The American Board of Surgery (ABS) is the organization that certifies physicians in general surgery, as well as in a number of surgical subspecialties. The General Surgery Qualifying Examination (QE) is the first of two exams required for board certification in general surgery, as well as any other surgical subspecialty.

What is the ABS Qualifying Exam?

After completing residency training, a surgeon must pass the ABS Qualifying Exam in order to obtain initial certification to practice surgery. Once a surgeon is considered admissible for the board certification exams, the applicant will be granted a maximum of four opportunities within a four-year period to pass the QE. Following success on the QE, a surgeon must then pass the oral ABS Certifying Exam (CE) to finish the certification process. As a prerequisite for privileges at most hospitals and for credentialing by many insurers, the importance of successfully passing the ABS QE and CE can not be understated.

What content does the ABS Qualifying Exam cover?

Content found on the Qualifying Exam for General Surgery can be split into two categories: Patient Care and Surgical/Medical Knowledge. Within the patient care category, the QE tests knowledge in the following areas: Abdomen, Alimentary Tract, Endoscopy, Breast, Endocrine, Skin and Soft Tissue, Surgical Critical Care, Trauma, Vascular, Transplantation, Thoracic Surgery, Pediatric Surgery, Head and Neck, and Surgical Specialties. Within the surgical/medical knowledge category, the QE tests knowledge in the following areas: Fluids, Electrolytes and Acid-Base Balance, Immunology, Infection and Antimicrobial Therapy, Nutrition and Metabolism, Oncology and Tumor Biology, Pharmacology, Transfusion and Disorders of Coagulation, Wound Healing, Preoperative Evaluation and Perioperative Care, Anesthesia, Biostatistics and Evaluation of Evidence, Geriatric Surgery and End-of-Life Care, Minimally Invasive Surgery – Principles, Ethics, Outcomes, and Radiology.

For content present on subspecialty Qualifying Exams, please see the below:

Vascular Surgery QE | Pediatric Surgery QE | Surgical Critical Care QE | Complex General Surgical Oncology QE | Hand Surgery QE

How is the ABS Qualifying Exam scored?

The ABS Qualifying Exam is administered pass-fail. Overall examination performance is reported on a standardized score scale with a range of 100 to 900, with a consistent passing scaled score of 400 for all exams. Scaled scores can be interpreted as standard deviation units from the passing score. For example, an examinee with a score of 500 scored one standard deviation above the passing score, giving further insight into an individual’s exam performance.

How is the ABS Qualifying Exam administered?

The ABS Qualifying Exam is a one-day exam lasting approximately 8 hours and is held at computer-testing facilities across the U.S. There are four 115-minute sessions, with optional 10-minute breaks after sessions one and three, and a 40-minute break offered between the second and third session. Once a session has concluded, questions cannot be revisited. The exam consists of about 300 multiple-choice questions.

The American Board of Surgery (ABS) is an organization that certifies physicians in general surgery, as well as in a number of surgical subspecialties. The ABS In-Training Exam (ABSITE) is offered every year to current residents of general surgery. According to the ABS website, the ABSITE is, “designed to measure the progress attained by residents in their knowledge of applied science and management of clinical problems related to surgery.”

What is the ABSITE?

The importance of performing well on the ABSITE cannot be understated. Not only does the ABSITE have a major impact on resident promotion, but in many general surgery programs, failure to score within the 50th percentile or better on the ABSITE warrants academic probation and/ or required remediation.

What content does the ABSITE cover?

The ABSITE is designed to evaluate a surgical resident’s knowledge, diagnostic reasoning, and clinical judgment skills. The primary focus of the ABSITE is on Clinical Management and content categories are divided into: Abdominal, Alimentary Tract, and Vascular surgery. There is also a general medical knowledge category covering topics in the following areas: Anesthesia, Biostatistics and Evaluation of Evidence, Fluids, Electrolytes and Acid-Base Balance, Geriatric Surgery and End-of-Life Care, Immunology, Infection and Antimicrobial Therapy, Minimally Invasive Surgery – Principles, Nutrition and Metabolism, Oncology and Tumor Biology, Pharmacology, Preoperative Evaluation and Perioperative Care, Transfusion and Disorders of Coagulation, Wound Healing, Radiology, Outcomes, and Ethics. The content of the ABSITE is aligned with the SCORE Curriculum Outline for General Surgery.

For content present on subspecialty In-Training Exams, please see the below:

VSITE | PSITE

How is the ABSITE scored?

From the 250 questions on the ABISTE, an absolute percentage score and a percentile score are recorded. ABSITE test results are released directly to program directors and examinees are not allowed a copy.

How is the ABSITE administered?

The ABSITE consists of approximately 250 multiple-choice questions. Examinees have 5 hours to take the exam without any scheduled breaks, and the exam is administered online using each program’s own computer facilities.

Receiving 1-on-1 help from an expert is always helpful. However, for some students, getting personalized help studying for an ABS Qualifying Exam or the ABSITE is necessary in order to achieve their goals. We strongly encourage students who fit into one or more of the following categories to contact us and speak with our learning advisor to determine if tutoring is your best option for success.

If you are feeling uncertain about an ABS Exam, especially ABSITE, we urge you not wait to contact us until you fail. Be proactive!

At Risk Students

  • If you historically have high test anxiety and/or are a poor standardized test taker, a couple tutoring sessions focused on strategy and wellness can be very beneficial to your success. In addition, if preparing for other high stakes medical exams was a traumatic experience for you, a tutor can help your ABS Qualifying Exam and ABSITE prep go smoother.
  • Physicians who have been out of training for several years or who are currently training in a sub-specialty area that doesn’t require the daily practice of some areas of general surgery should consider an ABS QE and/or ABISTE tutor.
  • If you have previously failed the ABS Qualifying Exam, you are at risk for a low ABSITE score that could warrant program probation or even dismissal. Performance on your Qualifying Exam is a strong indicator of what performance on the ABSITE will be like. A tutor can help you effectively prepare in order to be successful on the ABSITE by helping to correct any poor or problematic study habits, as well as reviewing weak material and test strategy..

Previous Failures

  • If you have previously failed the ABS Qualifying Exam a tutor can work with you to come up with an action plan for passing and achieving a good score. We strongly urge you to contact us if you previously failed and have 8 or fewer weeks left before your next attempt.
  • If you have previously failed the ABSITE a tutor can work with you to come up with an action plan for achieving a satisfactory percentile for your program. We strongly urge you to contact us if you have been placed on academic probation or are required to take remedial action.
  • If you have previously failed other standardized medical exams such as USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK, or USMLE Step 3, you are at risk for also failing the ABS Qualifying Exam. Performance on past standardized medical exams are a strong indicator of what performance on your ABS Qualifying Exam will be. A tutor can help you effectively prepare in order to be successful on the ABS QE by helping to correct any poor or problematic study habits, as well as reviewing weak material and test strategy.
Exam Application Deadline Late App Deadline Exam Dates
General Surgery
In-Training Exam (ABSITE®) TBD TBD Jan. 24-28, 2020
Fee: $80

(Int’l & osteo programs: Jan. 30-Feb. 10, 2020. These programs should contact ABS for pricing.)
Qualifying Exam Apr. 15, 2020

Fee: $500

May 15, 2020

Fee: $700

July 16, 2020*

Fee: $1350

Certifying Exam By Exam By Exam 2019-2020 Dates***
Sept. 23-25, 2019 – Philadelphia
Oct. 21-23, 2019 – Philadelphia
Dec. 9-11, 2019 – Philadelphia
Apr. 6-8, 2020 – Philadelphia
Jun. 1-3, 2020 – Philadelphia

Fee: $1400
QE/CE Readmissibility Feb. 1, 2020

Fee: $450

None Mar. 15 – May 15, 2020*

Fee: $500

Vascular Surgery
In-Training Exam (VSITE) TBD TBD Feb. 14-15, 2020

Fee: $210

Qualifying Exam July 1, 2020

Fee: $500

July 15, 2020

Fee: $700

Sept. 14, 2020*

Fee: $1400

Certifying Exam TBD None May 4-5, 2020 – Philadelphia

Fee: $1600

Pediatric Surgery
In-Training Exam (PSITE) TBD TBD Feb. 21-22, 2020

Fee: $235

Qualifying Exam July 1, 2020

Fee: $500

July 15, 2020

Fee: $700

Sept. 14, 2020*

Fee: $1400

Certifying Exam TBD None Mar. 9-10, 2020 – Philadelphia

Fee: $1600

Surgical Critical Care
Certifying Exam July 1, 2020

Fee: $500

July 15, 2020

Fee: $700

Sept. 14, 2020*

Fee: $1500

Complex General Surgical Oncology
Qualifying Exam July 1, 2020

Fee: $500

July 15, 2020

Fee: $700

Sept. 14, 2020*

Fee: $1400

Certifying Exam TBD None Feb. 24-25, 2020 – Philadelphia

Fee: $1600

Hand Surgery
Certifying Exam Mar. 6, 2020

Fee: $500

Aug. 11, 2020**

Fee: $1500

Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Certifying Exam No 2019 Examination
Other Fees
Exam Withdrawal Processing Fee – $300
Returned Check Fee – $50

Our rates start at $195 per hour. That’s more affordable than all other ABS Exam tutoring organizations out there! Some of our highly specialized and/or tutors who have been with Elite Medical Prep for a long time bill at a higher rate. However, rest assured that whatever tutor you choose to go with, you are getting the most Elite and professional ABS Exam help available.

In addition, enjoy our Unused Hour Guarantee! All unused 1-on-1 tutoring hours are fully refundable.

ABS Resources