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Frequently Asked Questions

What is Board Certification

General Questions


What is Board Certification?
Certification by the American Board of Ophthalmology (ABO) is a voluntary process, and is the last step in a long and intensive educational experience designed to assure quality eye care for the American people. Certification is granted to ophthalmologists who successfully complete an accredited course of education in ophthalmology and an evaluation including an examination. The evaluation is designed to assess the knowledge, experience and skills requisite to the delivery of high standards of patient care in ophthalmology.

A candidate who successfully passes both the Written Qualifying and Oral Examinations within the required time limitations, as determined by the ABO in its sole discretion, shall be entitled to receive a certificate without further consideration of his/her qualifications by the ABO. Physicians who have received the certificate are DIPLOMATES of the ABO.

Certificates issued in 1992 and thereafter are valid for a period of ten years and expire December 31 of the tenth year. Thereafter, a diplomate is required to satisfactorily participate in the maintenance of certification process in order to extend the validity of his/her certificate. Certificates issued prior to July 1, 1992 are valid during the diplomate's lifetime. Diplomates who hold a life-time certificate are also encouraged to participate in the maintenance of certification process.

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What are the requirements for a physician to become Board Certified?

Training

  • Medical School: All applicants must have graduated from an allopathic or osteopathic medical school. Applicants who are graduates of International Medical Schools are also required to have a certificate from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG).


  • One (1) year of internship: All applicants, both graduates of allopathic and osteopathic medical schools, entering ophthalmology training programs must complete a post-graduate clinical year (PGY-1) in a program in the United States accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education or a program in Canada approved by the appropriate accrediting body in Canada.


  • The PGY-1 must be comprised of training in which the resident is primarily responsible for patient care in fields such as internal medicine, neurology, pediatrics, surgery, family practice, or emergency medicine. As a minimum, six months of this year must consist of a broad experience in direct patient care.


  • Three to four years in a residency program: In addition to a PGY-1, all applicants must satisfactorily complete an entire formal graduated residency training program in ophthalmology of at least 36 months duration (PGY-4 or higher) in either the United States accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, or in Canada accredited by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.


  • Upon application for Board certification: The ABO verifies satisfactory completion of all training requirements. Only those applicants who have completed their PGY-1 and entire ophthalmology training program, PGY-4 or higher, by August 1 are eligible to apply for the ABO’s Written Qualifying Examination given in the spring of the following year.

Medical Licensure

  • Graduates of United States and Canadian Medical Schools: Applicants for Board Certification must hold a valid and unrestricted license(s) to practice medicine in the United States, its territories or Canadian province in which the applicant's practice of medicine is regularly conducted and in each other place in which the person practices or has practiced medicine and has an unexpired license. Applicants must notify the ABO of any action taken by a state medical licensing board within 60 days of such action.

    Additionally, the American Board of Medical Specialties, in conjunction with the Federation of State Medical Licensing Boards, provides all Boards with disciplinary action status on all candidates and diplomates.

Practice Pledge

  • All applicants are required to agree to a pledge upon application stating their commitment to provide ophthalmic services with compassion, respect for human dignity, and integrity. For complete information about requirements and policy for Board certification, download the ABO Certification Brochure.

    Details on the ABO's educational requirements can be found on the Requirements for Certification page.

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What are the future dates of exams and deadlines for applications?
See our list of examination dates and deadlines.

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How is the computer-based written qualifying examination different from the pencil and paper exam?
The WQE is a 250 multiple-choice item exam that has traditionally been a pencil and paper exam administered at three national sites once a year. Since 2006, the WQE has been administered via computer test centers. A computerized WQE significantly benefits candidates by eliminating the costs and time commitment necessary to travel to one of only three test sites. For more information on the WQE, click here.

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What is the time limit for passing the Written Qualifying Examination?
A candidate must reactivate his/her application for approval and submit an additional application fee under the following circumstances:

  1. if a candidate fails to take the Written Qualifying Examination within twenty-four (24) months after notice has been sent to him/her that his/her application has been accepted;
  2. if a candidate does not repeat the Written Qualifying Examination within twenty-four (24) months after failing;
  3. if a candidate receives two consecutive failures on a Written Qualifying Examination on the same application.

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What is the time limit for passing the Oral Examination?
A candidate must reactivate his/her application for approval, submit an additional application fee, and pass another Written Qualifying Examination before being admitted to the Oral Examination under the following circumstances:

  1. if a candidate does not take the Oral Examination within twenty-four (24) months after notice has been sent to the candidate that he/she has passed the Written Qualifying Examination;
  2. if a candidate who is eligible to do so fails to repeat the Oral Examination within twenty-four (24) months after failing such examination;
  3. if the candidate does not pass the entire examination in three attempts.

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When will I get a refund if I cancel my oral/written exam?
When a candidate registers for an examination, significant costs are incurred by the ABO. Therefore, to keep costs down for all candidates, fees for examinations are non-refundable, regardless of any reason. However, 50 percent of the examination fee will be applied to the subsequent examination, if taken within the two-year time limit for an active application. In addition, all application fees include a $300 non-refundable administrative fee.

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When will I get my examination results?
Results for Written Qualifying Examination are mailed approximately eight weeks following the examination.

Results for Oral Examination are mailed approximately six to eight weeks following the examination.

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General Questions

Can I get a receipt for my paid fee(s)?
If you would like a receipt for an examination fee, please submit your request in writing to the ABO office, and the ABO will mail you a receipt. Receipts will be automatically generated for all online registrations and payments.

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Can I pay for the ABO examinations with a credit card?
The ABO accepts Visa and MasterCard as payment for all Board fees.

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How do I change my address with the ABO?
If you would like to change your address with the ABO, you can login to the interactive portion of the web site using the username and password supplied by the ABO Username and Password Page. Once you login, you can click on the Update Personal Profile link and make changes to your personal contact information. You can also submit your change of address in writing to the ABO office.

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How can I change my name with the ABO?
If you would like to change your name with the ABO, please submit your request in writing, along with legal documentation of your name change (i.e. marriage license, divorce decree, legal name change document).

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How can I find a particular doctor’s address?
While the ABO cannot give specific information about a doctor's location, this information is available in publications such as Marquis Who’s Who Official American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Directory of Board Certified Ophthalmologists or the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s www.aao.org Member Directory.

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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?
Due to the vast number of different email programs available, the ABO does not have specific instructions for each; however, the ABO does suggest the following two methods:

1. Contact your ISP and ask that email from the ABO be accepted;

2. View options of the security setting and spam-blocking tools on your email program to determine if you can "whitelist" the ABO yourself. For example, the Microsoft Outlook Email Program will allow you to add a specific email address or a specific email domain (@abop.org) to a Safe Senders List. (To do this in Microsoft Outlook: highlight the email; click on Actions on the toolbar; click on Junk Email; click on Add Sender to Safe Senders List or Add Senders Domain (@abop.org) to Safe Senders List).

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