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Plastic Surgery Exams

Table of Contents

This section is intended to demystify the exam process for plastic surgery trainees. 

In-Service Exam

Trainees in plastic surgery generally take an in-training exam every year during residency.

General Information

  • Called the InService
  • Offered once per year during the first week of March
  • Some programs do not have interns take it or will have them take the general surgery ABSITE in place of or in addition to it (varies by program)
  • Administration and proctoring of the exam can be provided by the residency program (rather than requiring it to be taken at a Prometric test site)
  • Board certified plastic surgeons can take the exam each year for CME credit

Preparation for the Exam

  • The InService has 5 sections
    • Comprehensive plastic surgery 
    • Hand & Extremities
    • Craniofacial
    • Aesthetics
    • Core surgical principals
  • The best preparation for the exam is to go through old exam questions available on the ACAPS website

Written Boards

  • Occurs during May of the final (chief) year of plastic surgery residency
    • Must be taken at a Prometric test center
  • 350 multiple choice question computer based exam (decreased from 400 in 2017)
    • 300 scored questions
    • 50 un-scored questions
    • Testing blocks divided into three blocks of 100 questions and one block of 50 questions
    • 60 minutes of total break time
  • Passage rates are published annually on the ACAPS statistics website. For first time test takers, pass rate by year was:
    • 2018 = 88.9%
    • 2017 = 92.7%
    • 2016 = 99.1%
    • 2015 = 95.7%
    • 2014 = 96.5%

For more information about the written exam, visit ACAPS

Oral Boards

  • Offered each November in Scottsdale, AZ to qualified board eligible plastic surgery applicants
  • To be eligible, board applicants must:
    • Graduated from a plastic surgery residency (either integrated or independent track)
    • Passed the written plastic surgery boards
    • Have performed at least 50 qualifying surgical cases where applicant is the primary surgeon
      • Cannot be during training
        • For example, case collection and eligibility starts after fellowship, not during
    • Submitted 9 months of surgical cases (starting July 1st)
      • Submitted online 
    • Submitted cases are reviewed by the board and 5 cases are selected for the exam
    • Applicants then submit electronic “case books” containing required pertinent documentation
    • These case books are reviewed by the board to determine if sufficient information was provided
      • If not, the case in question may be thrown out and the applicant is required to submit 3 additional cases and associated case books
    • The board may also deem an applicant not qualified to sit for the exam, in which case they can reapply the next year
      • Applicants are told prior to exam dates to prevent unnecessary travel
    • Applicants have three attempts to pass before additional training is required to be eligible again
  • Passage rates are published annually on the ACAPS statistics website. For first time test takers, pass rate by year was:
    • 2018 = 94.3%
    • 2017 = 98.0%
    • 2016 = 90.1%
    • 2015 = 91.8%
    • 2014 = 83.6%
  • The exam consists of 5 known cases (provided by the applicant) and unknown cases (provided by the board)
    • During the exam, unknown cases are provided on an electronic tablet (e.g. a large iPad)

For detailed information about the oral exam, visit ACAPS