July 11, 2024

ABA Research Compares In-Person and Virtual SOE

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Raleigh, N.C. (July 11, 2024) – Recently published research from the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) confirms the effectiveness of the temporary, virtual Standardized Oral Exam (SOE), which was administered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ABA worked to adapt its APPLIED Exam for the 2021 administration year, developing an innovative approach that allowed for the continuation of physician achieving certification while limiting in-person interaction. The APPLIED Exam returned to an in-person format in 2022, with associated implementation of advanced safety precautions.

The retrospective study of first-time SOE administrations from 2018 to 2021 published in Academic Medicine supports the reliability and validity of the virtual oral exam in this large-volume, high-stakes setting. With comparable examiner grading severity between the in-person and virtual administrations, virtual candidates performed slightly better than in-person candidates, but the effect size was negligible. Similar research was published in 2023, wherein the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) component of the APPLIED Exam was analyzed.

“At a time when board-certified anesthesiologists are in high demand, the virtual APPLIED Exam, which included both SOE and OSCE components, provided a pathway to certification for candidates whose exams and career paths would have otherwise been disrupted due to the global pandemic. We are reassured by these research findings documenting the satisfactory psychometric performance of the virtual APPLIED Exam”,  said ABA Treasurer Mark T. Keegan, M.B, B.Ch. “We are grateful for the ABA staff and volunteer examiners who collaborated to assess candidates virtually throughout 2021 and the equally important work they did to safely resume in-person exams as quickly as possible.”

The SOE is based on guided questions that include a patient’s brief clinical history and emphasize the scientific rationale underlying clinical management decisions. The ABA has administered oral exams as part of its initial certification process since 1939. A format resembling the current two 35-minute exam session structure was established in 1961. Oral exams offer examiners the opportunity to assess a candidate’s judgment, adaptability to unexpected clinical changes, organization and presentation of information. Read more about the structure and evolution of the SOE and the development of the virtual APPLIED Exam in Anesthesia & Analgesia.

ABA Directors Stacie G. Deiner, M.D.; and Mark T. Keegan, M.B., B.Ch.; ABA Chief Assessment Officer Ann Harman, Ph.D.; and ABA Director of Psychometrics and Research Huaping Sun, Ph.D., authored this research, titled “A Comparison of Psychometric Properties of the American Board of Anesthesiology’s In-Person and Virtual Standardized Oral Examinations.”

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About the American Board of Anesthesiology
Our mission is to advance the highest standards of the practice of anesthesiology. As the certifying body for anesthesiologists since 1938, we work with physicians to elevate practice standards and foster exceptional patient care. We administer initial and subspecialty certification exams as well as the Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology (MOCA) program, which is designed to promote lifelong learning, a commitment to quality clinical outcomes and patient safety. Based in Raleigh, NC, we are a nonprofit organization and a Member Board of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).