What Is Longitudinal Assessment?

Longitudinal assessment is a method proven to help ensure continuous acquisition of knowledge. It works by administering shorter assessments of specific content repeatedly over a period of time to help individuals increase their understanding, knowledge, and skills toward achieving the performance/practice standards in a specialty.

VIDEO: Greg Ogrinc, MD, ABMS Senior Vice President, Certification Standards and Programs, explains the concept of longitudinal assessment and applying it to assessments for continuing certification.

The longitudinal assessment evaluation process involves answering questions of specific content on an ongoing basis. Individuals receive immediate feedback on their performance and suggestions for further study. The process helps them identify and fill knowledge gaps, demonstrate proficiency, and readily transfer knowledge into practice. It results in better long-term retention than repeatedly studying the same material.

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Longitudinal Assessment and Continuing Certification

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Longitudinal assessment is one of the valuable tools being used by ABMS Member Boards in its continuing certification process to:

  • Create assessments that are specialty-specific and personalized to practice.
  • Administer shorter assessments of specific content at regular intervals which help ensure that physicians are keeping up to date more frequently.
  • Utilize spaced content repetition (clone questions), and physician-indicated confidence and relevance information to track physician knowledge and knowledge retention over time and help physicians identify any knowledge gaps in a content area.
  • Include immediate performance feedback and personal dashboard that help to identify potential knowledge gaps and content-specific resources and references for continued learning.

In developing the process, the boards solicited feedback from board certified physicians and medical specialists to ensure that the programs are meeting their needs—providing relevant content and supporting professional development—while simultaneously serving as a robust mechanism for assessing knowledge, expertise, and professionalism.

Formative assessments taken over several years are used by Member Boards to reach a summative decision about a physician’s or medical specialist’s certification status. This important step in the certification process aligns the learning with demonstrated specialty knowledge and judgment.

Research on Longitudinal Assessment

Research shows that ABMS Member Boards’ formative assessments for continuing certification are effective tools that support physician learning and have a positive impact on the care and treatment of their patients.

Explore the studies and surveys that show the impact of ABMS Member Boards’ formative assessments on physician professional development.

A whitepaper on the theoretical framework for the continuing assessment of physicians’ clinical knowledge revealed four central themes: cognitive skills need to be kept current, self-assessment is not enough, testing enhances learning and retention, and goals and consequences motivate. The paper, “Conceptual Foundations for Designing Continuing Certification Assessments for Physicians,”[PDF] was written by faculty from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychology in partnership with ABMS, the American Board of Internal Medicine, and the American Board of Family Medicine.

Read more research on longitudinal assessment at the ABMS Continuing Certification Reference Center.