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Exam Day: What to Expect

This section provides you with an overview of what happens on exam day at the computer-based testing centers. Print and refer to it as you prepare to take the exam.

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How is a Test Center Set Up?

Every computer testing center offers a quiet, professional testing environment, with eight to 25 private workstations. Each center has:

  • An administrator workstation, waiting room, proctor workstation and testing room
  • At least two certified test administrators
    Note: Test takers other than ABIM candidates may be present at the test centers.
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What is the Schedule for Exam Day?

  • For initial Certification exams: approximately 10 hours, (Cardiovascular Disease is approximately 14 hours.)
  • For Maintenance of Certification exams: approximately 8 hours.
  • For Hospital Medicine and Transplant Hepatology MOC exams: approximately 10 hours
  • The day is divided into several sessions, each containing up to 70 multiple-choice questions (except Cardiovascular Disease Certification).
  • The schedule includes registration, optional tutorial, instructions, the exam, optional breaks and an optional survey.

Initial Certification Exam Day Schedule

(Except Electrocardiogram and Imaging Studies sections of Cardiovascular Disease Examination. See the second table.)

Action Time Allotted
Registration Varies
Tutorial Optional, up to 30 minutes
Instructions and Pledge of Honesty Up to 10 minutes
First Session Up to 2 hours (maximum 70 questions)
Break Optional, up to 100 minutes (divided between 3 breaks)*
Second Session Up to 2 hours (maximum 70 questions)
Break Optional, up to 100 minutes (divided between 3 breaks)*
Third Session Up to 2 hours (maximum 70 questions)
Break Optional, up to 100 minutes (divided between 3 breaks)*
Fourth Session Up to 2 hours (maximum 70 questions)
Optional Survey Up to 10 minutes
Total Approximately 10 hours

* You will have 100 minutes of available break time to use during your examination. The amount of break time you use after each test session will be subtracted from the amount of available break time. For instance, if you take a 10 minute break after session one, the amount of break time remaining for the exam will be reduced to 90 minutes.

Electrocardiogram and Imaging Studies Exam Day Schedule

In addition to the ten hour schedule for the initial Certification exam, Cardiovascular Disease initial Certification candidates must also complete two additional sessions on a separate day of testing; each session is up to two hours and 15 minutes in length with an optional 20 minute break.

Action Time Allotted
Registration Varies
Tutorial Optional, up to 30 minutes
Instructions and Pledge of Honesty Up to 10 minutes
First Session Up to 2 hours (maximum 35 cases)**
Break Optional, up to 20 minutes (unused test time will increase the amount of available break time)*
Second Session Up to 2 hours and 15 minutes (maximum 37 cases)**
Optional Survey Up to 10 minutes
Total Approximately 5 hours

* Unused test time remaining from a test session is added to the subsequent break. For instance, if you have 10 minutes remaining from your first test session, it will be added to the first break thereby making the first break 30 minutes. However, unused break time can not be applied to testing time. The time available for the scheduled break is forfeited if you do not use it.

** Some cases contain multiple score points.

Maintenance of Certification Exam Day Schedule (Except Hospital Medicine and Transplant Hepatology)

Action Time Allotted
Registration Varies
Tutorial Optional, up to 30 minutes
Instructions and Pledge of Honesty Up to 10 minutes
First Session Up to 2 hours (maximum 70 questions)
Break Optional, up to 80 minutes (divided between 2 breaks)*
Second Session Up to 2 hours (maximum 70 questions)
Break Optional, up to 80 minutes (divided between 2 breaks)*
Third Session Up to 2 hours (maximum 70 questions)
Optional Survey Up to 10 minutes
Total Approximately 8 hours

* You will have 80 minutes of available break time to use during your examination. The amount of break time you use after each test session will be subtracted from the amount of available break time. For instance, if you take a 10 minute break after session one, the amount of break time remaining for the exam will be reduced to 70 minutes.

Maintenance of Certification Exam Day Schedule (Hospital Medicine and Transplant Hepatology only)

Action Time Allotted
Registration Varies
Tutorial Optional, up to 30 minutes
Instructions and Pledge of Honesty Up to 10 minutes
First Session Up to 2 hours (maximum 70 questions)
Break Optional, up to 100 minutes (divided between 3 breaks)*
Second Session Up to 2 hours (maximum 70 questions)
Break Optional, up to 100 minutes (divided between 3 breaks)*
Third Session Up to 2 hours (maximum 70 questions)
Break Optional, up to 100 minutes (divided between three breaks)*
Fourth Session Up to 2 hours (maximum 70 questions)
Optional Survey Up to 10 minutes
Total Approximately 10 hours

* You will have 100 minutes of available break time to use during your examination. The amount of break time you use after each test session will be subtracted from the amount of available break time. For instance, if you take a 10 minute break after session one, the amount of break time remaining for exam will be reduced to 90 minutes.

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When Should I Arrive? / What if I Arrive Late?

  • Your confirmation e-mail will specify an appointment time. Arrive 30 minutes prior to your appointment time.
  • If you arrive after your appointment time, you may not be admitted to the exam. Make certain that you know the location of the test center, parking facilities and nearby restaurants prior to exam day.
  • The confirmation e-mail will provide driving directions to the test center, and ABIM recommends that you review a map to confirm these directions.
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What Happens When I Arrive at the Test Center?

  • You will present your personal identification for exam security.
  • A digital fingerprint and/or palm vein recognition scan (see description below), security wanding, and signature and photograph will be taken. This is required to take the exam.
  • Palm vein is used only at Pearson VUE test centers.
  • Palm vein recognition technology works by scanning the veins inside of your hand to create a digital template that represents your vein pattern. The palm vein reader uses a safe, near-infrared light source, similar to a television remote. More information on palm vein recognition technology.
  • Prometric test centers use security wanding.
  • Personal items are not permitted in the testing room. You will be required to leave your personal belongings outside the testing room, including your cell phone, PDA, watch, wallet, and/or purse. (See What is not permitted in the Testing Room?) A secure individual storage locker will be provided for these items. Storage space is limited, however, so you should plan accordingly. The testing center assumes no responsibility for candidates' personal belongings.
  • While the temperature in the exam room should be comfortable, dressing in layers is recommended. Outerwear (jackets, coats, etc.) are not permitted; however, sweaters are permitted.
  • You will be asked to read the "ABIM Candidate Rules Checklist," agreeing to the security terms of the administration of the exam.
  • The test administrator will give you a short orientation and escort you to a computer workstation in the testing room. If you are left-handed, you may request that the mouse be moved to the left side of the computer monitor and reset to operate as a left-handed mouse.
  • You may request instructions to adjust the height and contrast of your monitor. You also may request that the monitor be moved from the top of the computer.
  • Note: For all exams except Hospital Medicine
  • The test administrator will provide erasable noteboards that will be replaced as needed during testing. (Note: You also will be able to type and save notes in a pop-up box that accompanies each exam question.)
  • If you are easily distracted by noise, including keyboard noise, you may request ear plugs and headphones from the test administrator. Your own earplugs, headphones or other personal devices are not permitted in the test centers.
  • Note: for Hospital Medicine exam only
  • The test administrator will provide a paper scratch pad that may be replaced as needed during testing. (Note: You also will be able to type and save notes in a pop-up box that accompanies each exam question.)
  • If you are easily distracted by noise, including keyboard noise, you may request headphones from the test administrator.
  • If desired, you may bring your own disposable earplugs into the test room.
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What Identification Will I Need?

When you arrive at the test center, you will need to present primary and secondary identification:

  • Your Primary ID: A current government-issued form of ID that contains a recent photograph of you and your signature. A valid driver's license, passport or state identification card is acceptable. Note: Any form of ID issued by the Syrian government cannot be used as a primary ID, per U.S. government regulations.
    AND:
  • Your Secondary ID: A form of ID that includes your signature, but not necessarily a photograph. For example, a Social Security card, valid credit card, or ATM card is acceptable. Note: Candidates without both valid primary and secondary ID may not be admitted to the exam. The name that appears on your ID must be the same as the name that ABIM has on record for you.
  • You will not be allowed to take your exam with an expired ID.

Your Name and ID for Computer-Based Testing

When you are approved to take an ABIM examination, your name (exactly as it appears in ABIM's records) is transferred to the test administrator. The name that appears on your ID must match the name sent to the testing vendor. If the name on your ID does not match the name on file, you may not be admitted to the exam.

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What is not permitted in the Testing Room?

To assure exam security, the following are prohibited: All electronic devices, including cell phones, cameras, recording devices, PDAs, calculators, personal digital assistants, pagers, and beepers.

In addition, the following are not permitted:

  • Watches. The time of day will be displayed on a clock in the testing room, and the time remaining in the exam session will be displayed on your computer screen.
  • Calipers, nomograms or other interpretive aids.
  • Study materials, books, notes, scratch paper, etc.
  • Pens, pencils, highlighters and other writing instruments. The test administrator will provide noteboards (Pearson VUE locations) or scratch pad (Prometrics locations) that will be replaced as needed. Noteboards and scratch pads may not be removed from the testing room and must be turned in to the test administrator when you complete each exam session. In addition, you may type and save notes in the "Notes" section available for each exam question. Noteboards, scratch pads and the "Notes" section are provided for your convenience and are not considered in the evaluation of your exam.
  • Suitcases, briefcases, backpacks.
  • Wallets and purses.
  • Tobacco products.
  • Food and drinks. You may bring lunch to the test center, but there is no access to refrigeration or lounge facilities. Water fountains are available at most test centers. You may also bring bottled water to store in your secure locker.
  • Certain essential medical items (e.g. nitroglycerin, asthma inhalers, diabetic supplies) may be brought into the testing room with prior approval of ABIM. You should submit your request to ABIM by using the Contact Us feature on the ABIM website. However, additional items may be allowed in Pearson VUE locations with no prior approval. View a current list on Pearson VUE's website.

Friends or relatives who accompany you to the test center will not be permitted to wait inside the test center and cannot contact you while you are taking the exam.

Note: Candidates who fail to adhere to these policies are subject to disciplinary action which could lead to dismissal from the exam, invalidation of the exam, disqualification from future exams, or other sanctions deemed appropriate by ABIM.

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What are Examples of Irregular Behavior?

Test administrators are required to report to ABIM any irregular or improper behavior by a candidate. Examples of irregular or improper behavior include giving or obtaining information or aid, looking at the test material of others, removing examination materials from the test center, taking notes, bringing unauthorized items (see above) into the examination, failing to comply with time limits or instructions, talking, or other disruptive behavior. Test administrators may intervene to stop any of the foregoing. In addition, as part of its effort to assure exam integrity, ABIM utilizes data forensic techniques that use statistical analyses of test-response data to identify patterns of test fraud, including cheating and copyright infringement. ABIM investigates all irregularity reports.

Irregular or improper behavior in examinations that is observed, made apparent by data forensics, statistical analysis, or uncovered by other means will be considered a subversion of the certification process and will constitute grounds for invalidation of a candidate's examination. In addition, ABIM may at its discretion suspend or revoke certification, exclude candidates from future examinations and inform program director(s), licensing bodies, impaired physicians advocacy groups, or law enforcement agencies of ABIM's actions.

If you see cheating or other inappropriate behavior before, during and after an examination, please contact ABIM's Exam Integrity Hotline at 1-800-884-2246 or send an e-mail to security@abim.org. Note: the Exam Integrity Hotline should be used ONLY to report irregular behavior.

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What is ABIM's Copyright and Exam Non-Disclosure Policy?

All ABIM materials are protected by the federal Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. § 101, et seq. Access to all such materials, as further detailed below, is strictly conditioned upon agreement to abide by ABIM's rights under the Copyright Act and to maintain examination confidentiality.

ABIM examinations are confidential, in addition to being protected by federal copyright and trade secret laws. Candidates and diplomates who undertake examinations agree that they will not copy, reproduce, adapt, disclose, or transmit examinations, in whole or in part, before or after taking an examination, by any means now known or hereafter invented. They further agree that they will not reconstruct examination content from memory, by dictation, or by any other means or otherwise discuss examination content with others. Candidates and Diplomates further acknowledge that disclosure or any other use of ABIM examination content constitutes professional misconduct and may expose them to criminal as well as civil liability, and may also result in ABIM's imposition of penalties against them, including but not limited to, invalidation of examination results, exclusion from future examinations, suspension, revocation of certification and other sanctions.

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How Will the Exam Start?

At the start of the exam, you will see several screens reviewing instructions about taking the exam and about exam security. You will be asked to agree to a Pledge of Honesty affirming that you will follow ABIM and the testing vendor rules.

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What is the Structure of the Exam?

The exams are given in modular format with a maximum of 70 multiple-choice questions per exam session. Answer every question because your score will be determined by the total number of questions answered correctly. There is no penalty for guessing. For each question, there is one best answer. Be sure to check the Review Screen in the exam for any unanswered items, which will be indicated as “incomplete.” Continue to work until you have answered all questions or time for the test session has expired. When you have five minutes remaining, a message box will appear on the screen as a reminder.

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What Do I Need to Know About Exam Sessions and Scheduled Breaks?

You will have up to two hours to complete each session. The time remaining for each session will appear in the upper right-hand corner of the computer screen. The time of day will be displayed on a clock in the testing room.

Assistance during an exam session:

You must remain in your seat during an exam session, unless authorized to leave by a test center administrator. Raise your hand to notify the administrator if you:

  • Have a problem with your computer
  • Need a clean noteboard or scratch pad
  • Need to leave the testing room for any reason
  • Have inadvertently brought any personal belongings into the testing room
  • Need earplugs or headphones if you are easily distracted by noise, including typing noise
  • Need assistance for any other reason

Leaving the testing room during an exam session:

If you need to leave the testing room during the exam session, the clock will continue to count down the time remaining. The test administrator will set your computer to "Unscheduled Break" mode. The screen will display the session time with the clock counting down, and the display screen you are working on will be hidden. You should exit the testing room as quietly as possible. You may not leave the immediate vicinity of the testing room or restrooms while an exam session is in progress.

Returning to the testing room during an exam session:

You must provide an electronic fingerprint each time you enter and exit the testing room. When you return to your workstation, the test administrator will reset your computer so that you may continue the exam.

Five-minute notification:

A message box will appear on your computer screen as a reminder when five minutes remain in a session. If you are still working at the end of the two-hour session, the computer screen will turn gray, a message will state that your time has expired, and no further keyboard and mouse responses will be recorded.

Taking breaks:

Scheduled breaks occur at the completion of each session. Taking scheduled breaks is optional and the available time will appear on your screen. You can decline a break and immediately begin the next exam session. You can choose to use some or all of your break time. View break time schedule.

Returning from a scheduled break:

You must provide an electronic fingerprint each time you enter and exit the testing room. Because you must be at your seat before the end of a scheduled break, allow sufficient time (as much as ten minutes) for checking back in. At the end of a scheduled break, the clock on the computer will automatically start the next exam session.

Technical or computer problems:

In the event of a computer or other technical problem, the computer system will ensure that no testing time is lost and all your answer choices are saved. Raise your hand to notify the proctor if there is a problem. The proctor will follow established procedures to resolve the problem.

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What About Lodging and Travel?

You are responsible for making your own travel and hotel reservations. Recommendations for overnight accommodations are not available from ABIM or the test vendor.

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Where Are the Test Centers Located?

Important Information for International Centers:

  • International Test Centers are locations other than U.S., U.S. territories and the Americas.
  • Individual international test center locations may not be available during every exam administration. If the international test center you request is not available, please contact Steven Quinn at ABIM for assistance, 1-800-441-ABIM, ext. 3619.
  • If you schedule your examination appointment at an International Test Center, you will be charged an additional international scheduling fee of $500 per appointment. (This fee is waived for active members of the military.)
  • Should you cancel your application or change your test center to a U.S., U.S. territory or other Americas location before the cancellation deadline, you will receive a refund of the $500 fee. All other exam cancellation and refund policies will apply.
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How Do I Contact ABIM With Questions Regarding Exam Day?

If you have any questions regarding exam day, call 1-800-441-ABIM (2246), Mon. – Fri., 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Sat., 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET or send us an e-mail.