Multiple Considerations Influence ABR Exam Date Selection
By Desiree E. Morgan, MD, ABR Governor; Lydia Warg, ABR Associate Director for Exam Services; and Meckenzie Fussell, ABR Exam Delivery Manager
With 365 days in a year, one might assume we could easily find dates to host the 40-plus exams administered each year to candidates and diplomates in the four disciplines certified by the ABR: diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, medical physics, and radiation oncology. However, setting exam dates is more challenging than it might seem. We begin considering exam dates two years prior to the events, which allows us to publish dates on our website 12 to 18 months in advance of the exam. The dates of ABR exams are important not only to the candidates who take them, but also to training programs that must coordinate time off for residents to study and sit for the exams.
The first step in the process decreases the number of available dates considerably: Removing U.S. national holidays, major religious holidays, work-restrictive interfaith holidays, and radiological society meeting dates immediately eliminates about 100 days. Next, we exclude dates for major ABR events such as annual committee meetings, test assemblies, and board meetings. This may not seem intuitive since the attendees of these events are already certified, but we are careful to consider the obligations of oral examiners, without whom we could not conduct most of the certifying exams.
Removing nearly all weekends also drastically reduces the number of possible exam dates. For oral exams that entail some examiners coming to ABR headquarters in Tucson, we must also be mindful of local events that limit our ability to reserve hotel rooms.
At this point, we begin selecting potential exam dates from the remaining available dates. We try to select two options for each exam. Internally we must consider registration windows and scoring timelines and consult affected ABR departments to confirm that the potential dates do not cause issues for their processes. After the departments provide their approval, we then circulate the proposed dates to the executive director and associate executive directors for each discipline. After consulting with their discipline-specific trustees, and, in some cases, external stakeholders, they give final approval.
The final step is posting the dates on the ABR website for public release. It is worth noting that occasionally discipline-related stakeholder groups raise concerns about exam dates for various reasons. When that happens, the Board will work with the stakeholders to consider changing the dates in future years. It is extremely rare for an exam date to change once it is posted on the website.
Some of our exams are offered twice a year to provide an additional opportunity for candidates who experience personal events that might prevent them from being able to take the exam on the first scheduled date.
We hope this information helps you to better understand how we select exam dates. We appreciate the demanding nature of residency and medical practice and consider many factors in our efforts to provide our candidates with appropriate and accessible exam dates.