American Board of Radiology (ABR) exam preparation

One of the biggest sources of anxiety for physicians in training is preparing for the constant barrage of exams required to become a board certified radiologist. Luckily, as of February 2021, the ABR has suspended all in person exams that require travel to Chicago or Tuscon. At least you can take your punishment from the comfort of your own house (for the time being).

A subset of materials on this site are specifically tailored to provide dedicated preparation for these exams. Topics that may be most relevant to the ABR radiology core exam, the subsequent certifying exam, or neuroradiology CAQ are tagged as board review. In this way, high yield points are emphasized throughout the posts. They can all be viewed here:


Board review posts


If you want to focus specifically on board review cases, the best way to start is by checking out the page of board review cases sorted by category (e.g. brain, spine, head/neck).

Board review cases by category



Stages of ABR certification

Each of the steps of ABR certification is a little bit different. When preparing for these, you should have a plan to approach each one. Learn more about how to make an  individualized plan to each exam below:

1) ABR core exam

The ABR core exam is the first hurdle to radiology certification. It is taken in the PGY-4, or 3rd year of dedicated radiology training, and covers all areas of radiology. Neuroradiology is a significant portion of radiology practice and an important topic for the test. However, it is also heavily covered in the scope of radiology practice and residents may be well prepared from call and daily work assignments.

Regardless, detailed preparation is suggested and can minimize the risk of failure. Some believe that this is the most detail oriented exam (i.e. nitpicky), so you definitely need to have mastery of the details.


ABR core exam plan

 2) ABR certifying exam

The ABR certifying exam is taken 15 months after residency training is complete. After this examination, the trainee is given a full diagnostic radiology certificate which is good for 10 years pursuant to maintenance of certification efforts.

The exam is a little bit different than the core exam. It consists of 5 sections:

  • general radiology
  • non interpretive skills
  • 3 subspecialty areas of the trainees choice

Trainees who have done a significant amount of neuroradiology either through their residency or dedicated fellowship may consider 1 or more neuroradiology sections. Careful preparation is again suggested.


ABR certifying exam plan


 3) Neuroradiology CAQ

The most painful hurdle of all is the last and most expensive, the ABR neuroradiology certificate of added qualification exam. Since the covid era began, this exam has been offered remotely, and the cost has been decreased (but is still expensive!). You need a letter from both your neuroradiology fellowship and your current practice saying that you practice a significant amount of neuroradiology.

Preparing for this test is ostensibly the hardest because you already know a significant amount of neuroradiology. Just enough to understand how bad those question are, you might say. Nevertheless, some review might be worthwhile, but it should be carefully targeted.


Neuroradiology CAQ exam plan

Board review case playlists

If you just want to skip ahead to the case playlists, you can check them out. These are geared towards all of the exams, although probably most useful for the ABR core exam. You can find them all in a single All Board Review playlist, or:

In individual category playlists:

Head & Neck

In a high speed review format:

Fast 10 high speed review