Continuing Certification

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    Examination Descriptions

    The ABFM's Family Medicine Certification Examination is a secure, computer-based, standardized examination that measures clinical decision-making ability and the requisite medical knowledge needed to make those decisions as related to Family Medicine. It uses single-best-answer, multiple-choice questions and is the same for both initial certification candidates and candidates seeking to maintain their certification. Questions include, but are not limited to, diagnosis, management, and prevention of illness.

    Examination Content
    The Test Plan Specifications [PDF] for the Family Medicine Certification Examination 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 eight content-specific modules (e.g., Ambulatory Family Medicine, Care of Children and Adolescents). In addition to the core portion of the examination, each candidate must select one of the content-specific modules.

    Test Day
    The Family Medicine Certification Examination is divided into four (4) equal sections of 100 minutes. Each section contains 80 multiple choice questions. A modular exam portion of the examination is contained in the second section of the examination and consists of 40 multiple choice questions over the topic selected. The second section of the examination will first present the 40 questions over the modular exam topic selected by the candidate and then 40 questions which cover the breadth of Family Medicine. The modular exam topic will be selected prior to beginning the second section of the examination. The first, third and fourth sections of the examination will consist of questions which cover the breadth of Family Medicine.

    The standard schedule for the Family Medicine Certification Examination includes 100 minutes of pooled break time. The 100 pooled break minutes are provided to allow each examinee two 15 minute breaks and one 70-minute meal break during the three scheduled optional breaks in between each exam content section. However, candidates can use as much or as little break time as they feel necessary during any given scheduled optional break. Please note that if the entire amount of pooled break time (100 minutes) is exhausted before the end of the examination, any time spent on subsequent breaks will decrease available remaining examination time. Candidates are expected to manage the pace and timing of the examination themselves. Allotted time for the entire standard examination appointment, including NDA, instructions and survey, is nine hours.

    Scores are reported to candidates as soon as possible after the examination, typically 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 ABFM Certification Examination 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 just barely 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 particular percentage of candidates, but rather on what level of clinical decision making and medical knowledge is implied by ABFM certification.

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