Primary Certification Exam


To be eligible for certification from the AOBD, candidates must meet the criteria specified of the BOS Handbook (Article VII, Section 1), in addition to the following:

  • Satisfactorily complete a one-year internship in an AOA or ACGME accredited- training program (if applicable).
  • Satisfactorily complete a three-year dermatology AOA or ACGME-accredited residency training program.
  • Successfully sit for and pass all sections of the certification examination.
  • Hold an active license to practice in a state or territory.
  • Adhere to the AOA Code of Ethics.


At the time of application, you must submit the following to the AOBD:

  • Completed Primary AOBD, signed online application.
  • Active license must be valid as of date of test.
  • Program Director Attestation form: All three years of your training must be declared complete for your application to be reviewed. Be sure your program director has submitted all necessary documentation to the AOCD Education Evaluating Committee no later than 30 days before the exam date.

Exam Fees

A non-refundable application fee of $1,800 must be submitted with your completed application. No application will be considered complete until all fees have been paid. If a candidate fails one or two parts of the exam, the fee for re-examination is $900. If the candidate fails three or four sections, it requires a re-take of the entire exam with a fee of $1,800.

Exam Dates and Deadlines

The Dermatology Primary Certification Exam is offered once per year, generally every fall. Applications are due August 1 of each exam year.

Exam Content Outline

The exam is administered in one nine-hour session. It is designed to thoroughly test the candidate’s knowledge of the basic sciences and clinical aspects of dermatology and related disciplines. The exam is psychometrically analyzed and updated yearly. There are four parts of the exam:

  • Clinical Part I – Dermatopathology In this section, candidates view histopathological digital images of glass slides and answer multiple-choice questions about the slide. Slides will be viewed using software called Kitware, which allows users to manipulate, rotate and magnify the slide. Candidates will be able to view slides at their own pace. Additional questions on staining, immunohistochemistry and other laboratory techniques are included in this section.
  • Clinical Part II – Clinical Dermatology This section utilizes high-resolution clinical images of dermatological conditions with associated multiple-choice questions, emphasizing clinical and laboratory dermatology.
  • Written Part I – Osteopathic Principles & Practice This written essay exam tests a candidate’s understanding of the osteopathic approach to dermatology, emphasizing a multifactorial approach to disease management. Case histories are presented. The candidate then responds in writing in the requested format, which may include a hospital consult, an outpatient consult, a letter to a referring physician, or instructions to patients or family members regarding the case. The candidate will discuss how they would approach the evaluation, diagnosis and management of the case. Candidates are scored based on the appropriateness of their evaluation and management process, their communication skills and the integration of the osteopathic concepts into the evaluation and management plan. Their ability to comprehend the presented clinical findings, apply this knowledge to solve the diagnostic problem, organize and communicate this information effectively and ethically are integral to the scoring of this essay exam.
  • Written Part II – Comprehensive This section covers basic science and clinical dermatology.
Dermatology Certification & OCC
Cutaneous Oncology (includes Malignant Melanoma, Non-melanoma skin cancer, Mycosis Fungoides, Mohs Surgery, Actinic Keratosis,
Cutaneous Malignant Lymphomas of Skin, Radiation Therapy)
Papulosquamous Disorders (includes Psoriasis, Lichen Planus, Parapsoriasis,  Seborrheic Dermatitis) 7%
Dermatitis, Noninfectious Erythematous Papular and Vesicular Diseases (includes Atopic Dermatitis and Nummular Eczema, Lymphocytic Infiltrations of the Skin, Urticaria) 7%
Pharmacology and Drug Eruptions (includes Biologic Treatments, Drug Eruptions) 5%
Connective Tissue Diseases (includes Connective Tissue Disorders) 3%
Noninfectious Vesiculobullous and Vesiculopustular Diseases (includes Dermatitis Herpetiformis & other Blistering Diseases, Bullous Pemphigoid, Pemphigus Vulgaris) 6%
Vascular Disorders (excluding tumors) (includes Cutaneous Vascular Disorders) 2%
Procedural Dermatology (includes Skin Surgery, Reconstructive Skin Surgery, Wound Care, Office-based Anesthesia, Office-based Sedation, Hospital-based surgery, Mesotherapy) 5%
Benign Neoplasms, Nevi and Cysts (includes Nevi, Cysts and Benign Neoplasms, Subcutaneous Tumors) 4%
Infectious Diseases (includes Diseases due to Superficial Fungus, Herpes Simples, Herpes Zoster and other Cutaneous Viral Diseases, Bacterial Infections, Mycobacterial Diseases, Diseases due to Deep Fungus, Syphilis, Leprosy 10%
Bites, Stings and Infestations (includes Parasitic Infections, Bites and Stings) 2%
Inflammatory Diseases of Epidermal Appendages and Cartilage (includes Disorders of Skin Appendages, Alopecia of various types, Nail Disorders, Acne) 7%
Pigmentary Disorders of the Skin (includes Other disturbances of Pigmentation, Vitiligo) 3%
Disorders Associated with Physical Agents (includes Photo dermatitis, Dermatosis due to physical factors such as Photodermatitis) 3%
Structure and Function of the Skin (include Basic Science) 1%
Genodermatoses (include Genodermatoses) 1%
Inflammatory Diseases of the Subcutaneous Fat (includes Erythema Nodosum, Diseases of subcutaneous fat, such as Panniculitis) 3%
Cosmetic Dermatology (includes Fillers, Sclerotherapy, Anti Aging Treatments, Botox, Hair Transplantation, Liposuction, Cosmetic Laser Surgery) 5%
Pediatric Dermatology (include pediatric dermatology) 1%
Nutritional, Endocrine, Metabolic, Perforating (includes Immunodeficiency Disorders, Endocrine Disorders, Errors of Metabolism, Nutritional Disorders) 4%
Miscellaneous Disorders of the Skin (includes Abnormality of Collagen, Elastic Tissue, Connective Tissue, Disorders of Mucous Membranes, Tropical Dermatology, Other non-classified disorders of the skin) 2%

Exam Scoring

Scoring Criteria

AOA reports candidates’ certification results using standardized scaled scores. Scaled scores are more valid and reliable compared to raw scores and make scores comparable across different forms of the exam. The AOA reports scores on a 200 to 800-point scale with a scaled score of 500 or higher required to pass.

  • A scaled score of 500 represents the minimum level of knowledge and skill necessary to pass the exam as established by AOA Certifying Boards.
  • The highest possible scaled score is 800.
  • The lowest possible scaled score is 200.
  • Overall scores are based on the total number of items answered correctly, regardless of content area.

Results by Content Area

  • When possible, a breakdown of exam scores by content area is provided to help you identify your areas of strength and areas that may need more development.
  • The number of items for each content area indicates the relative amount of test questions on the exam for that content area.
  • Content area scores are not weighted to calculate your overall score; each content area is scored separately after the overall analysis is complete.