New Information About the ABR (American Board of Radiology) Examinations

Current and future practice models in Radiology are emphasizing subspecialty expertise to match the clinical demands of specialists in surgery and medicine. Because medical knowledge in subspecialty fields is advancing rapidly, radiologists must commit to life-long learning, periodic self-assessment and continuing practice improvement to keep pace. Training programs already have begun to evolve in this direction, and it is important that the initial certification process in diagnostic radiology reflect these changes. Accordingly, the ABR has changed the structure, content and timing of initial certification examinations in Diagnostic Radiology.

The principal changes are as follows:

  1. A new image-rich, computer-based radiology core examination will be given 30 months after the beginning of radiology residency training.
    The exam will probably be administered as an integrated single examination of practical physics and clinical components (to replace the ABR Physics exam currently given in September of the second year of Radiology residency and the ABR Written exam currently given in September of the third year of Radiology residency). This examination will require knowledge of anatomy, pathophysiology and principles of radiological physics. The examination will include case presentations. The examination
    will be approximately 10 hours long, on computer, with practical physics interwoven into the exam. Eleven clinical categories (GI, GU, ultrasound, chest, cardiac, nuclear, pediatric, neuro, IR, MSK and mammo) will be examined and each must be passed.
  2. A computer-based and image-rich final certifying examination in diagnostic radiology will be administered 15 months after the completion of the diagnostic radiology residency (yearly in September/October).
    (This will replace the current ABR Oral examination given at the end of the fourth year of Radiology residency). The ABR plans to make this examination available widely through commercial examination centers. This exam will probably take 4 to 5 hours to complete. This examination will be tailored to reflect the training emphasis, experience and the corresponding planned practice emphasis of the individual resident, who will be allowed to specify up to four areas of concentration. These areas of concentration will not, however, constitute the entire examination. Every examination also will include material pertinent to all diagnostic radiologists. For example, a resident may select to be examined on this certifying exam either in general modules (all of diagnostic radiology) or in 1 general content module and 4 clinical content modules. These 4 clinical content modules may be different, the same, or a combination of both. For instance, a resident may select: 

    • 1 general module + 4 neuroradiology modules
    • 1 general module + 4 pediatric radiology modules
    • 1 general module + 2 GI + 2 GU modules
    • 1 general module + 1 GI, 1mammo, 1 neuro and 1 mammo modules
    • Any variations of the above OR
    • 5 general modules
Sandra A. A. Oldham, MD, FACR