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Feature: ABMS Statement on Exam Security
January 13, 2012 ABMS Media Contact: Lori Boukas
(312) 436-2626
lboukas@abms.org

Statement on Exam Security from the American Board of Medical Specialties

Patients and their families place enormous trust in physicians and other medical professionals. This trust must be continuously earned and cultivated. As the gold standard among medical credentials, Certification by one of the 24 Member Boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is an indicator of quality and professionalism that patients and their families have come to rely on.

Upholding public trust is one reason ABMS takes exam security very seriously. Secure exams are one important step in the lifelong ABMS-led learning process that ensures certified physicians meet high standards for the knowledge and skills they bring to their patients.

Exam security and meaningful certification require multi-faceted approaches that include continuous improvement and vigilance. ABMS supports its 24 Member Boards as they assure the highest quality exam security through:

  • Identifying cheating with the latest monitoring technologies;
  • Routinely changing test questions;
  • Strengthening the security of testing sites;
  • Auditing exam security, and
  • Designing a rigorous certification process

It should be made abundantly clear that recalling and sharing questions from exams violates exam security, professional ethics, and patient trust in the medical profession.  When it happens, the practice should be addressed swiftly and decisively. Whether someone is providing or using test questions, ABMS Member Boards enforce sanctions that may include permanent barring from certification, and/or prosecution for copyright violation.

Physicians who rely on recalled questions to prepare for certification exams should know that doing so not only violates the policies of the ABMS Member Boards but utilizing recalled questions is an unreliable way to prepare for such exams.  Member Boards routinely change test questions, and a high percentage of shared questions and answers are recalled incorrectly.  In contrast, ABMS Member Boards are offering more ways to help residents legitimately and ethically prepare for exams. 

The public should also feel assured that certification requires more than passing a single exam.  In fact, every ABMS Member Board now requires physicians to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, professionalism and ethics throughout their careers to maintain their certification.  This ABMS Maintenance of Certification® (ABMS MOC®) engages physicians in continuously updating knowledge and skills, getting feedback from patients and peers, and developing a plan to strengthen areas of their practices. For more information, go to www.CertificationMatters.org.

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About ABMS
For more than 75 years, the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) has been the medical organization overseeing physician certification in the United States.  It assists its 24 Member Boards in their efforts to develop and implement educational and professional standards for the evaluation and certification of physician specialists.  ABMS Member Boards provide physician certification information to ABMS for its certification verification service programs.  ABMS is recognized by the key health care credentialing accreditation entities as a primary equivalent source of Board Certification data for medical specialists.  Patients can visit www.CertificationMatters.org or call toll-free (866) ASK-ABMS to see if their physician is Board Certified by an ABMS Member Board.  For more information about ABMS, visit www.abms.org or call (312) 436-2600.

The 24 Member Boards that comprise the ABMS Board Enterprise and certify nearly 800,000 physicians include the: American Board of Allergy and Immunology, American Board of Anesthesiology, American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery, American Board of Dermatology, American Board of Emergency Medicine, American Board of Family Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine, American Board of Medical Genetics, American Board of Neurological Surgery, American Board of Nuclear Medicine, American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American Board of Ophthalmology, American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery, American Board of Otolaryngology, American Board of Pathology, American Board of Pediatrics, American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, American Board of Plastic Surgery, American Board of Preventive Medicine, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, American Board of Radiology, American Board of Surgery, American Board of Thoracic Surgery and American Board of Urology.