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Primary Examination

The ABNS primary examination is an important step in the certification process. It is available to all residents in ACGME accredited neurosurgery programs and is designed to evaluate candidates’ knowledge and provide direction for continued learning. Residents may take the exam for self-assessment or for credit toward certification as determined by their program director. The ABNS prepares the 375 question examination with the guidance of the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). The exam is given each March at most U.S. neurosurgical residency programs. The ABNS and RRC require residents to pass the examination for credit toward certification before completing training.

Neurosurgeons who completed residency training in ACGME accredited programs may take the primary examination as often as they wish. Individuals who entered Canadian neurosurgery programs prior to July 16, 1997 may also take it.

The number of questions in each content category is as follows:

Category A. Neuroanatomy: 49
Category B. Neurosciences: 30
Category C. Neuropathology: 43
Category D. Neuroimaging: 57
Category E. Clinical Neurology: 40
Category F. Neurosurgery: 84
Category G. Critical Care/Fundamental Clinical Skills: 65
Category H. Core Competencies: 7

Click here for a practice primary exam

Content categories and subject areas

Information on fees, click here