If you’re reading this, it probably means you’re double or triple boarded and you’re struggling to decide whether to take a combined ABPN board exam or, instead, take the two or three individual exams in the specialty areas in which you’re seeking to maintain your board certification.
I cannot decide for you, but I can lay out the pros and cons so you can make a more informed decision.
Important Information About ABPN Combined Continuous Certification Exams
Note, first, that combined exams are offered only as continuous certification (CC) exams. There is no option to achieve initial certification through taking a combined exam.
The American Board of Psychiatry Combined CC exams consist of 2 or 3 of the following specialties/subspecialties:
- Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Addiction Psychiatry
- Geriatric Psychiatry
- Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry
- Forensic Psychiatry
The next dates for a Psychiatry Combined CC exam are March 25-29, 2024. You can learn more about the combined exam here.
The Neurology Combined CC exams consist of 2 or 3 of the following specialties/subspecialties:
- Child Neurology
- Clinical Neurophysiology
- Neurodevelopmental Disabilities
- Neuromuscular Medicine
- Vascular Neurology
The next dates for a Neurology Combined CC exam are May 6-10, 2024.
Only Continuous Certification exams administered by the ABPN are available in the combined testing format. Exams administered by other Boards are NOT available in combined formats:
The Pros and Cons of Taking an ABPN Combined CC Exam
Many features of a combined CC exam are not simple pros or cons that apply to everyone. They are a pro or a con depending on the particular exam candidate.
Take, for example, the fact the combined exam allows maintaining multiple certifications through taking and passing a single exam. Is this a good or bad thing? For some this is attractive: taking a single exam is seen as better than two or three exams. The exam candidate believes they can hunker down for a period of intense study and get all their continuous certification exams done in a single day.
For others, this combination of two or three specialties/subspecialties is very unattractive: each exam covers a large number of topics, each of which requires its own focus of study. To then choose the combined option, one that requires covering two or three times the number of topics in a single exam is seen as something to avoid rather than to celebrate.
For some readers, it will be clear on which side of the cost/benefit assessment they lie. You may be very clear you want the option of “one study period focused on a single exam” rather than spreading out your studies and taking multiple exams over a period of perhaps two or three years. Or, conversely, you may be very clear you DO want to divide up your studies to make studying for each exam more manageable.
Or you may continue to be torn between the two options. If so, what else can you consider to help you decide?
Here is my answer – consider your previous exam performances. Do you have a history of doing very well on exams, that is, scoring highly on them? If so, this suggests you have good study skills, an inherently good grasp of the material even prior to reviewing it, and/or good test-taking skills. If this is you, then you are a good candidate for the ABPN Combined CC exams.
If, on the other hand, you have a history of barely squeaking by on exams, your study skills are rusty, you have extremely limited study time, and/or you do not practice in one or more of the specialties/subspecialties that you will be tested on, then you might be a better candidate for taking the CC exams separately. Your motto could be “divide and conquer.”
The financial cost of combined vs. individual exams is not much of a factor in reaching a decision: the ABPN charges more for double and triple combined exams than for single exams. These are the 2024 costs: $2,400 for 2 modules and $3,100 for 3 modules. So, you may save some money on a combined exam, but not much.
There is another combined exam feature that could be a factor in making a decision but, I believe, is not. It is that the combined exam has fewer questions in total than the total of two or three individual exams. Of course, answering fewer total questions takes less time. And, of course, taking a single exam is achieved in a single day.
However, answering fewer questions does NOT mean needing to study less. The same wide range of topics are covered on the combined exam as on the individual exams considered together. And, really, it’s the amount of time that a candidate needs to set aside for study that is the real factor in whether they pass their exam. The total amount of time spent at the exam center taking the exam or exams is a much less significant factor.
How Can Beat the Boards! Courses Help?
I strongly believe all ABPN exams require an honest and intensive period of study. Even the exams that have high pass rates are not easy exams. These exams truly “test” your knowledge, skill, and clinical judgment. The good news is that several Beat the Boards! courses are available to help you get fully and deeply prepared with a guided approach to study in the most efficient way possible. These courses do NOT focus on anything that is NOT tested.
If you are taking the combined ABPN board exam, remember, that all Beat the Boards! courses are AMA PRA Category 1 CME credit approved and are likely reimbursable from your educational funds.
Get a discount on Combined ABPN Board Exam prep material
Also, if you take a combined ABPN exam, you can purchase two or three Beat the Boards! review courses for a discount. Email Lynne Garcia at email@example.com or call her at 844-332-5454 to discuss a special rate on the board prep material relevant to your fields of study.