Focus on IR/DR

Focus on IR/DR

ABR Changes Interventional Radiology Oral Exam Timing

By James B. Spies, MD, MPH, ABR Associate Executive Director for Interventional Radiology


James Spies, MD

In January, the ABR Board of Governors changed the requirement for interventional radiology residency graduates to qualify for the oral component of the ABR IR/DR Certifying Exam. Beginning with the residency class graduating in June 2024, candidates will be required to wait until the calendar year following completion of training to take the exam. This change will align IR with the other ABR disciplines of diagnostic radiology, radiation oncology, and medical physics, which have a similar requirement. The change also more closely aligns current trainees with the requirements for those who qualified previously via IR fellowships, which required a year of practice prior to the exam. This new requirement will apply only to the oral exam; graduates will continue to be allowed and, in fact, encouraged to take the computer-based component of the certifying exam at the first offering after graduation.

The ABR IR/DR Certifying Exam has two components – computer-based and oral  ̶  and both must be passed for certification. The computer-based component is given once a year in early autumn in conjunction with the Diagnostic Radiology Computer-based Certifying Exam. Currently, there are two opportunities each year to take the oral component: a main multi-day exam in October and a more limited exam in the spring. While the ABR theoretically would like to offer candidates an unrestricted choice of examining in the spring or fall, the practical limitations of staffing, exam content, and examiner availability require a limit on the number of days of examination each year. This is typically a total of four days, with a three-day main event and a one-day alternative. This schedule provides more than enough seats for candidates, but it has limited the choice between spring and fall to some degree. Recently, the three-day exam has been in the fall. The net effect of the BOG decision will likely be to change the primary multi-day exam to the spring with the one-day exam in the fall.

A motivating factor has been the difficulty of anticipating the number of candidates who will choose the fall exam and, to a lesser extent, the spring. While we originally thought most graduates would want to examine as soon as possible after graduation, surprisingly, more than half have not taken that path, deferring until the following year or later. New residency graduates face major transitions, including new jobs, often with accompanying relocation and the stresses of settling into a new practice and home. Certification during that time may not be the highest priority.

The ABR believes candidates should sit for the exam when they are best prepared and at a time that fits best with their professional and personal lives. The new schedule will allow candidates to take the computer-based component in the fall and to then focus on preparing for the oral exam, using that additional time gathering the experience that is so helpful in succeeding on the more practice-focused oral exam.

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