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What to Expect on Exam Day

The Basics

The American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) requires successful completion of written and oral board certification requirements within seven years of graduating residency.  The Written Qualifying Exam is offered annually in the fall. You will be eligible to take the Oral Board Examination once you have passed the Written Qualifying Exam. Professional attire is recommended for the exam. Most examiners and examinees wear suits.

The Format

The examiner presents the examinee with a series of clinical scenarios (Patient Management Problems or PMPs). The examinee is expected to verbally lead the examiner through the appropriate data acquisition, diagnosis, and management of each PMP. The test is clinical. There is minimal to no esoteric material like what you may have encountered on the Written Qualifying Exam.

Due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ABO is administering the Oral Examination virtually via Zoom. The ABOP website estimates the duration of the test to be four hours and the examinee is expected to remain online the entire duration. There are 42 total cases on the exam covering six topic areas. The topic areas are paired:

  • Anterior Segment of the Eye and Optics, Visual Physiology and Correction of Refractive Errors
  • External Eye and Adnexa and Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus
  • Neuro-Ophthalmology and Orbit and Posterior Segment of the Eye

The Exam Rooms

The examinee will move through three virtual exam rooms where they will be presented with 14 cases from each paired subject area. There will be two examiners who will present 7 cases each. There is a 50 minute time allotment per examination room. If the examinee finishes the 14 cases earlier than the allotted time, they will return to the virtual break room.

The clinical scenario will be displayed by the examiner on a shared Zoom screen. The examinee is expected to describe how they would approach diagnosing and managing the patient in each clinical scenario. The examiner may interrupt the examinee or ask questions as the scenario progresses. The examiner may ask questions to clarify, redirect or further explore the examinee’s knowledge. The examiner may move on to the next case for time management. You can expect some variation in the pacing and style of each examiner.

How You Will Be Graded

The examinees are judged on the performance of each case in the categories of Data Acquisition, Diagnosis, and Management. OG offers personalized scoring in each of these topics areas to better focus your study. 

  • Data acquisition: ability to elicit an relevant history and identify important findings and exam and diagnostic testing
  • Diagnosis: ability to generate an appropriate differential diagnosis based on the info gathered during the history, exam and diagnostic testing and ability to identify the most likely diagnosis
  • Management: ability to provide an appropriate medical/surgical plan, recognize possible complications of proposed therapies and educate as to the expected outcomes and prognosis in a clear and ethical manner.

In Summary

We strongly encourage you to visit the ABOP website for the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding the oral board examination. Carefully read through the information on the website and go through any examples of clinical scenarios they provide. There is ample information regarding testing day, scoring procedures and technical issues.

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