Continuing Certification

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    Examination Descriptions

    The ABFM Family Medicine Certification Examination (FMCE) is a secure, computer-based, standardized examination that measures clinical decision-making ability and the requisite medical knowledge needed to make decisions as related to family medicine. The examination consists of single-best-answer, multiple-choice questions about diagnosis, management, and prevention of illness, among other topics in the field of family medicine. The content of the FMCE is the same for both candidates seeking initial certification and candidates seeking to continue their certification.

    Examination Content
    In addition to the core portion of the FMCE, each candidate must select one of eight content-specific modules (e.g., Ambulatory Family Medicine, Sports Medicine). The Test Plan Specifications [PDF, 188KB] provide the targeted percentage of questions in each content category on the core portion of the examination and a description of the content in each of the content-specific modules. Click here to download the 2019 Test Plan Specifications.

    Test Day
    The FMCE is divided into four equal sections of 100 minutes. Each section contains 80 multiple-choice questions. The candidate will choose a content-specific module at the beginning of the second section of the examination. The first 40 questions of that section will cover the module topic and the following 40 questions will cover the breadth of family medicine. The first, third, and fourth sections of the examination will also cover the entire field of family medicine.

    The standard schedule for the FMCE includes 100 minutes of pooled break time, which allows each examinee two 15-minute breaks and one 70-minute meal break. The three scheduled optional breaks fall in between each exam section; however, candidates can use as much or as little break time as they feel necessary. Please note that if the entire 100 minutes is exhausted before the end of the examination, any time spent on subsequent breaks will decrease the remaining examination time. Candidates are expected to manage the pace and timing of the examination themselves. The allotted time for the entire standard examination appointment, including an NDA, instructions, and a survey, is nine hours.

    Candidates will receive preliminary results within 3-7 business days following the completion of the examination. Candidates that are clearly above or below the minimum passing score will receive a preliminary pass or fail result. If a candidate’s exam score is near the minimum passing score, the full scoring process will be required to determine the overall result and the candidate will receive a preliminary pending result. In addition, candidates that have an exam day incident or have the exam results marked for review will also receive a preliminary pending result. Examinees that receive a preliminary pending result will receive the official result following the complete scoring process.

    The official examination scores are typically provided six weeks after the last examination day. In addition to pass/fail information, candidates receive their overall scaled score and scaled scores for the different content areas. Each scaled score is reported with a standard error. This information is also graphically depicted with the standard error represented as a confidence interval.

    The minimum passing score for the FMCE is periodically reviewed by the ABFM Board of Directors after considering the results of a standard-setting study. This study typically asks raters to imagine what a physician who is minimally qualified to be considered board-certified would be able to do. Several different methods (both content-based and population-based) are used and the results are included in the report. The passing score is not based on failing or passing a specific percentage of candidates, but rather on what level of clinical decision making and medical knowledge is implied by ABFM certification.

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