Oral Examination

The oral examination is the last event in the initial Certification process, which begins with neurosurgical residency in an ACGME accredited neurosurgical program and passage of the written examination. Whereas the written examination explores an applicant’s knowledge in various relevant disciplines, the oral examination explores knowledge and judgment in clinical neurosurgical practice after an applicant has been an independent practitioner. The oral examination is accomplished in a series of face-to-face examinations involving the applicant, current and former Directors of the Board, and guest examiners.  Examination of a candidate's knowledge and judgment typically includes queries regarding the preoperative evaluation, intraoperative technical and judgmental issues, and post-operative management, including appropriate treatment of complications. 
The Oral Examination of the American Board of Neurological Surgery has undergone periodic review and revision over the years. The current format is for three one hour examination sessions that focus on cranial, spinal, and "other" neurosurgical topics. Different medical boards conduct their oral examination in different ways, and some do not have an oral examination at all. The ABNS seeks to maintain an oral examination process that is relevant, rigorous, and of value to both our specialty and to the public. Commencing with the spring 2017 examination, a new format will be used.

The new format includes three 45 minute sessions:

  • One focused on general neurosurgery topics
  • One focused on a subspecialty topic that the applicant may choose (spine, tumor, vascular, trauma/critical care, functional, pediatric or a second general sessions.
  • One focused on an evaluation of the applicants own cases. At present, each applicant submits 150 consecutive cases as part o their credentialing process. From this pool, the ABNS will select 10 cases for possible discussion, 5-6 cases may be discussed. The purposes of this session is for the applicant to take the examiners through their case management process with a focus on knowledge, management and safety.

Candidates who pass the oral examination become certified Diplomates of the American Board of Neurological Surgery.

The New ABNS Oral Examination: 2017