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ABMS Certification

The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is the organization that formally recognizes specialties and subspecialties in allopathic medicine and confers specialty and subspecialty status. Although certification is sought and earned by physicians on a voluntary basis, it is widely recognized by government, health care systems, insurers, and patients themselves as an essential tool to judge that a physician has the knowledge, experience and skills for providing quality healthcare within a given specialty or subspecialty. It is considered the gold standard because of its unique physician-directed approach for assessing qualifications.

    Co-Sponsoring Boards

    In September 2006, ABMS approved the creation of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (HPM) as a sub-specialty of ten participating boards. View the press release. The co-sponsoring boards include the American Boards of Internal Medicine, Anesthesiology, Family Medicine, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Psychiatry and Neurology, Surgery, Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine, Radiology, and Obstetrics and Gynecology.

    Exam Information

    The examination is administered to candidates from all boards at the same time through Pearson VUE Testing Centers. The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) is responsible for administering the examination on behalf of all 10 co-sponsoring boards. Please visit your primary board for registration information. 

    The Grandfathering period refers to the time early in the development of a field when physicians may qualify to sit for the certification exam on the basis of experience, even if they have not completed a 12-month ACGME-accredited fellowship program. The ABMS grandfathering period is from 2008 through 2012.

    How to Apply

    Candidates will register for the certification exam through the primary board by which they are certified. Each board will be responsible for developing its own application materials.

    How to Prepare

    AAHPM has developed a list of suggested resources and steps to help physicians prepare for the exam.

    How to Retake the Examination

    As the grandfathering period ended in 2012, physicians who did not pass are encouraged to retake the certification examination which is permitted by 9 of the 10 co-sponsoring boards. Please click here for some initial guidelines.

    This is only general information. It is important to contact your applicable certification board for detailed requirements.

    Individual ABMS Board Information

    Below are the 10 co-sponsoring boards for eligibility and exam information.

    American Board of Internal Medicine

    American Board of Family Medicine  

    American Board of Anesthesiology

    American Board of Emergency Medicine

    American Board of Obstetrics & Gynecology  

    American Board of Pediatrics

    American Board of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

    American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology

    American Board of Radiology

    American Board of Surgery

    For more information on ABMS, visit their website at


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