The American Board of Anesthesiology’s Standardized Oral Examination for Initial Board Certification

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The American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) has been administering an oral examination as part of its initial certification process since 1939. Among the 24 member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties, 13 other boards also require passing an oral examination for physicians to become certified in their specialties. However, the methods used to develop, administer, and score these examinations have not been published. The purpose of this report is to describe the history and evolution of the anesthesiology Standardized Oral Examination, its current examination development and administration, the psychometric model and scoring, physician examiner training and auditing, and validity evidence. The many-facet Rasch model is the analytic method used to convert examiner ratings into scaled scores for candidates and takes into account how difficult grader examiners are and the difficulty of the examination tasks. Validity evidence of the oral examination includes that it measures aspects of clinical performance not accounted for by written certifying examinations, and that passing the oral examination is associated with a decreased risk of subsequent license actions against the anesthesiologist. Explaining the details of the Standardized Oral Examination provides transparency about this component of initial certification in anesthesiology.

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