American Board of Radiology doing away with written certifying exam in diagnostic imaging

The American Board of Radiology is doing away with its multiple-choice written exam in diagnostic imaging and moving to an oral-only version that’s delivered remotely, the nonprofit announced on Thursday.

ABR said the transition will begin in 2028 for diagnostic radiology residents completing training in June 2027 (and who are entering their R1 year this upcoming July). Following the transition, each candidate will have their first opportunity to take the new DR oral exam the calendar year after their completion of residency. The board plans to provide two final computer-based DR certifying exams in 2027 to help with the transition.

“As part of continuing efforts to improve testing, particularly in light of technologic advancements implemented during the pandemic, the new DR oral exam will be an online exam taken in a location of the candidate’s choosing,” ABR said in an April 13 announcement, noting that the DR qualifying (core) exam will remain unchanged.

Following 2027, all diagnostic radiology candidates will be required to take the new oral exam, “regardless of when they completed residency training.” ABR expects to administer the test twice each year: once in the winter/spring and a second time in the fall.

The new exam will cover select critical findings, along with common and important diagnoses, that radiologists routinely encounter in practice. ABR emphasized that the exam is not meant to represent a comprehensive review of clinical content, rather, a high-level assessment of the skills needed to be an effective diagnostic radiologist.

“To mitigate subjectivity and potential bias inherent in an oral exam, examiners will use a standard set of cases, and detailed rubrics will be used to score each candidate,” the ABR said. “This is an improvement over the prior oral exam model and is facilitated by current technology, including software developed specifically for this purpose by the ABR and currently used for oral exams in the three other disciplines.”

Same as the previous DR oral exam, candidates will still meet with one examiner at a time, use a standard set of cases for each category, and answer questions related to the content displayed. Costs also will remain the same.

ABR is planning to stay in communication with program directors to ensure a smooth transition and will host a virtual town hall on Thursday, May 4, to answer any questions. Further details, including a FAQ, can be found here.

Marty Stempniak

Marty Stempniak has covered healthcare since 2012, with his byline appearing in the American Hospital Association's member magazine, Modern Healthcare and McKnight's. Prior to that, he wrote about village government and local business for his hometown newspaper in Oak Park, Illinois. He won a Peter Lisagor and Gold EXCEL awards in 2017 for his coverage of the opioid epidemic. 

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