A Member Board of the American Board of Medical Specialties

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Frequently Asked Questions


What is longitudinal assessment? Is there research to support this form of assessment?

Longitudinal assessment is a testing approach supported by contemporary adult learning theory that fosters learning through a continuous assessment of knowledge. The method involves administering questions over a longer period of time in order to identify knowledge gaps. Longitudinal assessment can aid in comprehension, retention, and retrieval of knowledge. Longitudinal assessment models represent an evolution from traditional, point-in-time exams.

A variety of studies and literature support this approach in the adult learning and education arena. Two such studies that focused on medical professionals are:

The 2013 study, Brain Science Provides New Approach to Patient Safety Training, which found that in more than 16 randomized trials, physicians improved long-term knowledge retention by answering questions over spaced intervals of time; and

Comparative Effects of Test-Enhanced Learning and Self-Explanation on Long-Term Retention, which studied medical students, and found testing in combination with explaining the information is the most effective way to drive long-term retention of information.

How will these longitudinal assessment questions be delivered to diplomates?

The ABP MOC Assessment pilot will be delivered via the ABMS Certlink™
platform, which will be accessible via web browser or through a mobile app. There will be 25 questions delivered at the beginning of each quarter, that may be answered anytime during that quarter, either all at once or any
number at a time based on the diplomate's availability. Diplomates will have a personalized dashboard summarizing performance and identifying areas of strength and weakness.

Why is the American Board of Pathology launching this pilot?

The ABP’s goal is to improve our Diplomates’ MOC Part III experience, while retaining a reliable and valid assessment that allows for credible summative decisions about medical knowledge, judgment, and skills for continuing certification. The ABP heard your concerns about the current MOC examination and relevance of MOC to your practice. Assessments offered through the CertLink platform offer exposure to relevant information to support Diplomates’ lifelong learning. It also helps fulfill the ABP mission to protect the public by ensuring continuing certification represents quality long after initial certification. Conducting the pilot will provide necessary information to help make changes to the MOC program.

An advisory and development group made up of ABP staff and experts at ABMS, has met on a regular basis to design and implement ABPath CertLink. Everything from question structure, quality and delivery, references, computer displays, test security, and relevance for subspecialists with multiple certifications have been addressed. Valuable feedback from ABP Diplomates collected through surveys and focus groups has also been integrated into the pilot development process.

What other ABMS Member Boards are launching a pilot?

Several of ABMS Member Boards are exploring the idea of, or actively conducting, pilots to evaluate longitudinal assessment. The ABMS Member Boards participating in CertLink pilots include:

    • Colon and Rectal Surgery
    • Otolaryngology
    • Dermatology
    • Pathology
    • Medical Genetics and Genomics
    • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation
    • Nuclear Medicine

Are these assessments available for subspecialties?

The CertLink pilot will include general APCP questions along with some subspecialty items. In 2024, once many subspecialty questions have been developed, CertLink should fully accommodate subspecialty assessment.

When will the pilot start?

Development of the ABPath CertLink MOC Assessment Pilot is well underway, and the soft launch with volunteer Diplomates is scheduled for October 2, 2017. The soft launch will last four months, each month will simulate a quarter of the year, during which time the process and platform will be evaluated. Beginning April 2, 2018, the ABP will open the pilot to all Diplomates that wish to participate. The pilot will last for three to five years. During and after the pilot, participants will receive surveys and have the option to volunteer to participate in focus groups to gather feedback and revise
the program. If the pilot is determined to be a success, the longitudinal assessment model is expected to be fully operational by 2024.

What does participation in the pilot entail?

Pilot volunteers will be expected to answer a minimum number of items each year (25 per quarter), commit to the duration of the pilot, and provide feedback to the ABP. They will also be expected to
participate in surveys and have the option to volunteer to participate in focus groups (virtual and/or inperson) during the pilot. Pilot participation will allow Diplomates to have a voice and active role in
creating the next generation of MOC assessment.

How will the American Board of Pathology determine the pilot’s success?

There will be several factors that determine whether the pilot is successful including, but not limited to:
    • Diplomates report that ABPath CertLink is relevant to their practice
    • CertLink™ becomes a “go-to” resource Diplomates use to maintain or grow their knowledge
    • ABPath CertLink reliably measures the knowledge and judgment of Diplomates, assuring the public that certified pathologists are engaged in lifelong learning and staying current in the field of pathology.

How will assessment security be addressed?

Longitudinal assessment models represent an evolution from traditional, point-in-time secure exams. While the nature and format of longitudinal assessment does not conform to traditional examination security measures (due to the frequency of engagement required by the Diplomate), the longitudinal format and design helps mitigate concerns of unauthorized assistance in answering questions. With the help of ABMS, the ABP is evaluating several additional security measures. Ultimately, Diplomates are professionals and it is essential that they hold each other to the standards of professionalism listed in the CertLink End User License Agreement (EULA).

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