General Surgery Qualifying Exam

  • The General Surgery Qualifying Examination (GSQE) is offered annually as the first of two exams required for board certification in general surgery. The exam consists of about 300 multiple-choice questions designed to evaluate a surgeon's knowledge of general surgical principles and applied science. See also the exam's content outline (pdf).
  • The GSQE is a one-day exam lasting approximately 8 hours and is held at computer-testing facilities across the U.S. The exam is administered in four 115-minute sessions, with optional 10-minute breaks after sessions one and three, and one longer 40-minute break offered between the second and third session. Once a session has concluded, you will not be able to revisit those questions.
  • Results are posted approximately 4 weeks after the exam; you will be notified by email when they are available. The exam's contents are copyrighted and may not be reproduced or disclosed in any manner.
    Next Exam: July 18, 2024
    Application Deadlines: April 15 (initial deadline); May 13 (late deadline)

7-Year Limit

  • Individuals who complete general surgery residency after July 1, 2012, will have no more than 7 academic years immediately following residency to become certified (i.e., pass both the GSQE and GSCE). See Exam Opportunities below for details.

General Requirements

It is expected that trainees will meet all of the requirements listed. To be eligible for this exam, applicants must:

  • Accredited Program: Have satisfactorily completed a residency training program in general surgery accredited by the ACGME or RCPSC. (See also Osteopathic Trainees Policy)
    For applicants who will not complete their residency training by June 30 of their chief year, the program must have obtained prior ABS approval for the extension of training. Applicants will be required to provide documentation of this approval at the time of application to the GSQE. All training must be completed by the end of August to be eligible for that year's exam.
  • Training: Have met all ABS training requirements for graduate education in general surgery.
  • Operative Log: Submit an operative experience report by June 7, 2024, that meets ABS standards of volume, complexity, and diversity of cases. See training requirements for specific operative experience requirements.
  • Professional Activity: Be actively engaged in the practice of general surgery as indicated by holding full surgical privileges in this discipline at an accredited health care institution, or be currently engaged in pursuing additional graduate education in a component of general surgery or other recognized surgical specialty. An exception to this requirement is active military duty.
  • Documentation of ACLS, ATLS, FLS and FES: Submit copies of certificates showing that certification in each of these programs was successfully achieved. Proof of certification in FLS and FES must be submitted with the application by June 7, 2024. Applicants do not need to be currently certified in these programs.
  • Other Required Documentation: For residents who trained in multiple programs, documentation of satisfactory completion for years in prior programs must be submitted. For international medical graduates, a photocopy of an ECFMG certificate is required.
  • Medical License: While possession of a medical license is not required to apply for the GSQE or for the Certifying Exam (CE), candidates must possess a full and unrestricted U.S. or Canadian medical license before they will be considered certified by the ABS. Candidates must provide proof of medical license before they will be issued their certificate, and will be listed in the ABS verification system as "in the examination process" until proof is submitted. Temporary, limited, educational or institutional licenses will not be accepted, even if you are currently in a fellowship.
  • Adhere to the ABS Ethics and Professionalism Policy.

Application Process

  • Individuals who meet ABS requirements may apply for the exam through the online application process, which is posted each year in early spring (see How to Apply). Applicants in U.S. programs must use the login information mailed to programs at that time. Canadian applicants should contact the ABS office for access. Once all items are submitted, you will receive an email with instructions on how to register for this year's exam.
  • Once you are registered for the exam, you will receive an exam admission authorization letter with final details and instructions on reserving a place at a Pearson VUE testing center. You must have this letter to reserve a testing center spot. You will also be able to schedule your test center with Pearson as soon as your registration is complete.
  • Active duty military personnel who encounter difficulty taking the exam due to their service should contact the ABS as soon as possible. Please see How to Apply for information about other exam accommodations.
Exam Registration/Scheduling
  • After registering for the exam, an Exam Admission/Authorization Letter will be posted to the applicant’s ABS portal within 2-5 business days. The Exam Admission/Authorization letter will not be mailed or emailed. Once posted, applicants will need to log on to their portal to access the Exam Admission/Authorization letter in order to schedule a test center with Pearson VUE immediately.
  • The ABS provides Pearson VUE with the applicant’s mailing address that is on file at the time of registration. If this information is not updated, an incorrect mailing address will be transmitted to Pearson VUE. To facilitate the best exam center scheduling experience with Pearson VUE, applicants should ensure that the ABS has a current mailing address at the time of registration.
  • If requesting accommodations, applicants must have submitted the appropriate forms and documentation and have obtained ABS approval prior to registering for the examination. Registering and scheduling an exam center without prior ABS approval will result in an examination appointment without accommodations.
  • Be advised that testing centers have limited capacity and may fill up well before the exam date, particularly in urban areas. Applicants should contact Pearson VUE as soon as the admission letter is posted to the ABS portal to reserve space at a local testing center. If applicants delay, they will likely have to travel outside of the local geographical area in order to schedule the exam.

Exam Opportunities

Current Applicants:

  • Individuals who complete residency after July 1, 2012, will have no more than 7 academic years following residency to complete the certification process (i.e., pass both the GSQE and GSCE). The 7-year period begins immediately upon completion of residency.
  • Upon application approval, applicants will be granted up to 4 opportunities within a 4-year period to pass the GSQE, providing they applied immediately after training. Individuals who delay in applying will lose opportunities to take and pass the GSQE.
  • If the applicant decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity. See the ABS' exam admissibility policy for further details.

Prior Policy:

  • Individuals who completed residency prior to July 1, 2012, were required to apply for the GSQE within 3 academic years after completion of residency. Upon application approval, they were granted up to 5 opportunities within a 5-year period to pass the GSQE. They were also required to take the GSQE at least once during the first two years following application approval.
  • During the exam admissibility period, individuals who postponed or were unsuccessful will be contacted each year regarding the next exam; a new application is not necessary.
  • The above limits are absolute. Individuals who exceed any of the above restrictions will lose their admissibility and must pursue a readmissibility pathway to re-enter the certification process.

General Surgery Certifying Exam

Upon successful completion of the GSQE, you will be admissible to the General Surgery Certifying Exam, an oral exam, and may sign up for an upcoming exam date.

For complete requirements regarding certification in surgery, refer to the ABS Booklet of Information - Surgery (pdf).

For specific inquiries, please send an email to the exam coordinator.