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ACVS Certification Examination

The new two-phase examination format for residents who started after August 1, 2013, is described below.

February 1–February 2, 2016
Catamaran Resort Hotel
San Diego, CA

Sunday, January 31, 2016: Orientation Session
Monday, February 1, 2016: Morning: Practical Examination; Afternoon: Case-Based Examination
Tuesday, February 2, 2016: Full day: Written Examination


  • November 20, 2015: Accommodations for Examinees with Disabilities Eligibility Questionnaire request form, with supporting documentation (if applicable). This form is required of all candidates.
  • December 15, 2015: Examination contract and supporting materials.

Examination Fees: For 2016, the ACVS examination fee is $1,600 for first time examinees. The re-examination fee (any portion of the exam) is $1,250.

2016 Examination Information PamphletThe 2016 Examination Information Pamphlet is now available and can be downloaded. The Pamphlet provides additional information regarding examination rules and security, the examination schedule, a suggested reading list, and hotel accommodations. Anyone who has taken the ACVS Certification Examination in the past and those whose credentials are accepted this year (2015) will receive an email in mid-November 2015 regarding the availability of the 2016 examination materials. The email will be sent to the email address in the ACVS database. Potential candidates should be sure the ACVS office has a current valid email address.

NOTE: Individuals who are board certified by the American College of Veterinary Surgeons in 2016 or later will be issued a time-limited certificate. Certificates will be good for five years. Diplomates with time-limited certificates will need to document continuous professional development through a variety of activities, such as attending or presenting at continuing education meetings, publishing manuscripts, serving on ACVS committees, and participating in resident training. The process for maintenance of certification will be posted on the ACVS website.

2016 ACVS Examination Packet. The 2016 ACVS Examination Packet documents are now available for download.

There are two deadlines for submitting the required documentation. The documentation must be received at the ACVS office on or before these deadlines. NO EXCEPTIONS will be made.

  • November 20, 2015: The Accommodations for Examinees with Disabilities Eligibility Questionnaire request form, with supporting documentation (if applicable). This form is required of all candidates. Those requesting accommodations MUST return TOGETHER, this form and the required supporting documentation.
  • December 15, 2015: The completed and notarized ACVS Certification Examination Contract, Reply and Checklist, digital photo (if applicable) and appropriate fee.

Additional Resources:

If you have questions regarding the 2016 examination, contact Lynne Marshall at lmarshall@acvs.org.

New Examination Process

ACVS is introducing a new 2-part examination.  This new process takes effect for residents whose training began after August 1, 2013.

The new ACVS Certification Examination consists of two parts: Phase I Surgical Knowledge and Phase II Surgical Competency. 

Program Directors and Resident Advisors are encouraged to review the reading list and the overview of the contents of the Phase I examination, and to develop a plan to cover this material during the first year and a half of the residency.  Residents are ultimately responsible for preparing for the examination. A sample reading template has been developed for small animal to show how the reading might be incorporated into the residency as preparation for Phase I.  Please note, the reading template was developed in 2012 and may not reflect the suggested or final reading required for the Phase I exam to be offered in 2016. 

Suggested reading lists:

  • Large Animal
  • Small Animal (revised January 2015 to correct list numbering; Boothe was not clearly identified in the prior version)

Eligible residents may take Phase I during the spring of their second year of training.  In order to be eligible to take the Phase I examination a resident must submit all components of their training for review by the Resident Credentialing Committee for each review cycle, and document the following

  • two satisfactory Semi-Annual Reviews,
  • a minimum of 50 activity weeks completed and approved by the Resident Credentialing Committee, and
  • a minimum of two seminars completed and approved by the RCC.

The Phase I examination must be completed and passed before the candidate is eligible to take the Phase II examination.  The Phase I examination will be computer based and take place at regional testing centers in the U.S and Canada.  ACVS will publish examination information in the fall of 2015, including a final reading list and examination fees. The first Phase I exam will be held on April 4, 2016.

Phase II will be offered in the first three months of the year following the end of the residency.  In order to be eligible to take the Phase II examination all residency training requirements must be completed and approved by the RCC; the Phase I exam must be successfully passed; and a Credentials Application must be approved by the RCC and Board of Regents.

Phase I Surgical Knowledge Examination

The Phase I Surgical Knowledge Examination will be comprised of multiple-choice questions covering the physiology and anatomy of gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal, urogenital, neurological/special senses, integumentary, and endocrine systems. Broad categories of common pathologic processes that are non-site specific, e.g. arthritis, shock, and wound healing, will be included. See reading list for additional guidance. In addition, questions will be asked pertaining to pharmacology, surgical principles, and anesthetic principles and techniques. This examination will not include current literature from journals or information regarding specific surgical procedures. (Note: as of July 2, 2014, this description has been edited slightly from the text in the Residency Program Guidelines July - December 2014.) 

Phase II Surgical Competency Examination

The specific format of the exam is under development, but is anticipated to be multiple sections testing clinical recognition, diagnostic interpretation, application of surgical principles, and case management prior to, during and after surgery. In some sections, candidates will be provided visual images (still and videos), as well as written information. Material may depict anatomic specimens, instruments, surgical diseases, pathologic and histologic specimens, and imaging studies.  Upon viewing the material, the candidate will be asked a series of questions pertaining to the images or the topic in general. Some questions will require specific knowledge of current literature from recommended journals. Candidates should be prepared to answer questions covering all areas of surgical practice. A more specific format of the Phase II examination will be published 6 months before the exam is administered.

Failure to successfully complete the Phase II examination in three attempts will require submission of a new Credentials Application to the Resident Credentialing Committee and successful completion of the Phase I Surgical Knowledge examination again prior to taking the Phase II examination again.

If you have questions regarding the new examination process contact Kimberly Soehnlein, Director of Certification, at 301-916-0200 x104 or ksoehnlein@acvs.org.

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