Application for Initial Certification

If applying for initial certification, use this form.
If applying for recertification (certification maintenance), go to this page.
Download a PDF of the initial certification information found below here.


Instructions and Information to
Candidates for the Certifying Examination

This information was prepared by the staff of the American Board of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology in order to provide candidates with a better understanding of the application process and how the examination is conducted. It does not list the prerequisites and requirements necessary to qualify for the examination, the dates for receipt of applications, or the dates and location of the examination. This and related policy information are available in the Board’s Bylaws. In general, however, the final filing dates for receipt of applications and registrations for initial examination applicants, repeat examination participants, or initial examination participants who were previously declared qualified is May 15. Under extreme or unusual circumstances, applications may be accepted until June 1 although an additional late fee of $250 will be assessed.

Processing of the Application


The processing of an application takes approximately 6 to 8 weeks. The procedure for processing applications includes the following steps:

1. A review of the application is made to determine that all required information is complete, the necessary documents are included, and the $1,000 fee is enclosed. If the application is not complete, it will be returned to the candidate. An incomplete application will not be processed until a complete application has been received.

2. If the application is complete, a letter will be sent to the candidate acknowledging receipt of the application and examination fee, indicating that the application will be processed.

3. An evaluation form is sent to the candidate’s most recent or principal training director. In order to prevent any delay in the processing of the application, the candidate is asked to request that the director promptly completes and returns the form.

4. After the reference form has been returned to the Board office, the application is reviewed by the Credentials Committee, which determines if the training requirements have been fulfilled. A candidate may not challenge an examination unless declared eligible by the Credentials Committee.

5. The candidate is notified by letter regarding Board eligibility. For those declared Board eligible, the period of time during which the candidate may challenge the examination is five years. When a Board eligible candidate desires to challenge an examination, he or she must declare their intention to do so by submitting an Examination Registration Form.

6. An application may be approved “pending receipt of issuance of satisfactory completion of the training program”.  If you have not yet finished your program when you submit your application, the certificate of completion must be received the year you apply, and prior to sitting for the examination, but no later than September 1st.

Information Sent to Candidates

If a candidate is declared eligible and has applied to challenge an examination, the following materials will be forwarded approximately 6 weeks prior to the examination:

1. A schedule of the examination giving dates and times of the various sections of the examination.

2. Information for making hotel reservations at the hotel adjacent to the examination center. Because of time schedules, it is suggested that candidates stay there, unless the candidate lives in that city. Although a discounted rate has been negotiated for our candidates, less expensive rates may be found online.

3. Behavioral guidelines.

Travel and Hotel Accommodations

All candidates are responsible for their own travel and hotel accommodation arrangements and all their expenses. The Board will ask the hotel to make an adequate number of rooms available for candidates, but does not make individual arrangements. Candidates are responsible for reporting to the examination site at the time stated on the examination schedule form.

Preparations for the Examination


In preparing for the examination, the candidate should do the following:

1. Become familiar with the formats of the questions used.

2. Bring several #2 pencils with erasers. Other grades of pencils or pens are not acceptable.

3. Nikon Alphaphot 2 microscopes with 10X widefield oculars, 4X, 10X, 40X, 100X oil immersion objectives, mechanical stages, abbe condensers, and built-in light sources are provided in the examination center, but candidates may bring their own if they wish. If so, include an extra bulb. Ancillary microscopic tools (e.g. polarizing lenses) will not be supplied. Candidates should bring any and all ancillary tools that they believe they may need whether or not they bring their own microscope.

4. It is very difficult to keep the temperature in the examination rooms at a level that is satisfactory to all. Frequently, some find it too warm and others too cool. It is strongly suggested that those persons sensitive to cooler temperatures bring a sweater or jacket to the examination room.

Examination Scoring and Candidate Anonymity

The candidate will receive a coded candidate number at the beginning of the examination that will be used to identify each candidate on all four parts of the examination. The Directors will not “break” the code that identifies the individual until after scoring of the examination is complete. The candidate should help ensure their anonymity during the examination by keeping any reference to their candidate number (on examination booklets or microscopic slide boxes) concealed.

Description of Examinations and Question Formats


Microscope set up: On the days of the surgical examinations, if the candidate is not using one of the microscopes provided, they should go to the examination site 20 minutes prior to the scheduled examination starting time and set up their microscope. After the microscope has been set up and the candidate is assured of its working order, the candidate may leave the room, but should remain nearby.


The surgical pathology portion of the examination is administered in two parts. The first part is administered on the first day of the examination and consists of 35 oral and maxillofacial pathology microscopic cases. The second part is administered on the second day of the examination and consists of 25 additional oral and maxillofacial pathology microscopic cases and 10 general pathology microscopic cases. Each part may include one or two cytologic preparations. Each portion of the surgical examination has a time limit of four hours. For the oral and maxillofacial pathology cases, the candidate will provide microscopic diagnoses. All categories of disease will be covered.

The surgical pathology question number correlates with the slide (case) number. On the diagnosis line, write the most likely diagnosis and be as specific as possible. If special stains or other procedures are necessary to establish a more definitive diagnosis, these should be placed in the comment section along with alternative diagnostic considerations. For example:

Diagnosis: Gingiva: sarcomatoid malignant neoplasm suggestive of spindle cell carcinoma.

Comment: Although the clinical and histologic features are interpreted to be most suggestive of spindle cell carcinoma, the differential diagnosis of this neoplasm includes melanoma and leiomyosarcoma, among others. Immunohistochemical stains for cytokeratin, S100 protein, HMB-45, smooth muscle actin, and desmin could potentially help clarify the nature of this malignant neoplasm.

If the diagnosis does not require further clarification, leave the comment section blank. Everything written will be considered in the scoring process. Inappropriate or inaccurate comments will adversely affect the score. Critical errors (for example, diagnosing a benign lesion as malignant) are assessed an additional penalty.

For each of the general pathology cases, the candidate will list the specific organ or tissue and provide the microscopic diagnosis of any pathologic process(es) identified. No critical errors are assessed for this portion of the examination.


The written examination consists of 200 multiple-choice questions viewed on a computer monitor and has a time limit of 3 hours. It includes theoretic, interpretive, and statistical aspects of pathology. Certain questions test the candidate’s recognition of the similarity or dissimilarity of pathologic processes. Other questions evaluate the candidate’s judgment as to cause and effect, the lack of causal relationships, or the clinical implications. The candidate controls the amount of time spent on each question, and may return to previously viewed questions at any time.


Directions: each of the following questions or incomplete statements is followed by three to five suggested answers. Select the one answer that is best in each case.

The oral manifestations of Peutz-Jeghers syndrome include:

A) multiple papillomas.
B) gingival hyperplasia.
C) sebaceous glands in the oral mucosa.
D) silver pigmentation of the oral mucosa.
E) multiple pigmented macules.



The clinical examination is a single examination and consists of 50 cases. The examination has a time limit of 2 1/2 hours. For each case, one to four images will appear on the candidate’s computer monitor, together with a brief clinical history and/or a question. All answers are fill-in-the-blank format, requiring either a single diagnosis or a brief differential diagnosis to be legibly written in the test booklet. The candidate may view each case for as long as he or she desires and can return to previously viewed cases. The section focuses on the clinical aspects of disease, but may include correlation with immunofluorescence or other clinical laboratory studies.


This type of question is used on the clinical examination and will ask for a single diagnosis or several differential diagnoses.

What is the most likely diagnosis for this 2.0 cm palatal mass?


List three differential diagnoses for this 2.0 cm palatal mass.

The candidate should only list as many differential diagnoses as requested, not more or less, and they should be listed in the order of probability.

The candidate’s score will be based on the total number of correct answers. In the written and portion of the examination, there is no penalty imposed for incorrect answers.


Source of Questions

All ABOMP Directors submit questions to the Board. Only questions evaluated by the test construction committee and found to be appropriate and unambiguous are accepted as valid test questions. A formula/matrix is used to ensure that all aspects of oral and maxillofacial pathology are tested and no single subject receives undue emphasis.

Conduct of the Examination


1. Assigned seats and name cards: In the examination room, candidates should sit at their assigned seat. The name card at their seat should not be removed. Times listed on the schedule are the actual starting times of the examination. The candidate is expected to be at his/her seat and ready to take the examination at the designated time. You will not be given additional time if you are late for the surgical examinations. Your computer will be logged on for you and the time clock will start if you are not seated when the clinical and written examinations begin.

2. Personal items in the examination room: The only personal items permitted in the examination room are #2 pencils and erasers, jackets or sweaters, eyeglasses, and microscopes. Specifically excluded are all calculators (a calculator is available on the computer), personal organizers, books, notes, and any other papers. Pagers, cell phones, and other communication devices are not allowed in the examination room.

3. Note taking: No notes of any kind may be made during or between examinations while in the examination room. A candidate may be subject to disciplinary action should this occur. Examination booklets may be used for calculations, etc. All examination booklets must be returned intact at the completion of the examination.

4. Examination booklets and scoring: Each candidate will have an examination booklet for the surgical and clinical examinations, and an examination instruction booklet for the written portion of the exam. The candidate should follow instructions for each specific examination.

5. Computer usage: Before the start of the written and clinical examinations there will be a practice test so that candidates can become familiar with the computer testing process. The items contained in the practice test will not be scored. All questions will be displayed on the computer screen; candidates will enter their answers by selecting one of the radial buttons. There will be a help screen, if needed. Computer skills are not needed to take this examination.

6. Microscopic slides: For the surgical pathology examinations, the number of the question will correspond with the number of the appropriate slide. Thus, slide #25 will correspond with question #25 in the examination booklet. The slides should be kept in the original order.

7. Examination conclusion: When the chief examiner announces the end of the examination, all activity in regard to answering questions must cease. No additional questions are to be answered. Any candidate who continues to work on the examination after the announced end of the examination will be disqualified.

8. Queries during examinations: In spite of the great care exercised in the proofreading of examinations, typographical errors may occasionally occur. In practically all instances, these are simple spelling or typing errors and the meaning is readily apparent. Out of fairness to all candidates taking the examination, examiners and proctors are instructed not to answer individual questions, make judgments, or interpret a possible error. Candidates should exercise their own judgment. Nonetheless, if a candidate feels that an error exists, the candidate should write a comment in their examination booklet or bring the concern to the attention of a Proctor during or immediately following that section of the examination. The Board reviews the examination prior to scoring. If the Board determines that an error is critical to correctly answering a question, that question will be eliminated from the final scoring of the examination.

9. Smoking and beverages: Food (including candy and gum) and drinks are not permitted at workstations. However, drinks, candy, and mediations may be stored in the storage area, and access to this area is available with proctor notification. A water fountain will be available just outside the room. Smoking is not permitted in the building.

10. Restroom breaks: The restrooms are located on either side of the elevator lobby. Only one male and one female candidate at a time are permitted to leave the examination room. While away from the table, the examination booklet should be turned over.

11. Communication between candidates: Communication between candidates during an examination is absolutely prohibited.

12. Sounds, scents, and civility: In consideration of other candidates, please avoid wearing strong fragrances, making unnecessary noise, and other actions that may be disruptive to others. Earplugs are available at the front of the examination room.



The examination will be supervised by Board Directors to ensure that the examination is properly conducted in accordance with the rules of the Board. You are expected to maintain professional conduct during the examination. Any conduct that is considered inappropriate will be documented by the proctors and reviewed by the Directors to determine appropriate action. Inappropriate behavior includes cheating, suspicion of cheating, aggressive behavior towards proctors or other candidates, disregarding examination rules, and any other behavior determined to be detrimental to the administration of the examination.

In the interest of protecting the integrity of the ABOMP and its certification examinations, the following irregular behaviors may be sufficient to bar a person from future examinations, to terminate one’s participation in the examination, to invalidate the results of one’s examination, to cause the withholding or revocation of one’s scores or certificate, or to merit other appropriate action by the Board.

1. The giving or receiving of aid in the examination as evidenced by observation.

2. The unauthorized possession, reproduction, or disclosure of any ABOMP examination-related materials, including, but not limited to, examination questions or answers, before, during, or after the examination.

3. The offering of any benefit to any agent of the Board in return for any right, privilege, or benefit which is not usually granted by the Board to other similarly situated candidates or persons.

In addition, the Board may withhold a candidate’s scores and require that the candidate retake the examination if presented with sufficient evidence that the security of the examination has been compromised, notwithstanding the absence of any evidence of the candidate’s personal involvement in such activities.


Retaking the Examination

The fee to retake the examination is also $1,000. The fee and Examination Registration Form must be received by May 15. Under extreme or unusual circumstances, applications may be accepted until June 1 although an additional late fee of $250 will be assessed.

ABOMP Application for Certification

Download our Application form. Only the form itself needs to be sent back to the ABOMP office; not these first eight informational pages.