Implementation of the Vascular Surgery Board virtual certifying examination

J Vasc Surg. 2022 Nov;76(5):1398-1404.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.jvs.2022.06.022. Epub 2022 Jun 24.


Objective: The onset of the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic mandated postponement of the in-person Vascular Surgery Board 2020 certifying examination (CE). Vascular surgery virtual CEs (VVCEs) were developed for the scheduled 2020 CEs (rescheduled to January 2021) and 2021 CEs (rescheduled to July 2021) to avoid postponing the certification testing. In the present study, we have reported the development, implementation, and outcomes of the first two VVCEs.

Methods: The VVCE was similar to the in-person format (three 30-minutes sessions, two examiners, four questions) but required a proctor and a host. In contrast to the general surgery VCEs, the VVCE also incorporated images. The candidates and examiners were instructed on the format, and technology checks were performed before the VVCE. The candidates were given the opportunity to invalidate their examination for technology-related reasons immediately after the examination. Postexamination surveys were administered to all the participants.

Results: The VVCEs were completed by 356 of 357 candidates (99.7%). The pass rates for the January 2021 and July 2021 examinations were 97.6% (first time, 99.4%; retake, 70%) and 94.7% (first time, 94.6%; retake, 100%), respectively. The pass rates were not significantly different from the 2019 in-person CE (χ2 = 2.30; P = .13; and χ2 = 0.01; P = .91, for the January 2021 and July 2021 examinations, respectively). None of the candidates had invalidated their examination. The candidates (162 of 356; 46%), examiners (64 of 118; 54%), proctors (25 of 27; 93%), and hosts (8 of 9; 89%) completing the survey were very satisfied with the examination (Likert score 4 or 5: candidates, 92.6%; noncandidates, 96.9%) and found the technology domains (Zoom, audio, video, viewing images) to be very good (Likert score 4 or 5), with candidate and other responder scores of 73% to 84% and >94%, respectively. Significantly more of the candidates had favored a future VVCE compared with the examiners (87% vs 32%; χ2 = 67.1; P < .001). The free text responses from all responders had commented favorably on the organization and implementation of the examination. However, some candidates had expressed concerns about image sizes, and some examiners had expressed concern about the time constraints for the question format. The candidates appreciated the convenience of an at-home examination, especially the avoidance of travel costs.

Conclusions: The two Vascular Surgery Board VCEs were shown to be psychometrically sound and were overwhelmingly successful, demonstrating that image-based virtual examinations are feasible and could become the standard for the future.

Keywords: Board examination; Certification; Certifying examination; Virtual.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Certification
  • Humans
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures