How to Study for the General Surgery Qualifying Exam

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Passing the General Surgery Qualifying Exam (QE) is the first of two steps to becoming a board certified general surgeon. After completing five years of intense general surgery residency, this exam can be considered a way to regurgitate everything you have learned thus far.

    However, it is very important to remember that your preparation for the board examination actually begins from day one of residency. It is also important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to study for boards and that the suggested method in this post is one of many ways to prepare.

    Studying for the General Surgery Boards During Residency 

    During residency, there is an exam given to all general surgery residents in January every year. This examination (ABSITE—American Board of Surgery In-Training Examination) is given by the American Board of Surgery.

    Preparation for this examination occurs every day of residency. It can include following the SCORE Portal (Surgical Council on Resident Education) and following the modules and questions offered each week while completing the reading on each module.

    One can also consider reading through some surgical textbooks throughout the residency, such as the Current Surgical Therapy by Cameron, et al. or Sabiston Textbook of Surgery.


    Preparing and doing well in the yearly ABSITE is a good reflection of your performance and preparation for the upcoming General Surgery Qualifying Board Examination.

    Studying for Surgery Qualifying Exam After Residency 

    Studying for the General Surgery Qualifying Exam looks rather different once residency ends, as the Qualifying Exam is usually in mid-July. Around this time, you have already completed residency and transitioned to either a practice or a fellowship.

    Since you prepared for this board examination from day one of residency, the time from the end of residency to the actual date of board examination should be spent on questions and reviewing high-yield topics.

    Exam preparation during these last few weeks before the QE can include doing SESAP questions and reviewing the topics with which you either struggle or need more practice.

    Then comes the day before examination. Use this day to review some easy but high-yield pointers you came across while doing questions. You can and should use this day to review statistics, as the examination covers those questions every year.


    Studying for the General Surgery Qualifying Exam is very tedious, and therefore it is important to remember that help is available if you need it. Contact us for help with streamlining your study tactics or creating a schedule!