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    The ABFM Board Exam: A Comprehensive Guide  


    We're here to help you tackle the ABFM board exam, a crucial milestone in your career as a family medicine physician. Think of this exam as more than just a hurdle; it's a reflection of your dedication and skill. We'll walk you through the details of the ABFM exam, providing insights, study tips, and strategies to bolster your preparation. With our support, you'll gain the confidence and knowledge needed to navigate this important challenge successfully.

    Your Exam Structure

    The One-Day Family Medicine Certification Examination is divided into four separate sections of equal length and 100 minutes of pooled break time is available to be used between sections. 

    It is administered and proctored by staff at Prometric in approximately 350 locations around the United States and 180 international locations. 

    You do not need to have extensive familiarity with computers, but you should have experience with the use of a computer keyboard and mouse. Computer-based testing functions include the ability to navigate forward and backward through the examination, mark items for further review, highlight/strikeout question content, review answered, unanswered and marked items. A listing of completed questions, incomplete questions, and marked items may be accessed at any time during the examination for the currently active section. You must review or change items prior to the time expiration for each section. Once you end an exam section, or the exam has timed out, you cannot return to the questions in that section. The computer-based examination contains a clock showing the time remaining in the top center of the exam screen.




    2024 ABFM Exam Dates

    You'll select your date and Prometric location when you sign up to take the exam.  

    Get started with Prometric

    ABFM Become Certified Instructions


    Final Deadline to Submit Spring 2024 Online Application (late fee applies) February 29, 2024
    Spring 2024 Examination Dates April 9-13, 15-20, 22-26, 2024
    Spring 2024 Examination Results June 14, 2024
    Fall 2024 Registration Begins July 12, 2024
    First Deadline to Submit Fall 2024 Online Application (no fee) August 19, 2024
    First Deadline to Submit Fall 2024 Online Application (late fee applies) September 23, 2024
    Fall 2024 Examination Dates November 11-19, 2024 
    Examination Results (Tentative) December 27, 2024

    Exam Features

    Let's get the preliminaries out of the way.  

    The ABFM Certification Exam contains 300 single-best-answer, standard multiple-choice questions that follow the ABFM Blueprint. Each question is in paragraph form with an answer set containing one correct answer and three or four incorrect answers.

    The exam is divided into four sections each lasting 95 minutes each, separated by 100 minutes of pooled break time between sections. The entire exam appointment takes approximately 8 hours to complete with 6 hours and 20 minutes of total testing time.

    Each section of the examination consists of both pictorial and non-pictorial multiple-choice questions. Pictorial questions refer to stimulus images such as photos of X-rays, ECGs, rhythm strips, pictures, etc. These images will be presented in a separate tab along with the relevant test question on the computer screen. You will need to interpret ultrasound images for pictorial questions on the Certification Exam. It is administered and proctored by staff at Prometric in approximately 350 locations around the United States and 180 international locations. 

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    Purpose of the Exam

    The purpose of the secure one-day examination is to measure the knowledge that sets board-certified family physicians apart from non-physicians and other non-certified medical practitioners with less training and experience. It serves to assure the public that you are up to date and aware of best practices in medical care in the total breadth of family physicians.

    Successful completion of the Family Medicine Certification Examination is a necessary component for initial and ongoing certification. To be eligible to take the examination, you will need to complete all other stage requirements by the stated examination deadlines.

    Key Information to Know

    • You will need to have an approved application to take the exam. This can be completed online and includes selection of a test center. 
    • The exam day schedule consists of four 95-minute sections (75 questions each) and 100 minutes of pooled break time available between sections. 
    • It is administered semiannually over several dates in April and November. 
    • All questions are single best answer, multiple-choice format. 
    • It is delivered by our testing vendor, Prometric, in a secure, computer-based and standardized format. 

    You may choose to take the examination prior to the year in which your requirement is due, if desired. Each time you successfully complete the examination you will reset your 10-year examination requirement. Any time remaining on your previous certificate will be forgone. If you are unsuccessful on the examination, you may re-attempt provided that application requirements are met.

    Content Specifications

    ABFM follows the FM blueprint for the Certification Exam. While questions can originate from any content area within the model, some areas are routinely selected. The lists below describe the relative weight given to different elements in constructing the examinations:

    ABFM Certification Examination Content

    Cardiovascular 12%
    Endocrine 8%
    Gastrointestinal 7%
    Hematologic/Immune 3%
    Integumentary 6%
    Musculoskeletal 12%
    Nephrologic 3%
    Neurologic 3%
    Nonspecific 9%
    Psychogenic 7%
    Reproductive—Female 4%
    Reproductive—Male 1%
    Respiratory 13%
    Special Sensory 2%
    Population-based Care 5%
    This includes topics such as biostatistics and
    epidemiology, evidence-based medicine, prevention,
    health policy and legal issues, bioterror, quality
    improvement, and geographic/urban/rural issues.
    Patient-based Systems 5%
    This includes topics such as clinical decision-making,
    communication and doctor-patient interaction, family
    and cultural issues, ethics, palliative care, and end-of-life

    Pass Rates

    Year Total Pass Rate
    2020 91.2%
    2021 91.2%
    2022 88.9%

    See article: Why Are FM Boards Pass Rates Suddenly So Low?



    Do ITE Scores Indicate Board Exam Scores?

    To a degree.  Your ITE scores provide more of a negative indicator of your potential boards exam score.  If you did poorly on ITE's, you have your work cut out for you.  If you did well on ITE's, it doesn't mean you'll score the same on the boards, but it is a positive indicator.

    Start preparing early, pick a couple of good resources, and use them.  Frequent short study sessions, done in a methodical manner, are going to do a lot more for you than cramming.





    Strategizing Your Preparation

    Comprehensive Study Material

    Choose study resources that are aligned with the ABFM Blueprint, ensuring that you cover every topic in depth. Resources like Med-Challenger Family Medicine Exam Review offer tailored preparation with a vast question bank of constantly updated content.

    Mock Exams and Simulations

    Simulated exams, such as Med-Challenger's Board Exam Simulator, part of the Family Medicine Boards Prep Course, are instrumental in gauging your preparation level. They offer insights into your strong areas and those requiring improvement, enabling a focused preparation strategy.

    Time Management

    The ABFM exam evaluates candidates under timed conditions. Practice with timed mock exams to enhance your time management skills, ensuring that you can navigate through the questions effectively and efficiently during the actual exam.

    See also: How To Prepare for Family Medicine Boards (8 Tips to Ace ABFM Exams)


    Navigating the Exam Day

    Stay Calm

    It’s natural to feel anxious. However, staying calm and composed is crucial to think clearly and make informed decisions during the exam. Knowing what to expect can also help put your mind at ease.

    Pace Yourself

    The exam is structured to evaluate a broad spectrum of your skills and knowledge. Pacing yourself is crucial to ensure that every section of the exam is attempted with equal focus and concentration.

    Review Your Work

    If time permits, review your answers. Sometimes, a second look can offer new perspectives and insights.

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    Post Exam

    Notification of Examination Results

    It takes approximately 6-8 weeks from the last date in the examination window for candidates to receive their final and official examination results, which may be accessed in your MyABFM Portfolio when available. ABFM cannot release your scores over the phone or email. Maintaining up-to-date contact information through your MyABFM Portfolio will ensure you receive the results as soon as possible.

    Passing Criterion and Scoring

    The ABFM Certification Exam is scored using Item Response Theory (IRT), which considers the difficulty of each question to calculate a raw score. This raw score is then converted into a scaled score to account for variations in exam difficulty, ensuring fairness across different exam versions. Candidates pass the exam if their scaled score meets or exceeds the established passing standard, which is determined and occasionally adjusted by the ABFM’s Board of Directors. Candidates receive a score report that breaks down their performance in different areas, providing insights into their strengths and weaknesses. While the exam is not adaptive, it may include pretest questions that are not counted in the final score but are used for data gathering for future exams.