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What to Expect on Exam Day

This section provides you with information on what to expect at computer-based testing centers during the administration of a certification exam.

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What is the Schedule for Exam Day?

Exam day schedules vary depending on the exam and the specialty. Select your Initial Certification specialty and view the detailed exam day schedule.

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

  • Arrive 30 minutes prior to the appointment time specified on your confirmation e-mail.
  • If you arrive after your appointment time, you may not be admitted to the exam.
  • Familiarize yourself with the location of the Pearson Professional Center, parking and nearby restaurants prior to exam day.
  • Your confirmation e-mail will provide driving directions to the Pearson Professional Center. You should use these directions as they could contain specific instructions.

What Identification Will I Need?

When you arrive at the Pearson Professional Center, you will need to present primary and secondary identification. Candidates without both valid primary and secondary ID may not be admitted to the exam.

  • Primary ID: A current government-issued form of ID that contains both your signature and a recent photograph. A valid driver's license, passport or state identification card is acceptable. Note: Any form of ID issued by the following governments cannot be used as a primary ID, per U.S. government regulations: Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria.
  • Secondary ID: A form of ID that includes either your signature or a photograph. For example, a Social Security card, valid credit card or ATM card is acceptable.

You will not be allowed to take your exam with expired or invalid ID.

Important: The name that appears on your ID must be the same as the name that ABIM has on record for you or you may not be admitted to the exam.

How Is a Pearson Professional Center Set Up for Testing?

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.

What Happens When I Arrive at the Pearson Professional Center for my exam?

  • Present your personal identification.
  • A palm vein recognition scan (see description below), digital signature and photograph will be taken. This is required to take the exam.
  • 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. 
  • Personal items, including your cell phone, electronic devices, watch, wallet and/or purse are not permitted in the testing room. You will be required to leave all personal belongings outside the testing room. A secure individual storage locker will be provided for these items. Storage space is limited, however, so 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 Agreement" and agree 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.
  • An erasable notepad will be provided by the test administrator. 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 earplugs and headphones from the test administrator. Your own earplugs, headphones or other personal devices are not permitted in the test centers.
  • At the start of the exam, you will see several screens with 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.

What are Pearson Vue's Health and Safety Guidelines for Covid-19?

Please visit Pearson's page to learn more about important COVID-related testing information: https://home.pearsonvue.com/coronavirus-update.aspx

What Is Not Permitted in the Testing Room?

To assure exam security, the following are prohibited:

  • Electronic devices, including cell phones, cameras, recording devices, PDAs, calculators and pagers.

In addition, the following are not permitted:

  • Wallets and purses
  • Jackets, coats, etc.
  • 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 erasable noteboards that will be replaced as needed. Noteboards 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 and the "Notes" section are provided for your convenience and are not considered in the evaluation of your exam.
  • 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 and diabetic supplies) may be brought into the testing room with prior approval of ABIM. You should submit your request to ABIM by sending an email to accommodations@abim.org.

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.

What Is the Structure of the Exam?

The exams are given in modular format with a maximum of 60 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.

Are Certification Exams Open Book?

No. All certification exams are entirely closed book.

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

Exam structure:

The exams are given in modular format with up to 60 multiple-choice questions per exam session.

Exam time:

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
  • 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 a palm vein scan 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 a palm vein scan 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 10 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.

When do I receive my exam results?

You will receive an email regarding when your score report is ready in approximately 3 months. Come to the Physician Portal after you receive the email to view your score report.

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.

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-ABIM (2246) or e-mail security@abim.orgNote: the Exam Integrity Hotline should be used ONLY to report irregular behavior.

How Do I Contact ABIM With Questions Regarding Exam Day?

If you have any questions regarding exam day, call ABIM's Customer Experience Department at 1-800-441-ABIM (2246), Mon. - Fri. 8:30 a.m. - 6 p.m. ET or send us an email.

Copyright and Examination 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 assessments are confidential, in addition to being protected by federal copyright and trade secret laws. Candidates and diplomates who undertake assessments agree that they will not copy, reproduce, adapt, disclose or transmit assessments, in whole or in part, before or after taking an assessment, by any means now known or hereafter invented. They further agree that they will not reconstruct assessment content from memory, by dictation, or by any other means or otherwise discuss assessment content with others. Candidates and Diplomates further acknowledge that disclosure or any other use of ABIM assessment 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 assessment results, exclusion from future assessments, suspension or revocation of Board Certification and other sanctions.

With respect to ABIM's Maintenance of Certification (MOC) products, including its medical knowledge modules and ABIM PIMs Practice Improvement Modules®, candidates agree that they will not copy, reproduce or make any adaptations of such materials in any manner; and will not assist someone else in the infringement or misuse of these or any other ABIM-copyrighted works.