username and password provided in these welcome materials. If you are a graduating resident and you do not receive a packet by May, please contact your Residency Program Coordinator or write to info@abop.org.

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How much does it cost to register for the WQE?

The on-time registration fee is $1950. Late registrations are an additional $300.

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How long is the WQE? Do I get any breaks?

The total appointment time is 5 hours, which includes 30 minutes for candidate check-in, tutorial, break, optional survey, and check-out. The actual testing time is 4 hours and 30 minutes, divided into two sections of up to 2 hours 15 minutes each. When a test section closes, you may not return to it. Should you require an unscheduled break during the examination, the exam clock does not stop.

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I read that if I do not yet have a license, I can submit a license proviso. What is this?

If you do not have a valid and unrestricted license at the time of your application to take the WQE, you can apply for a proviso to complete this exam. However, you must have a valid and unrestricted license by November 1 of the application year to sit for the Oral Examination held the subsequent year. Please note: a license proviso is only granted for candidates applying for the WQE for the first time.

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How can I request special test-taking accommodations?

The ABO offers testing accommodations to candidates with disabilities. All requests must be made in advance, include supporting documentation, and be submitted in accordance with the ABO's submission guidelines and deadlines. Click here for more information. New mothers may request special accommodations for pumping.

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Is there a deadline to cancel? Will I receive a refund?

When a candidate registers for an examination, significant costs are incurred by the ABO. If you cancel your examination before the exam registration deadline, your fee will be refunded less a $300 application fee. If you cancel your examination after the registration deadline, the fee is non-refundable, regardless of the reason; however, 50 percent of the fee will be applied to the next offered examination during the seven-year Board Eligibility period. After that time, fees become non-refundable and non-transferable to future examinations.

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What is the deadline for passing the Written Qualifying Examination?

Under the Board Eligibility Policy, you will have up to seven years from residency graduation to complete board certification while being considered officially "Board Eligible." However, after the seven-year period ends, you may continue to attempt board certification.

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When will I receive my WQE results?

Results for the Written Qualifying Examination are available on your Candidate Status Page 6-8 weeks following the examination. Your score report will provide information on your performance in each subject area.

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How is the WQE scored?

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.

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What is my percentage correct/how many items did I need to answer correctly on the WQE to pass?

Your raw score (number of items answered correctly) on each examination has been transformed to a reporting scale ranging from 200 to 1000 and the cut score (minimum score needed to pass) is 700. Your scaled score is provided for you to determine your level of performance. The ABO does not release information regarding the specific number of items needed to pass.

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Why aren't percentile rankings listed on my WQE score report?

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. The cut score (minimum score needed to pass) reflects an absolute standard that is independent of the performance of other candidates.

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Are some questions weighted differently in calculating my WQE score?

All operational questions that appear on the WQE examination carry the same weight. The allocation of content among sub-areas, however, is not equal. See the WQE Test Blueprint for more information.

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What happens if I don't pass the WQE?

If you do not pass the WQE, you can re-take the examination on the next available date. However, you cannot proceed to the Oral Examination until you have passed the WQE.

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Can I have my WQE re-scored?

Please understand that re-scoring/re-reviewing is limited to verifying: 1) that the responses that were scored were indeed made by the candidate, and 2) that the scoring process correctly transformed the candidate's responses into a scaled score. This review is not a review of the content of the items, or a reconsideration of what the correct answer should be. It is also not a reconsideration of the passing standard or of the acceptability of the testing conditions. Requests should be sent to info@abop.org.

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Oral Examination

What is the Oral Examination?

The Oral Examination is a face-to-face assessment during which board-certified ophthalmologists (who function as Examiners) will present you with a series of clinical scenarios (known as patient management problems or PMPs) and ask you to describe how you would manage each patient. The examination is divided into six 25-minute mini-sessions focused on specific clinical topics, with short breaks between each mini-session. As you move through the six mini-sessions, you will transition from room to room along a panel of hotel suites. (Instead of open hotel conference spaces, suites are used to preserve confidentiality and examination security.) Your Examiner in each mini-session will provide you with a tablet on which you can view each PMP, along with any corresponding images or videos.

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How will I know if I am eligible for the Oral Examination?

Only candidates who have passed the Written Qualifying Examination (WQE) are eligible to sit for the Oral Examination.

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How do I register for the Oral Examination?

When you are eligible to register, you will see a link on your Candidate Status Page.

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How much does it cost to register for the Oral Examination?

The on-time registration fee is $1950. Late registrations are an additional $300.

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How do I know when my Oral Examination will be held?

Upcoming examination dates are published on the ABO website. When planning your time off needs, you should initially set aside the entire examination weekend. About four months before the Oral Examination is given, you will receive a specific examination date and time assignment, along with an on-site re-registration appointment, so that you can make your travel arrangements accordingly. Please keep in mind that you are responsible for your own travel and hotel accommodations. In advance of each examination, the ABO will provide a link or discount code for a specially negotiated group rate for the site of the examination.

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What if I want to change my examination date and time?

If space is available in another examination session, the ABO will attempt to reschedule your appointment. Please submit a request to info@abop.org.

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How can I request special test-taking accommodations?

The ABO offers testing accommodations to candidates with disabilities. All requests must be made in advance, include supporting documentation, and be submitted in accordance with the ABO's submission guidelines and deadlines. Click here for more information. New mothers may request special accommodations for pumping.

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Is there a deadline to cancel? Will I receive a refund?

When a candidate registers for an examination, significant costs are incurred by the ABO. If you cancel your examination before the exam registration deadline, your fee will be refunded less a $300 application fee. If you cancel your examination after the registration deadline, the fee is non-refundable, regardless of the reason; however, 50 percent of the fee will be applied to the next offered examination during the seven-year Board Eligibility period. After that time, fees become non-refundable and non-transferable to future examinations.

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How long is the Oral Examination? Do I get any breaks?

The entire examination takes approximately one-half day to complete. The examination is divided into six mini-sessions that are each 25 minutes long. Short breaks follow each mini-session.

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What is the deadline for passing the Oral Examination?

Under the Board Eligibility Policy, candidates have up to seven years from residency graduation to complete board certification while being considered officially "Board Eligible." However, after the seven-year period ends, candidates may continue to attempt board certification.

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When will I receive my Oral Examination results?

Results for the Oral Examination are made available on your Candidate Status Page approximately 6-8 weeks following the examination.

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How is the Oral Examination scored?

The score required to pass the Oral 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 a 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.

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Why don't I receive feedback on my Oral Examination performance in each subject area?

Results of your Oral Examination will be provided as pass/fail only. To ensure fairness, your performance in each of the six mini-examinations is reviewed by all Examiners in the panel at the end of each session and is used to calculate an overall pass/fail result. A pass in all topics is not required to pass the examination; however, individuals who are not successful are required to repeat the entire examination.

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What happens if I don't pass the Oral Examination?

If you do not pass the Oral Examination, you can attempt the next available Oral Examination.

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Can I have my Oral Examination re-scored?

The ABO employs many quality control procedures to ensure that all examinations are scored accurately. The quality control process is very extensive and is largely the reason that it takes time to provide candidates with their results. If you decide to have your examination reviewed, please understand that the review is limited to verifying: 1) that the responses that were scored were indeed made by the candidate, and 2) that the scoring process correctly transformed the candidate's responses into a scaled score. This review is not a review of the content of the items, or a reconsideration of what the correct answer should be. It is also not a reconsideration of the passing standard or of the acceptability of the testing conditions. Requests should be sent to info@abop.org.

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Fees & Administrative Questions

Can I get a receipt for my paid fee(s)?

Receipts for fees paid to the ABO are accessible on your Candidate Status Page.

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Can I pay for ABO Examinations with a credit card?

The ABO accepts Visa, MasterCard, and American Express as payment for all ABO fees.

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How do I change my address with the ABO?

To update your address with the ABO, log in to your Candidate Status Page with your username and password. Once logged in, click on the Update Profile link and make changes on the Personal Information tab.

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How can I change my name with the ABO?

To change your name with the ABO, email your request to info@abop.org, and provide a copy of official documentation for verification purposes (i.e. driver's license, marriage license, divorce decree, legal name change document). Please follow the same process if you wish to change the way your name is displayed on your certificate. You should submit this documentation before placing your certificate order.

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How can I add a degree to my ABO Certificate?

To add a degree (such as MBA) to your certificate display name, submit documentation of your additional degree (i.e. diploma, university letter) to info@abop.org. Please submit documentation before placing your certificate order.

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Why do I need to add the ABO domain to my email's Safe Senders List?

The ABO uses email to communicate in a timely and efficient manner. However, because email systems are different, communication via email can be interrupted by security settings and spam-blocking features. The cause of blocked mail can be dependent on the organization, internet service provider (ISP), email program, security programs and spam-blocking tools. The ABO encourages all users to place the ABO domain (@abop.org) on a "safe sender" list in order to enable receipt of ABO email correspondence.

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How can I add a domain to my email's Safe Senders List?

  • Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP) or your institution's IT help desk and ask that email from the ABO be accepted;
  • View options of the security setting and spam-blocking tools on your email program to determine if you can "whitelist" the ABO yourself.

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