Vascular Surgery Qualifying Exam

  • The Vascular Surgery Qualifying Examination (VSQE) is offered annually as the first of two exams required for board certification in vascular surgery. The exam consists of about 250 multiple-choice questions designed to assess a surgeon's cognitive knowledge of core surgery and vascular surgery. See the exam's content outline (pdf) for further information.
  • It is a one-day exam lasting approximately 6 hours and is held at computer-testing facilities across the U.S. The exam is administered in four 90-minute sessions, with optional 10-minute breaks between sessions, 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 to 8 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. Successful completion of the General Surgery QE or Surgical Principles Exam is no longer a prerequisite for this examination.
    Next Exam: September 17, 2024
    Application Deadline: July 1 (initial deadline); July 15 (late deadline)

7-Year Limit

  • Individuals who complete vascular surgery training after July 1, 2012, will have no more than 7 academic years immediately following training to become certified (i.e., pass both the VSE and VSCE). 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 training program in vascular surgery accredited by the ACGME or the RCPSC. (See also Osteopathic Trainees Policy)
  • Approved Application: Graduates of independent (5+2) or early specialization programs (4+2) must have an approved application to the General Surgery Qualifying Exam. All application requirements must be met and it must be signed by the general surgery program director. The exam itself, however, does not need to be taken for vascular surgery certification.
  • Training Time: Have acquired no fewer than 48 weeks of full-time clinical activity in each year of the vascular surgery training program. The 48 weeks may be averaged; see Leave Policy for further details.
  • Responsibility: Have obtained increasing levels of responsibility during vascular surgery training, including serving as chief resident for a 12-month period.
  • Operative Log: Submit an operative experience report as surgeon and assistant surgeon that is deemed acceptable to the ABS, not only as to volume, but as to spectrum and complexity of cases. Specific case requirements:

    • At least 250 major vascular reconstructions must be listed.
    • For individuals who began integrated (0+5) training in July 2015 or thereafter, a minimum of 40 cases in surgical critical care must be listed, with at least one in each of the seven categories: ventilatory management; bleeding (non-trauma); hemodynamic instability; organ dysfunction / failure; dysrhythmias; invasive line management and monitoring; and parenteral / enteral nutrition.
    Cases must be from the applicant's vascular surgery residency or fellowship and verified by the program director.
  • ACLS and ATLS: Have been certified in the programs Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) and Advanced Trauma Life Support® (ATLS®). Applicants are not required to be currently certified in these programs; they must only provide documentation of past certification.
  • RPVI Certification: Applicants to the VSQE must have obtained Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation® (RPVI®) certification, and provide documentation of current or past certification during application. The exam required for RPVI certification is now offered year-round, with official results posted within the next week. See www.apca.org/pvi for more details.
  • Number of Programs: Have completed their vascular surgery training at no more than 2 programs. For integrated programs, the final 2 years must be completed at the same institution. For independent programs, the final 18 months must be completed at the same institution. Individuals in independent programs must also have completed their general surgery residency at no more than 3 programs.
  • Professional Activity: Be actively and primarily engaged in the practice of vascular 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 another recognized surgical specialty. An exception to this requirement is active military duty.
  • Adhere to the ABS Ethics and Professionalism Policy.
Requirements for Vascular Surgery CE

The following requirements must be met for a candidate to register for the Vascular Surgery Certifying Exam (VSCE), upon successful completion of the VSQE. However, if VSQE applicants already possess these, they should supply the documentation with their application:

  • Medical License: VSCE candidates must possess a full and unrestricted U.S. or Canadian medical license. Candidates are encouraged to start this process early, as it may take several months. Candidates are also required to immediately inform the ABS of any conditions or restrictions in force on any active medical license they hold.

Full-Time Research Limits

  • For individuals in integrated programs, no more than 6 months of residency may be devoted to research. For individuals in independent programs, no more than 10% of the total required vascular surgical experience may be devoted to research. Any research time beyond 10% requires prior ABS approval.

Application Process

  • Individuals who meet ABS requirements may apply for the exam through the online application process, which is posted in early spring (see How to Apply). After your application is approved, you will receive an email with instructions on how to register for this year's exam.
  • Once you complete registration and submit the examination fee, it will take up to five business days to process. Following processing, an Exam Admission Card/Authorization Letter with instructions on how to schedule your exam center directly with Pearson VUE will then be posted on your Exam Records and Results page.
  • Active duty military personnel who may 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.

Canadian Applicants

  • Canadian applicants must adhere to all of the above requirements and must have completed all general surgery and vascular surgery training in programs accredited by the RCPSC or ACGME. For independent trainees, a minimum of 12 months of rotations related to vascular surgery must have been completed during general surgery residency. Canadian applicants should also make certain that any "block rotations" will meet VSB-ABS requirements.

Exam Opportunities

Current Applicants:

  • Individuals who complete the required vascular surgery training after July 1, 2012, will have no more than 7 academic years following this training to complete the certification process (i.e., pass both the VSQE and VSCE). The 7-year period begins immediately upon completion of vascular surgery training.
  • Upon application approval, they will be granted up to 4 opportunities within a 4-year period to pass the VSQE, providing they applied immediately after training. Individuals who delay in applying for certification will lose opportunities to take and pass the VSQE.
  • If an 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 vascular surgery training prior to July 1, 2012, were granted up to 5 opportunities within a 5-year period to pass the VSQE following application approval. If an applicant decided not to take the exam in a given year, it was a lost opportunity.
  • 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.

Vascular Surgery Certifying Exam

Upon successful completion of the VSQE, you will be admissible to the Vascular Surgery Certifying Exam (VSCE), an oral exam, and will be contacted with registration information for the next exam.

For more information regarding certification in vascular surgery, refer to the Booklet of Information - Vascular Surgery (pdf).

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