Prepping for the ABIM Exam: an Internist’s Candid Perspective (Part IV)

It’s disconcerting and a little sad when I realize that some of my most memorable moments of the past year involve the ABIM test. But October 4, 2012 was a fateful day for me and internal medicine docs all across the United States. When I woke up, I received an email in my inbox with the header “Important News about your ABIM Exam.” The email continued: “You can now view your results for the Summer 2012 Internal Medicine Certification Examination. Please go to Physician Login at and access your password-protected Home Page:”


I quickly logged on and found out I…PASSED!


I jumped up and down, let out a yelp of glee, and started dancing in my boxers like I was at an LA club. A flurry of texts from my co-residents followed. Everyone in my residency class had passed. I logged onto Facebook. Sure enough, there were posts like “I’m a board-certified internal medicine physician,” as well as more colorful ones using celebratory curse words. The latter ones got more likes and comments.


For the next few days, being a newly-minted board-certified internal medicine physician was my primary identity. Tickets sold-out at the concert? They’ll give me backstage access. I’m board certified. Trying to reach a very important person? He’ll call back. I’m board-certified. A pretty girl at the bar? She’ll date me. I’m board…you get the picture.


Eventually the novelty wears off—during that time period, my friends mockingly called me Dr. Feng— but it’s still a badge of honor you’ll be able to carry with you the rest of your life.


In the meantime, let me let you in on a little secret that I found out weeks after everyone else did. You can actually check to see who passed the test by logging onto this site: and scroll down to “Verify a Physician’s ABIM Certification.”


If one of your colleagues did not pass the test, then he or she will have no record of certification. Sneaky, huh? Fortunately, every single person whose name I entered passed, even those people, for reasons completely unrelated to medicine, who I hoped wouldn’t pass. According to the statistics, 86% of first-time test takers passed in 2011, while between 87% and 95% of first-time test takers passed in previous years. Ultimately, this test, as I mentioned before, is either/or: Either you pass, or you fail and have to take it again next year. Still, this means that of the 7,000 plus first time test takers who sit for the exam each year, at least 700 will fail—a fact you can’t take lightly.


You can find the final part of Dr.Feng’s prepping for the ABIM board exam and other posts by Dr.Feng on the Knowmedge Blog. You can find also additional topics and questions directly from the Knowmedge Internal Medicine ABIM Board Exam Review Questions QVault. _______________________________________________________________________________

Charles Feng is an internal medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente. He will be starting an allergy / immunology fellowship at UC Davis in the summer.

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