ABR Leaders Provide Exam Updates

Friday, Dec. 04, 2020


Leaders of the American Board of Radiology (ABR) held a Town Hall on Friday to describe the transition to remote board certification exams for all four radiology disciplines.

"The COVID-19 pandemic introduced unprecedented constraints on travel and closed or limited capacity at testing centers," said ABR Executive Director Brent Wagner, MD. "The uncertainty related to the duration of these constraints and our desire to help candidates continue to move through their board certification process prompted the pivot to remote exams."

The core, certifying, qualifying and oral exams for diagnostic and interventional radiology, medical physics and radiation oncology will all shift to a remote exam platform in 2021. A schedule of the exams by discipline is available online at theabr.org.

The ABR leaders said the content of the 2021 remote exams will be similar to the 2020 exams in scope, depth, length and the exam items themselves. Exam fees will also remain the same.

"We've made every effort to preserve existing structure and format while adding embedded security measures to allow for remote administration," explained Robert Barr, MD, ABR president-elect. "We'll be using a third-party security software with live and AI-based proctoring."

To craft a new paradigm of remote exams, the ABR gathered input from trustees, internal staff, external stakeholders and the certification advisory committees. They considered several factors, including security, practicality, reliability, candidate experience and validity.

"Security is something we're taking very seriously," Dr. Wagner said. "We have retained a firm to add an additional layer beyond what we normally bring to bear on exams."

One difference with the new remote exams is that they take longer to administer remotely. The longest exam will be three days with two sessions per day (for the diagnostic core exam), but others will be completed in one or two days. The ABR's goal is to produce exam results within 30 days.


Be Prepared for Your Online Exam

To prepare for the remote exam, candidates will need to select a private location that:

  • offers adequate broadband connection
  • is private and free from interruptions
  • has minimal clutter and is free from books, notes and electronic devices including phones and tablets.

Remote exams can be taken on any standard laptop or desktop computer with at least a 13" monitor, webcam and microphone. Only macOS or Windows operating systems are allowed; tablet and iOS-based devices are not supported. All specific exam software will be available for download and testable in advance of the exam dates.

The ABR will provide practice opportunities with the login security protocol, user interface and image tools prior to exams.

"Our goal is to make sure that on the day of the exam, the process is familiar to the candidates," Dr. Barr said. "We want the user to be comfortable with the platform and the interface."

At this time, there's no decision as to whether or not the remote board certification exams will be a permanent change.

Maintenance of Certification Updates

ABR President Vincent Mathews, MD, provided an update on ongoing certification and, in particular, the Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA), recently introduced to replace the proctored exam previously required every 10 years.

"The platform is reliable, and nearly 3 million items have been answered to date," Dr. Mathews said. "One success of OLA has been that we receive ongoing feedback from our diplomates."

Recognizing the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on radiology practices and departments, the ABR has reduced the requirement to 10 through 2022.

For More Information:

View the RSNA 2020 session, ABR Town Hall — RC428 at RSNA2020.RSNA.org.