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A Required Change to the ABO Scenario-based Clinical Examination

The ABO, like all organizations, has had to weigh options and identify adjustments that best allow them to accomplish their mission, serve orthodontists, and maintain the highest commitment to health and safety.  The ABO board, staff, and consultants have been working diligently to identify every viable method of administering the Scenario-Based Oral Clinical Examination in light of so much uncertainty regarding the future of travel and in-person gatherings.

Therefore, in response to COVID restrictions and the safety requirements recommended by the CDC, the American Board of Orthodontics is making a change to the Scenario-Based Clinical Examination for 2020-21, beginning in November 2020.  Instead, the Clinical Board Exams will be offered as scheduled, but will not require travel to St. Louis. The Clinical Exams will be held at Scantron Testing Centers throughout the U.S. and Canada.

This decision was made with serious deliberation and evaluation of multiple options. The goal was to find the best way to balance honoring commitments to exam candidates and maintaining the integrity of the exam, while protecting the health and safety of all involved. 

Examination Format

The Clinical Exam will continue to be administered in a scenario-based format with the same exam components and testing criteria, with natural alterations in how answers are submitted.  Examinees will be required to provide typed bullet-point responses instead of giving responses orally to examiners.  As the ABO makes this change, they are maintaining the validity of the exam with the same primary exam structure and requirements, and changes only made to accommodate the new limitations:

  • The same four domains will be covered with equal weighting for overall assessment
  • Examinees will still be expected to assess case outcomes using the CRE, CMF and the cephalometric superimposition technique/interpretation, however physical models and superimposition transparencies will no longer be used in the exam.
  • Examinees will have three hours to complete the examination.
  • Examiners will grade exams virtually – with different examiner partners grading each section of the exam (just as an examinee would see six different sets of examiners in St. Louis).
  • Exams results will still be based on pass/fail.

Timing & Eligibility

The Clinical Exams will now be held over a two day testing period given the elimination of traveling to St. Louis and ability to accommodate more examinees across the country at testing centers. 

The exam dates for 2021 are as follows:

  • February 25-26, 2021
  • July 22-23, 2021
  • November 18-19, 2021

The November 2020 Clinical Exam is already at capacity. 

Following completion of a minimum of eighteen (18) months of a CODA-accredited orthodontic residency program, the first step in achieving board certification is to take the ABO Written Exam. Upon successful completion of the Written Exam, you are then eligible for the Clinical Examination.  Registrations for the 2021 Scenario-Based Clinical Examinations opened on July 15, 2020.  Registration for both the Written and Clinical Examinations can be done online, by creating an ABO Account

The ABO Continued Mission

The ABO’s mission remains to elevate the quality of orthodontic care for the public by promoting excellence through certification, education and professional collaboration. According to Board President, Dr. Valmy Kulbersh, “We believe this change to the Clinical Examination enables us to uphold our mission and continue to assess candidates for Board Certification in the most valid, reliable and now, safe, method possible. I personally want to thank the entire board, staff and partners for working tirelessly to identify this optimal solution.”   

The ABO is here to help you pursue board certification should you be interested, and welcome any further questions on the Clinical Examination. You can reach out to them at Info@AmericanBoardOrtho.com any time.