Subspecialty Certification Exam


To be eligible for subspecialty certification in Forensic Pathology, candidates must meet the criteria below:

  • Be a graduate of a COCA-accredited college of osteopathic medicine or an LCME accredited medical school in the U.S. or Canada.
    • Physicians who graduated from a medical school outside of the U.S. or Canada are also eligible if they hold a valid certificate, without expired examination dates, from the ECFMG.
  • Satisfactorily complete a one-year internship in an AOA-approved or ACGME-accredited or ACGME-accredited training program, or training equivalent to an internship as determined by the AOA Council on Postdoctoral Training.
  • Have completed two years each of AOA-approved or ACGME-accredited training in Anatomic Pathology and Forensic Pathology; or hold AOA certification in Anatomic & Clinical Pathology or combined Anatomic Pathology/Laboratory Medicine, and have completed one year of AOA-approved or ACGME-accredited training in Forensic Pathology.
  • Hold primary certification from the AOBPa in Anatomic Pathology or combined Anatomic & Clinical Pathology/Laboratory Medicine.
  • Hold an active license to practice in a state or territory or Canada.
  • Adhere to the AOA Code of Ethics.


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

  • A copy of your CV or resume.
  • Proof of fellowship completion (documentation of AOA recognition of training is preferred)
  • A recent passport-sized photo
  • If you’ve been out of fellowship longer than one year, you must submit documentation of your CME and/or related training.

Exam Fees

A fee of $1,850 must accompany your application. This covers the full exam fee of $1,800 and the application fee of $50. No application will be considered complete until all fees have been paid.

If an applicant fails any part of the exam, the fee for re-examination is $600 per section.

Beginning with the 2020 administration, an additional late fee will be applied to the exam fee after the first application deadline. The late fee will be 30% of the exam fee. Examination fees must be made by credit card within the application portal. No other forms of payment may be accepted.

Exam Dates and Deadlines

The Forensic Pathology Subspecialty Certification Exam is offered one weekend every fall. The application period opens in spring, and applications are due approximately three months prior to the exam date.

All candidates requesting exam accommodations must submit their requests at the time of application and by the first application deadline.

For more information on what to expect on exam day, please visit our Remote Proctored Examination information page.

Exam Content Outline

The Forensic Pathology Subspecialty Certification Exam consists of three sections:

  • Practical – Four sets of 15 representative virtual glass slides with 60 multiple-choice questions
  • Oral (Kodachromes) – 50 questions on clinical dermatology (80%) and electron microscopy, mycology, entomology (20%)
  • Written – 125 multiple-choice questions
Practical Exam Table of Specifications
Asphyxia 8%
Craniocerebral injury 8%
Cerebral disease 2%
Motor vehicle accidents 5%
Thermal injuries 3%
Post Mortem changes 10%
Sharp force injury 8%
Blunt force injury 10%
Drowning and bodies in water 5%
Electrical injuries 2%
Cardiac 5%
Drugs and alcohol 10%
Firearm injuries 12%
Infant death 8%
Anthropology 2%
Entomology 1%
Odontology 1%


Written Exam Table of Specifications
Aids 1%
Airplane Injuries 2%
Automobile Injuries 8%
Effects of Barometric Pressure 2%
Effects of Electric Current 5%
Effects of Heat & Cold 2%
Firearm Injuries 7%
Head Injuries 7%
Hospital Therapeutic Deaths 2%
Infanticide 5%
Asphyxia 8%
Alcohol and drug-related deaths 8%
Post Mortem Changes 8%
Railway Injuries 2%
Scene Investigation 5%
Sexual Crimes 5%
Starvation 2%
Sudden Death Natural Causes 5%
Wounds from Sharp Instruments 8%
Drowning 4%
DNA 1%
Thermal Injuries 3%

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.


Exam Failure

Failure to achieve a final passing score on the examination will require the applicant to be reexamined in all parts, unless the applicant failed only one part and only by 10% of the cut score. In such a situation, the board may allow a candidate to be re-examined only on the failed part the next time that exam is offered. If the candidate then fails to achieve a passing score, he/she must take the complete examination on subsequent attempts. The fee for reexamination will be set by the Board. Reexamination will be available at the next iteration of testing as scheduled by the AOBPa.