Clinical Exam FAQs

1. What led to the decision to change the administration of the Scenario-based Oral Clinical Examination?

In response to COVID-19 restrictions and CDC safety requirements, our primary concern was the safety of all participants, given the number of people located within the ABO Exam Center during Oral Exam testing. ABO staff, examiners and observers, along with a possible 192 examinees participate in the process. The examination rooms themselves are 6’ x 6’ each, and hold up to 2-3 examiners, plus an examinee, making social distancing impossible. Each examinee rotates to six rooms during their examination where they interact with up to 12 examiners total during the two-hour exam. Restrictive schedules would not allow for sufficient deep cleaning between examinations. In addition, uncertainty regarding the future of travel was also considered. Therefore, for the safety of everyone involved and to adhere to current CDC guidelines, the board determined there was simply too much risk involved to continue testing in this manner and felt an immediate alternative must be identified.


2. Were other options explored to administer the Clinical Examination?

Yes. Several options were considered and investigated thoroughly. The final recommended approach was determined to be the best option to facilitate the exam and maintain the integrity of the exam, while also addressing the safety for all participants.


3. Was a virtual exam considered as an option in testing centers throughout the U.S. and Canada?

The ABO did thoroughly investigate the possibility of a virtual examination, including Zoom and other platforms, but it was not feasible given the complex requirements for this testing methodology. Transitioning to a virtual exam involved too many risks and would jeopardize the execution of the examination. We want to ensure we are living up to the standards set forth by the board.


4. Are other dental specialties doing the same with their clinical exams? 

We have been in contact with other dental specialties regarding their plans.  At the time of our decision, most other specialties had only postponed or cancelled their clinical exams, but continuing to explore options.   


5. How will you maintain the integrity of the exam?

The integrity of the exam will be maintained as we are not changing the testing criteria for the exam.  The same for domains will be covered:


    Data gathering and diagnosis -- 25%

    Treatment objectives and planning -- 25%

    Treatment implementation and management -- 25%

    Critical analysis and outcomes assessment -- 25%


The same substantive content will be covered and assessed.  All case scenarios will be utilized as they have been in past exams.  There will be a change is how answers are provided, but all typed responses will be reviewed by examiners and compared to the per-determined grading rubrics. 


6. Will you require essay or short answer responses similar to how an examinee would respond orally?

The ABO will require bullet point answers that clearly address the case and the questions provided.  Samples of the types of answers expected are provided on the Downloads and References page of the ABO website. 


7. How long will the exam take now that answers must be written?

The in-person Oral Clinical Exam had a 2 hour limit.  The Clinical Exam in this new format at exam centers nationwide will be 4 hours long to allow more time for writing answers vs. responding orally. 


8. Will you be able to go back and edit a previous answer in the exam as you are taking it? 

No, you will not be able to go back and change or add to a previous response once you have submitted each individual answer.  


9. How will you assess CRE evaluations and superimpositions?

We will not be using actual models to assess this portion of the exam.  Please refer to the sample cases and additional resources shown on Scenario-based Exam Preparation page.


10. How will the scoring system be implemented for written answers?

Examiners will receive the written answers for each exam they are scoring, and will be using the same per-determined rubric for scoring as the oral examination.  


11. Will multiple examiners still participate in the process to review and grade each exam?

Just as you would rotate to six different sets of examiners in St. Louis for the oral exam, different examiners will score each section of the exam.  Each exam will be scored by multiple examiners to ensure the accuracy and consistency to each exam section.


12. Is there a risk that the testing center near me will be full and unable to offer a time needed during my testing period?

We have confirmed space availability with the Pearson Vue Testing Centers for each exam time frame.  They are holding spots available for our candidates. 


13. How many people will be allowed to take the Clinical Exam at one time?

This will vary by testing center. All exam centers will be following the new COVID restrictions regarding capacity. 


14. Will you still limit the number of examinees per exam period now that you are testing at remote locations that allow for more people?

Yes, we will still limit the number of examinees per exam period.  We are able to increase our number of examinees per period vs. our in-person exams, but still need to consider the number of examiners required to review and score each exam during a short period of time.  Our examiners are volunteers and the time required for grading is significant given the number of examiners involved in scoring each exam. 


15. Do you need to bring anything to the Clinical Exam? 

You must bring two valid, unexpired forms of identification. The two forms of ID must match the name on your registration, both with signature and one with a photo.

You will receive an email from your specific exam center once your exam date and time are confirmed, which will include the specific requirements for each exam center.  Please review the Pearson Vue website for more details.


16. Will you provide more detailed information on how to prepare given this change in format?

Yes, we will continue to update our website materials based on the new requirements and will send out communication as information becomes available.