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About the Initial ABIM Certification Examination

The initial certification examination in internal medicine is administered by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). Candidates are able to sit for the examination only if the other requirements for eligibility for board certification have been met.

The initial certification examination in internal medicine is administered once yearly in the fall. It is important to recognize that the registration window for the examination typically occurs around the turn of the calendar year in which the examination is being taken, and that registration closes several months before the actual examination. You can find more information about examination dates and scheduling.

The examination is computer-based and is administered in a dedicated testing center. The examination is considered secure, and specific identification documents are required for entry to the testing center. The testing center may also use biometric methods for identification purposes. You are also limited in what may be taken into the examination room (such as cell phones, wallets, purses, watches, etc.). The time required to take the examination, which includes orientation, tutorials, and breaks, is up to 10 hours. You can find out more about what to expect on the day of the examination

The certification examination is built around a detailed “blueprint” that outlines the content areas and percentage of questions within those areas. The blueprint is developed by an examination committee that analyzes current practice and determines the relative importance of clinical problems in each content area. You can review the blueprint for the initial certification examination.  

The examination is administered in modular format with four testing sessions on the day of the examination. A maximum of 60 questions may be given per exam session, or up to 240 questions for the entire examination. Questions are best-single-answer multiple choice questions, most of which provide a clinical vignette with multiple possible answer options; some may have clinical data (such as radiographic images, electrocardiograms, etc.) requiring interpretation. The question format and examples of questions contained are available in a tutorial developed by the ABIM. 

The minimum passing score on the examination is an absolute standard established by the ABIM examination committee and approved by the ABIM Board of Directors; the pass-fail decision is based on the score on the entire examination.  

Results are generally released within three months of the last date of the exam in the area where the examination is taken. Notification that the results are ready is by electronic mail, with instruction for accessing the score report from the ABIM website. Score reports are available on the website for two years from the date on which they were released. 

First-time taker pass rates for the initial ABIM certification exam may be reviewed.