This summer, I traveled from the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, where I treat patients as a cardiologist, to the Philadelphia offices of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). I had received an invitation to participate in the exam standard setting session for the Fall 2016 Cardiovascular Disease Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Exam.
While I sat for the MOC exam in the past, I wasn’t sure what standard setting was, and did not quite know what to expect. My focus had generally been on the exam content, but did not know much about the amount of work and planning that went into the MOC exam.
When I arrived, I learned I was one of a group of about 30 practicing cardiologists from across the country, from different practice settings, who would help set the exam’s minimum passing score for the Fall 2016 MOC Exam. It was encouraging that ABIM was reaching out to other doctors in my specialty to participate in the process.
The session was really worthwhile. I learned that a new standard needed to be set because the Fall 2016 MOC exam blueprint was updated this spring with input from cardiologists with different practice background. I also came to better understand the setting process itself, which is based on the Angoff method – an evidence-based approach focusing on exam content to conceptualize characteristics of borderline candidates, evaluate test questions, and identify the proportion of borderline examinees expected to answer each question correctly.
I now realize the effort that goes into reviewing all the exam questions, and making sure they are pertinent to cardiologists from all practice backgrounds. It was interesting to see how some topics were considered more important than others by different cardiologists participating in this setting, including some ABIM Cardiovascular Exam Committee members. The next step, I learned, will be for the ABIM Cardiovascular Disease Specialty Board to review and approve the new standard.
I left with a much better understanding of the process and would certainly recommend that others participate in the future. The experience made me think of how important it is to accurately identify the level of performance needed to maintain certification. This experience helped me understand why standard setting is important, especially as ABIM works with the community to update the MOC program.
From ABIM: Additional Information
- Learn more about exam standard setting (the process for setting a minimum passing score for an exam).
- Read about how physicians are participating in a process to update exam blueprints based on what they indicate is important to know in practice.
- Sign up to get involved in these and other ABIM initiatives.