Outcomes of the First Virtual General Surgery Certifying Exam of the American Board of Surgery

Ann Surg. 2021 Sep 1;274(3):467-472. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000004988.


Objective: To Study the Outcomes of the First Virtual General Surgery Certifying Exam of the American Board of Surgery.

Summary of background data: The ABS General Surgery CE is normally an in-person oral examination. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the ABS was required to reschedule these. After 2 small pilots, the CE's October administration represented the first large-scale remote virtual exam. The purpose of this report is to compare the outcomes of this virtual and the previous in-person CEs.

Methods: CE candidates were asked to provide feedback on their experience via a survey. The passing rate was compared to the 1025 candidates who took the 2019-2020 in-person CEs.

Results: Of the 308 candidates who registered for the virtual CE, 306 completed the exam (99.4%) and 188 completed the survey (61.4%). The majority had a very positive experience. They rated the virtual CE as very good/excellent in security (90%), ease of exam platform (77%), audio quality (71%), video quality (69%), and overall satisfaction (86%). Notably, when asked their preference, 78% preferred the virtual exam. There were no differences in the passing rates between the virtual or in-person exams.

Conclusions: The first virtual CE by the ABS was completed using available internet technology. There was high satisfaction, with the majority preferring the virtual platform. Compared to past in-person CEs, there was no difference in outcomes as measured by passing rates. These data suggest that expansion of the virtual CE may be desirable.

MeSH terms

  • Certification / methods*
  • General Surgery*
  • Online Systems*
  • Specialty Boards*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States