Why You Still Need to Take the ABEM Recertification (ConCert™) Exam…For Now
The ABEM recertification exam, also known as the ConCert exam, is traditionally administered annually in the fall, usually in September. The exam consists of 205 multiple choice questions given over two blocks. You have 4 hours and 15 minutes available to complete the exam.
In 2018, ABEM announced they would be implementing an alternative to the traditional ConCert exam called the MyEMCert. Does this mean that you no longer have to take the traditional ConCert exam? Well… don’t celebrate just yet. As of this writing (Feb 2019), even though ABEM announced an alternative to the ConCert, we still have to take the traditional recertification exam. Nonetheless, let’s look into what the road ahead has in store for us.
What is MyEMCert?
Well… no one knows yet, not even ABEM. MyEMCert has a planned launch date for 2020. And it is a pilot program. Encouraging, though.
What do we know about MyEMCert right now?
According to ABEM, it will consist of the following:
- Shorter, more frequent tests: Each test will assess one or more specific content areas relevant to the clinical practice of Emergency Medicine, such as cardiovascular disorders or trauma. The tests will be about an hour long.
- The ability to take a test again if it’s not passed the first time: Additional chances will be available to retake and pass a test, which will give physicians a clearer idea of what topics need to be reviewed.
- Physicians will take the test remotely and have access to references.
How does this impact you?
If your certification expires in 2019:
Let’s get more specific. I’ll use myself as an example. When I log in to my ABEM portal and check my certification status, this is what I see:
My current ABEM certification is set to expire on 12/31/2019. Do I have to take the ConCert? Yes. However, I did not wait until 2019, rather, I took it early. How early? I took the ConCert back in 2015, which means that I would not have to take it again until 2029! 14 years after I took my first recertification exam, I’ll be required to take my second. More on this later.
If your certification expires in 2020:
Well… you may be able to participate in the pilot MyEMCert, but ABEM is still figuring out how they will do this. In the most recent newsletter, ABEM states they will post more information about who can participate in the MyEMCert pilot in the coming months. So, if your certification expires in 2020, chances are you’ll have to take the traditional ConCert. My suggestion… take it in 2019. More on this later.
If your certification expires in 2021:
You are more likely to be included in the new MyEMCert process, but it is not guaranteed. ABEM states they are “phasing in” MyEMCert in 2021, which does not mean everyone will be able to participate. So, should you plan on taking the alternative to the ConCert? My suggestion… take the ConCert early. For example, if you take the ConCert in 2019, the next time you have to think about it is in 2031!
Did you know you could take the ConCert early?
Until we know more about when the MyEMCert will be fully implemented, the best alternative is to take the ConCert early. ABEM allows you to take the ConCert Exam up to 5 years before your certification expires. This is what I did, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made regarding maintenance of certification (the second-best decision was getting LLSAs done early!). My certification expires in 2019, yet I took the ConCert in 2015, which means the next time I have to take an exam, whether it is the traditional ConCert or the MyEMCert, is in 2029! It is a great feeling to not have to think about this for a while.
In addition to allowing us to take the ConCert up to 5 years early, in 2019, ABEM began to offer the ConCert twice per year: once in the spring and once in the fall. I do not see any inherent advantage to this, other than the flexibility it provides, and one exam date may fit your lifestyle better than the other.
Who shouldn’t take the ConCert early?
If your certification expires in 2023 or later, it is likely that you’ll have the option to take the alternative ConCert, otherwise known as the MyEMCert. And I think this is a very reasonable option for maintenance of certification. While I believe we’ll spend more time doing the required work than for the traditional ConCert, I suspect it’ll be more engaging and provide a broader scope of useful knowledge.
It’s great that ABEM is listening to its emergency physicians and developing new ways to maintain our certification. As ABEM works on developing its new process, the next few years will have many unknowns. Therefore, I suggest going with the most certain option, which is to take the ConCert exam early. Get it over with and don’t think about it for the next 10+ years.
Conflict of interest
As creator of Rosh Review, I may benefit financially from people who take the ConCert early if they choose to purchase a subscription to Rosh Review’s Emergency Medicine Qbank to prepare for the exam. However, the thoughts and ideas shared in this article are based on my own recertification process and decision to take the ConCert exam early. If you plan to use a Qbank to study for the ConCert, there are many other resources other than Rosh Review such as PEER, HippoEM, EMRAP, Boardvitals, Med-Challenger, True Learn, EMedHome, and the 1200 Questions book by Aldeen and Rosenbaum. There are also live courses such as those offered by the National Emergency Medicine Board Review and Ohio ACEP. Plus many more. All of these Qbanks and courses can prepare you for the ConCert exam. You have the option to choose the one that best meets your needs.
Good luck with whichever decision you make.
Adam Rosh, MD