Exam Myths Explained

April 2, 2013

What’s holding you back from taking the ABO exam?
We compiled the most common road blocks and debunked them. 

1. I’ve been out of school for so long. My knowledge comes from years of practicing, not necessarily text books. I wouldn’t know where to start.

The examination topics were derived from a thorough job analysis (survey) of the profession of optometry conducted by the ABO and Prometric, our testing partner.  This process assures that the examination truly reflects and then evaluates what optometrists do in practice every day, and is critical to the accreditation process.

Written by clinicians for clinicians, the examination is a test of competence beyond entry level.  Developers target each question’s content at practitioners who have been out of school 5-10 years, the point in one’s career at which some of the fine detail of didactic knowledge has been replaced by practical clinical experience and judgment.  Thus, most of the questions require analysis and reasoning, not simply knowledge or memory.

The exam is divided into three sections. The first contains general practice questions. Then candidates pick 2 of 6 identified areas of emphasis for the last two sections. You choose the topics you want to be tested on. Here are the areas of emphasis:

  • Additional General Practice
  • Contact Lenses
  • Pediatrics/Binocular Vision/Vision Therapy
  • Ocular Disease Anterior
  • Ocular Disease Posterior
  • Vision Rehabilitation/Low Vision/Neuro-Ophthalmic Rehabilitation

2. The last time I took a test was, well, I’d rather not say. I don’t know what to expect.

The ABO Candidate Guide, available on the ABO website, is a valuable resource that details what to expect at the Prometric Test Center on exam day. The exam is offered in a computer-based format . ABO created an online tutorial where candidates can become familiar with the computer-based testing system ahead of time.

The Candidate Guide also includes a detailed content outline that lists the topics that will appear on the 160-question General Examination, as well as the six 40-question Areas of Emphasis.  On exam day, each candidate must choose 2 of the 6 Areas of Emphasis.

Here is a sample of what a typical exam day will look like (note that the start times will vary by location):

7:30 to 8:00 | Registration, Checking ID, and Seating

8:00 to 8:15 | Review of ABO rules, Exam Tutorial, Instructions for General Practice Section

8:15 | Begin General Practice Section = 160 Multiple Choice Questions    (Allowed 4 Hours)

12:15 |  Scheduled Optional Break (1 Hour)

1:15 | Introduction to and selection of First Area of Emphasis = 40     Multiple Choice Questions (Allowed 1 Hour)

2:15 | Introduction to and selection of Second Area of Emphasis = 40 Multiple Choice Questions (Allowed 1 Hour)

3:15 | Brief Exam Survey (10 Minutes)

3:25 | End of exam day

3. I understand the exam takes a full day, nearly six hours. That is overwhelming.

ABO Board Certification ExamThe exam was designed to allow candidates plenty of time to complete. Some take the entire time, others finish in half of the time. It just depends on your testing style. There are three sections, with an optional break built in:

  1. General Practice Section: 160 multiple choice questions (4 hour)
  2. Scheduled Optional Break (1 hour)
  3. First Area of Emphasis: 40 multiple choice questions (1 hour)
  4. Second Area of Emphasis: 40 multiple choice questions (1 hour)

4. If there was a sample test that could help me study, I may consider taking the exam.

ABO has plans to create a sample test in the future. While the ABO does not endorse any specific board review course, many Diplomates tell us that these courses have proven worthwhile.  Individual study should be tailored to the publications considered standard of care for the profession or recognized as chairside reference textbooks.

You might consider setting a study schedule of 45 to 60 minutes of reading and review per night for several months in advance of your test date.  Candidates who do this tell us that it enriches their overall experience significantly.

5. I’m extremely busy and don’t have the time to devote to studying.

Until 2009, optometrists didn’t have the opportunity to pursue this type of credential. Now we’ve given them the choice. Many other medical professions have a national board certification. We believe this voluntary exam is a step in the right direction to provide additional credibility for optometrists.

Determining if and when to take the exam is up to the optometrist. If applying under expiring ABO phase-n rules, the exam must be taken in either July 2013 or January 2014. Post-Graduate Requirement points must be verified under these current phase-in rules.

ABO represents much more than an exam. We want to become a resource to help optometrists build their practices. In fact, we are piloting a number of initiatives right now. We want to give ABO diplomates access to new resources to build and strengthen their practice. Benefits to the certification will extend beyond the credential.

6. How will the certification build my practice? Consumers don’t know the difference between state licensures and national certifications.

ABO is working hard to elevate awareness of the certification, among all audiences. We are also developing resources to show optometrists how to celebrate the success of passing the exam with their peers and patients.

And for some optometrists, the choice to take the exam is driven by a personal need to gauge the acumen they’ve developed over the years. No matter what drives optometrists to pursue the exam, ABO will provide support to maximize the significant accomplishment and milestone in their career.



Check Board Certification Status

By going through the voluntary process of becoming board certified, our Diplomates demonstrate competence beyond entry level.

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