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Written Exam


The following training requirements must be completed before a candidate may sit for the Written Exam for primary board certification in Cardiothoracic Surgery:

  • Complete four years of training in an AOA-approved residency program in General Surgery.
  • Complete two years of training in an AOA-approved residency program in Cardiothoracic Surgery.
  • Demonstrate eligibility for examination in any other manner required by the board.


Once training requirements for eligibility are met, candidates must submit the following:

  • A completed application.
  • Required fees.
  • Applicants who have not completed their training must submit a letter from their Program Director verifying the completion date of an AOA-approved residency training program.

Exam Fees

An exam fee of $1,750 must be submitted with your completed application. No application will be considered complete until all fees have been paid.

All cancellations must be made in writing. Exam cancellations received 30 days or more prior to the exam date will be refunded less a $500 cancellation fee. No refunds will be issued for cancellations received within 30 days of the exam date.

Exam Dates and Deadlines

The AOBS Written Exam is offered in May and October. The application period opens at least 90 days prior to exam date.

Exam Content Outline

The AOBS written exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions that tests the knowledge and understanding of basic science and clinical knowledge, skills and principles critical to the practice of Cardiothoracic Surgery. The examination is subjected to conventional psychometric analysis using accepted modern methods of key validation and item scoring. The total examination time is 4 hours and 30 minutes and is administered at Pearson Vue testing centers throughout the US.

The exam evaluates academic knowledge in the following areas:

Primary Certification
  1. 1. Basic Science
  2. 2. Cardiac & Cardiac Surgery
  3. 3. Chest
  4. 4. Esophagus
  5. 5. Mediastinal (Mediastinum)
  6. 6. Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine
  7. 7. Other
  8. 8. Pulmonary
  9. 9. Thoracic
  10. 10. Trauma
  • 1 – 3%
  • 49 – 53%
  • 1 – 5%
  • 2 – 5%
  • 1 – 4%
  • 1 – 3%
  • 6 – 8%
  • 2 – 6%
  • 23 – 27%
  • 1 – 3%

Exam Scoring

The AOBS sets passing standards for the Written Exam using an acceptable measurement model known as “criterion-referenced standard setting.” Using this model, the board specifies the particular content and level of content difficulty necessary to be considered a passing candidate.

All examination results will be reviewed by the board. AOBS will notify each candidate of exam results within 90 days of the exam.

Exam Failure

Following an initial or second failure of the AOBS Written Exam, the following rules apply:

  • The candidate may apply for re-examination and pay the required fees.
  • The candidate must re-take the exam within a two-year period following the initial or second failure. If the candidate fails to take the exam within this period, the candidate’s file will be considered inactive. Any further applications shall be considered new actions at the discretion of the board.

Following a third failure in the written qualifying and/or oral certifying examination, the candidate may apply for reexamination upon successful completion of a board review course. The applicant must provide documentation of course completion prior to retaking the written examination. Remediation does not guarantee passage of the examination process.