FAQs – Primary and Subspecialty

FAQs Primary and Subspecialty Certification

Please refer to the Booklet of Information for specific policy information about board certification. If your question is not answered below and you need further assistance, e-mail

•   [email protected] for Primary certification

•   [email protected] for Subspecialty certification.

How does the ABPath communicate with applicants?

All communication between the ABPath and applicants for certification regarding their applications occurs via email. This includes requests for additional information to complete your application, approval of the application, payment receipt, scheduling email, and when the examination results are available. Please be sure the email address in your “My Profile” tab in PATHway is current.

How do I request an application for Primary/Subspecialty certification?

All applications are online available through Pathway, with the exception of Clinical Informatics and Single certification, these are paper applications found on the ABPath website. For Primary certification, once logged into PATHway the application/registration link is under the “Primary” tab at the top of the page. For Subspecialty certification, the application/registration link is under the “Subspecialty” tab.

I logged into PATHway and there is not an application available for me. What should I do?

If there is not an application/registration link available under the “Primary Certification” tab for primary certification contact [email protected], or an application/registration link for subspecialty certification under the “Subspecialty Certification” tab, please contact  [email protected].

When are application/registration links available and what is the deadline to submit my application/registration?

All application/registration dates and deadlines are on the ABPath website on the Examination Dates, Deadlines and Fees pages.

Primary Dates, Deadlines and Fees

Subspecialty Dates, Deadlines and Fees.

When will my application be processed? How long does the process take?

This process may take 4 – 6 weeks after the submission of the application. Applicants will be able to track the progress of their applications on the Board Correspondence tab through PATHway.

Your application is not reviewed immediately upon finalization. You will not see progress on your Board Correspondence screen until your application is reviewed by the ABPath.

Does my application have to be approved by my program director and the ABPath by the deadline date?

No, the deadline date is for submission of your completed application and payment only, not the approval of the application. As long as your application was submitted by the deadline date you have met the deadline.

I have submitted my application, but why are the boxes indicating requirements for application (medical license, diploma, etc.) not checked off on my Board Correspondence screen yet?

These will not be checked until the application is reviewed and approved by the ABPath Credentials Committee. We receive hundreds of applications during the application window. Please be patient.

Does the ABPath have a finance or payment plan?

No, payment is to be submitted when your application/registration is finalized. Payments must be made by credit card (MasterCard, Visa, American Express).

What is a full and unrestricted medical license? I have a training license, is this acceptable to apply for board certification?

A medical license that allows a physician to practice in state, jurisdiction, or Canadian territory with no restrictions. A training license is NOT full and unrestricted. A medical license that allows a physician to practice in state, jurisdiction, or Canadian territory with no restrictions. A training license is NOT full and unrestricted. Please refer to the ABPath website, Booklet of Information, “Medical Licensure”.

I am starting a fellowship in July and the program told me that I only need to apply for a training license, so why do I have to apply for a full and unrestricted medical license?

For board certification, you must have a full and unrestricted medical license or have applied for a full license. Please refer to the ABPath website, Booklet of Information, “Medical Licensure”.

I applied for a medical license, but will not get it until after the deadline. Can I still apply for the examination?

Yes, your application will be processed, and if approved, you will be allowed to take the exam.  The ABPath will place the examination results in a “Withhold Results” status. This means you will not receive your exam results until you have uploaded a copy of your full and unrestricted medical license showing the expiration date in PATHway, My Profile tab.  You will have two years from taking the exam to obtain a full and unrestricted license.  If you have not reported such to the ABPath, your exam results will be invalidated, and you will have to take the exam once again if you want to be ABPath certified.

Autopsies and Surgical Specimens

How many shared, single organ, limited and fetal autopsies can I submit?

For the current requirements for certification, please see the Booklet of Information.

I won’t have 30 autopsies before the application deadline for submission. What should I do?

For the current autopsy requirements for certification, please see the Booklet of Information.

You must have completed the required 30 autopsies by the application submission deadline date (January 15 for the spring exam) or you will have to wait until the next exam session.

Which ACGME Autopsy Log should I upload to my application?

The ACGME autopsy log is located on the ACGME website under “Specialty Specific Reports” in the case log system.The log includes age group, gender, primary diagnosis (as would be reported on a death certificate), and PGY year the autopsy was performed. Age group must be listed as: fetal; infant (up to 12 months); child (1-12 years); adolescent (13-18 years); adults (>18 years).

Do not include any identifying information on the log (e.g. case#, medical record#), this would be a violation of HIPPA.

The ACGME autopsy log will look like the sample log below:

The application form asks for the number of surgical specimens that I have examined. I don’t know the exact number. What should I do?

Many hospital LIS systems can search for reports with your name as the resident of record. If you cannot do this, an estimated number is acceptable.

Scheduling Exams

I am a 3rd year resident in an APCP program and have completed the required 18 months of AP rotations. Can I apply to take the AP part of the exam this year and take the CP exam next year, when I complete the required CP rotations (or vice versa)?

No, you cannot apply for any portion of the APCP exam until the last year (4th year) of training

I started my training off-cycle (after July 1) and will not complete training until after July 1. Can I still apply for the spring examination?

It depends on the date of completion of training. If you complete the required 48 months of training by Aug. 31, you can apply for the spring exam; however, you will have a “Withhold Results” status on your exam results until the ABPath receives a letter from your program director verifying satisfactory completion of training no more than 2 weeks prior of completion. If you complete your training after Aug. 31, but before December 31 you can apply for the fall exam.

I am in an APCP program and I want to be certified in APCP. Can I take the AP portion of the exam in the spring and then take the CP portion later (or vice versa) or do I have to take the AP and CP exams both at the same time?

Yes, you can take one portion (AP or CP) of the exam in one session (spring or fall) and the other portion during another session within your period of board eligibility; however, you should consider the additional expenses for registration. The fee to take a single exam (AP or CP) is $2100, rather than $2600 if both are taken in the same session. If you pass the AP or CP portion of the exam, you are not board certified until you have taken the other portion of the APCP exam and passed that exam.

I am taking the Spring Primary exam this year. Can I apply for a Subspecialty exam this year too?

A candidate for the Spring Primary examinations (AP and/or CP) who wishes to apply for a Subspecialty examination in the same year must submit the Subspecialty application prior to the Subspecialty application deadline.

a. If the candidate is successful in the primary AP and/or CP examination, the ABPath will automatically process the application for the subspecialty examination.

b. If the candidate is not successful in the primary AP and/or CP examination, he/she will be notified and the subspecialty examination fee minus a $200 administrative fee will be refunded. A new subspecialty application must be completed for future examinations.

You must be successful in both the AP and CP part before taking the subspecialty examination.

When can I schedule my examination with Pearson VUE?

An email will be sent out when the scheduling window will open with Pearson VUE. Candidates will schedule their own exams with Pearson VUE testing centers. Applicants must apply for the certification exam through PATHway prior to scheduling their exam date with Pearson VUE test centers.

How do I schedule my exam with Pearson VUE?

1. Is the ABPath going to schedule my exam date?

Candidates will schedule their own exam(s) dates. Once ABPath notifies candidates that the scheduling period is open, they must create an account with Pearson VUE and then schedule the testing date and test center location of their choice based on availability.

2. How do I schedule an exam?

Candidates will schedule their exam(s) online. Once the scheduling period is open, go to the ABPath homepage on the Pearson VUE website (link will be provided) and create an account using your ABPath ID#. Once the account is created, you can sign in to select the exam you need to schedule. All candidates must create a new account, even if they have used a Pearson VUE center in the past.

Friendly tip: You can select up to three test centers to compare appointment availability.

3. I am taking both the AP and CP exam. Do they have to be scheduled together?

Each exam will be scheduled separately and they do not need to be taken on consecutive days or at the same test center. Candidates can schedule each exam on whatever day and/or test center they choose during the testing period.

4. Are there going to be extended dates to take the exam?

ABPath Primary exams must be taken during the announced testing dates. No exams will be administered after those dates. 

5. Can I take the exam remotely?

No, ABPath is using only Pearson Professional Testing Centers to administer the exams.

6. Can I travel to a different state/jurisdiction to take my exam?

Candidates are responsible for ensuring that there are no travel restrictions in place for the location where they want to take the exam. If a candidate travels to another state or country with travel restrictions in place, they may be turned away or required to quarantine.

7. My exam is not available at my preferred testing location. What should I do?

Test centers vary in terms of the days and times they’re open and the exams they deliver. If your exam or date is not available at your preferred test center, please try an alternative date or search for other test centers. Appointment availability can change, so be sure to check back regularly to see if the date you desire becomes available. The earlier that you schedule, the more likely you are to get your preferred date and location.

Friendly tip: You can select up to three test centers to compare appointment availability.

8. Are Pearson VUE test centers open on the weekend?

Test centers vary in the days and times that they are open. Candidates will need to determine days and times of availability with the test center they choose.

9. Will there be microscopes at the testing centers?

Microscopes are no longer required for the Primary and Subspecialty Exams. The exams will be administered using only virtual microscopy images when applicable and noted in the daily exam schedules.

10. May I wear earplugs or headphones during the exam?

Candidates may use foam earplugs supplied by Pearson VUE Professional Test Centers. Personal earplugs or headphones are not permitted.

11. May I bring or use scrap paper during the exam?

Whiteboards and markers will be provided for use during the exam(s). No items are permitted in the exam room except for your ID and locker key if you are using a locker for personal belongings, food, and beverages.

12. What form of identification (ID) will I need to show?

You will need to show 2 forms of identification for check-in at the test center and when returning from breaks. One must be an original (no photocopies), valid (unexpired) government-issued photo ID (e.g. driver’s license, passport) that includes your name, photograph and signature. All IDs required must be issued by the country in which you are testing. If you do not have the qualifying ID issued from the country you are testing in, an International Travel Passport from your country of citizenship is required.

Please be sure your FIRST and LAST name on your photo IDs match your first and last name in PATHway, If it does NOT match, contact us to update your information in PATHway at [email protected] or [email protected].

Cancelling an Exam

I am an APCP resident and have registered for the AP and CP examinations, but I won’t have time to study for the CP or AP part of the exam. How do I cancel one part?

There is not an option to cancel a portion of the examination once your application and payment have been received.  If you decide not to show up for one part of the exam, you may email Mary ([email protected]).   There is no refund of the fee if you are a no-show.

How do I cancel an examination for which I am registered?

To cancel a Primary exam, contact [email protected]. To cancel a Subspecialty exam, contact [email protected].

Please be aware of the cancellation deadline and fees

Be sure to read the full cancellation policy at  Cancellation Policy

If I cancel taking the examination, will I be required to complete the application process again?

No; if your application was previously approved and you still are board eligible (green table) on your “My Profile” tab, you only need to complete a registration package, which includes the honor code, registration form, certificate form, and payment of fees.

Exam Results

When will the results of the examination (Primary/Subspecialty) be available?

Results will be posted to your PATHway Board Correspondence tab approximately 4-6 weeks after the last examination date. A notice will be posted on the ABPath home page and you will receive an e-mail notification to check your Board Correspondence tab in PATHway.

What should I do if I cannot open my results letter?

If you have a problem opening your results letter, Technical Support has several suggestions:

1. Press F5 on your keyboard to refresh the page.

2. Reinstall Adobe Acrobat, it may not be installed correctly.

3. You may have your pop-up blocker turned on.

4. If you are using Google Chrome as your internet browser, switch to Internet Explorer.

5. If you are using a MAC or smart phone, please use a PC.

I just received an email that my examination results have been posted, mine are not available?

If your results are not available, please check your medical license status. It is a requirement that you possess a full and unrestricted medical license to practice medicine or osteopathy valid through September 1, (spring); November 1 (subspecialty); December 1 (fall) for your results to be released. If the medical license you have uploaded does not display a valid expiration date, please upload a copy showing the expiration date (registration card, wallet care, state online verification, etc.) to your “My Profile” tab.  Please e-mail [email protected] for Primary and [email protected] for Subspecialty if you continue to have problems.

How are the ABPath exams scored? Do I have to pass each section (written and practical)?

The sections of the AP examination (virtual microscopy, written and practical) are scored as a whole exam and the sections of the CP examination (written and practical) are likewise scored as a whole exam. All sections of subspecialty exams are scored as whole exams.

The ABPath uses criterion-referenced scoring for its certification examinations.  Criterion-referenced tests (CRTs) are intended to measure how well a candidate has learned a specific body of knowledge and skills. On a CRT, the passing or “cut-off” score is determined in advance by a committee of subject matter experts (SMEs) in the field. The candidate’s performance (i.e. mastery of the subject matter) is compared to the cut-off score and not to other test takers. Theoretically, all candidates could pass or fail depending on how they performed relative to the passing score.  A driver’s test is an example of a CRT because the goal is to see whether the test taker is skilled enough to be granted a driver’s license, not to see if one test taker is more skilled than another test taker. In contrast, norm-referenced tests (NRTs) compare test takers to each other. Scores are reported as a percentage rank with half scoring above and half below the mid-point. NRTs are designed to sort and rank students “on the curve,” not to see if they met a standard or criterion. The ABPath does NOT use NRTs for its certification examinations.

How is the pass point for the exam determined?

The ABPath uses the modified Angoff method, the most commonly used and psychometrically valid method for determining the pass point for an exam. Using this method, a group of SMEs are instructed to think of a minimally qualified candidate, since we want our exam to separate candidates who should be certified from those who should not be certified. The SMEs consider each item on a test and estimate the percentage of minimally qualified candidates who would answer the item correctly. This estimates the difficulty (Angoff rating) of each item. If the SMEs estimate that 90% of minimally qualified candidates (MQCs) would get the item correct, it is an easy question, but if they estimate that only 20% if MQCs would get it correct, it is a difficult question. The average or sum of the Angoff ratings is used to determine the provisional cut score i.e. the score that a borderline candidate, someone who should just barely pass, would be expected to achieve. That provisional cut score is retrospectively applied to a previous exam as a “reality check” between the modified-Angoff approach and the historical pass rate. Because all exams have some measurement error, the provisional cut score or standard can be adjusted using the standard error of measurement (SEM). A candidate’s theoretical true score falls somewhere within an error band of their estimated score. Using the SEM to adjust the provisional pass point up provides confidence that less than competent candidates who should fail will not pass due to measurement error. Using the SEM to adjust the provisional pass point down provides confidence that competent candidates who should pass will not fail due to measurement error. The operational pass point is set after a final decision about whether to adjust the provisional pass point. The pass point then becomes the criterion-referenced standard or % of items that a candidate would need to get correct in order to pass. Each year the percent of items that need to be answered correctly is adjusted for the difficulty of the exam as compared to the standard setting exam. Examination scores are a scaled score, and the pass point is 500. One point does not necessarily correspond to one question right or wrong. The scaled score, in addition to reflecting the number of questions a candidate gets right or wrong, also depends on the difficulty of the questions that were answered right or wrong and the overall difficulty of the examination.

Setting the criterion standard for each exam is performed every 3-5 years.

How do I request to have my examination rescored?

Failing examination scores cannot be appealed. Manual rescoring for the failure of an examination will not be done. Only computerized scoring can calculate correct scaled scores. Examination scores are a scaled score, and the pass point is 500. One point does not necessarily correspond to one question right or wrong. The scaled score, in addition to reflecting the number of questions a candidate gets right or wrong, also depends on the difficulty of the questions that were answered right or wrong

Name and Address Changes

How should I notify the ABPath of a change in my address?

You are responsible to maintain your current e-mail address, mailing address, and phone numbers through PATHway in your My Profile tab.

How should I notify the ABPath of a change in my name?

Changes in your name must be made in writing with the applicant’s signature and must be accompanied by legal verification (marriage license, court order, etc.). A form for submitting name changes is available in the Our Organization section of this website and can be downloaded, printed, and either faxed or emailed to [email protected] with the supporting documentation.