Frequently Asked 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.
What are the requirements for a physician to become Board Certified?
- 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).
in the spring of the following year.
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.
- 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.
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 .
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:
- 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;
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:
- 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;