The Association of ACGME Milestones With Performance on American Board of Surgery Assessments: A National Investigation of Surgical Trainees

Ann Surg. 2024 Jan 1;279(1):180-186. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000005998. Epub 2023 Jul 13.


Objective: To determine the relationship between, and predictive utility of, milestone ratings and subsequent American Board of Surgery (ABS) vascular surgery in-training examination (VSITE), vascular qualifying examination (VQE), and vascular certifying examination (VCE) performance in a national cohort of vascular surgery trainees.

Background: Specialty board certification is an important indicator of physician competence. However, predicting future board certification examination performance during training continues to be challenging.

Methods: This is a national longitudinal cohort study examining relational and predictive associations between Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) Milestone ratings and performance on VSITE, VQE, and VCE for all vascular surgery trainees from 2015 to 2021. Predictive associations between milestone ratings and VSITE were conducted using cross-classified random-effects regression. Cross-classified random-effects logistic regression was used to identify predictive associations between milestone ratings and VQE and VCE.

Results: Milestone ratings were obtained for all residents and fellows(n=1,118) from 164 programs during the study period (from July 2015 to June 2021), including 145,959 total trainee assessments. Medical knowledge (MK) and patient care (PC) milestone ratings were strongly predictive of VSITE performance across all postgraduate years (PGYs) of training, with MK ratings demonstrating a slightly stronger predictive association overall (MK coefficient 17.26 to 35.76, β = 0.15 to 0.23). All core competency ratings were predictive of VSITE performance in PGYs 4 and 5. PGY 5 MK was highly predictive of VQE performance [OR 4.73, (95% CI, 3.87-5.78), P <0.001]. PC subcompetencies were also highly predictive of VQE performance in the final year of training [OR 4.14, (95% CI, 3.17-5.41), P <0.001]. All other competencies were also significantly predictive of first-attempt VQE pass with ORs of 1.53 and higher. PGY 4 ICS ratings [OR 4.0, (95% CI, 3.06-5.21), P <0.001] emerged as the strongest predictor of VCE first-attempt pass. Again, all subcompetency ratings remained significant predictors of first-attempt pass on CE with ORs of 1.48 and higher.

Conclusions: ACGME Milestone ratings are highly predictive of future VSITE performance, and first-attempt pass achievement on VQE and VCE in a national cohort of surgical trainees.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accreditation
  • Clinical Competence
  • Education, Medical, Graduate
  • Educational Measurement
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • United States