Updates About Changes to the Oral Certifying Exam

Posted 10/17/2023 | Residency & Training, Initial Certification

Please Note: Development of the new ABOHNS Oral Certifying Exam is an evolving process. Continue to check our website for monthly updates containing the most current information.

In early April, ABOHNS announced that the Oral Certifying Exam (OCE) would begin to incorporate cases from a candidate’s practice into the content of their Exam, beginning with the next OCE administration (anticipated to be in 2025).

At the recent AAO-HNSF Annual Meeting in Nashville, Dr. Brian Nussenbaum, ABOHNS Executive Director, joined a panel of ABOHNS Directors to present additional details about the redesigned Exam.

The objectives of the presentation were to explain the rationale for changing the format, structure, and process of the OCE; to develop an understanding of key decisions guiding the Exam changes; and to describe implementation plans for the redesigned Exam.

Those who wish to view a recording of the 63-minute presentation, which includes a question-and-answer session, may do so here.

Key points from the presentation can be found below.


  1. Pass the Written Qualifying Exam
  2. Complete all training, including fellowships (ACGME and non-ACGME)
  3. Currently practicing otolaryngology-head and neck surgery with independent, autonomous practice and have an unrestricted Medical License in the US or Canada
  4. If practicing in Canada, be a Fellow of the RCPS(C) in good standing
  5. Have operative privileges at a hospital and/or certified surgical center (unless on Non-operative Pathway)
  6. All cases must be submitted from practice sites within the US or Canada
    (exception for active-duty military)
  7. Accredited residency training from the ACGME or RCPS(C) must have been completed within 7 years of the date of the OCE.


  • The Application Portal is anticipated to open in January 2024 for the 2025 OCE
    • Eligibility requirements will be verified
    • HIPAA Business Associate Agreements will be completed
  • Once an application is approved, the candidate will submit cases collected during a 9-month period, which is anticipated to begin in March 2024
    • Cases must be submitted via the online Oral Exam Case Log Portal
    • Accommodations will be considered for Parental/Caregiver/Medical Leave – please contact ABOHNS at oralexam@abohns.org if you anticipate these may be needed
  • Case logs must include:
    • All consecutive surgical cases with the qualifying CPT-codes from inpatient, surgical center, and office
      • A required minimum of 40 operative cases
    • 40 non-operatively managed new patients with the qualifying ICD-codes
    • All hospitalized patients admitted under the name of the candidate
  • Each case is a unique patient, no matter how many procedures (staged, reoperative, etc.)
    • Number of cases = Number of patients
  • No unbundling of cases is allowed
    • Case = all portions of an operative session
  • The final, submitted billed codes based on the CMS 1500 claim form
  • For those with non-operative practices, there will an opportunity to take the OCE and become board certified through a non-operative pathway


  • Ten cases will be selected in advance of the OCE, for which additional details from the medical record will need to be sent to ABOHNS to provide the content for the exam
    • There will be two exam sessions with five cases per session
    • Each exam session will be 50-minutes (10 minutes per case, average)
    • Two examiners will be in each session (four examiners total)
  • The exam will be administered in person

Thank you for your patience as we proceed with implementing changes to the Oral Certifying Exam. We will continue to communicate updates and anticipate a virtual Town Hall before the end of this year. In the meantime, please direct any urgent questions to oralexam@abohns.org.