7 Things To Know About the ABA Pain Medicine Exam


The Pain Medicine Board Examination, or American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) Certification in Pain Medicine, is a single standardized test of knowledge and skill in pain medication, its application and evaluation.

When can I take the ABA Pain Medicine Exam?

Applications for the 2016 examination will be open from March 1, 2016 to May 31, 2016. The date set for this exam is the September 17, 2016.

How do I apply for this exam?

Individuals with ABA certification, or other boards that are part of the ABMS, can apply for this certification exam through the ABA website. All applicants must have a valid, unrestricted license to practice medicine or osteopathy from a US or Canadian jurisdiction. They must also demonstrate their current pain medicine practice (i.e. that they take part in clinical pain management duties at least once per week for twelve successive months over three years). Applicants must also meet the requirements of the Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology Program (MOCA).

What is covered on the Pain Medicine Board Examination?

This certification covers general points of pain medicine; pain assessment and psychological considerations; the treatment of pain and its methods; clinical pain states and special cases. More specifically, it tests the applicant’s knowledge of the physiology, anatomy and biochemistry of pain transmission, modulation and systems. Other questions on clinical pain research, its procedures, design and ethics may be posed.

The applicant may also require awareness of the effects of gender, sex, culture and other factors in pain perception, assessment and treatment. An understanding of pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, toxicity, interactions and indications is also required.

The 4-hour exam has 200 single-best-answer multiple choice questions, the breakdown of which is as follows:

  • General Points: 7.5%
  • Pain Assessment & Psychology: 7.5%
  • Pharmacological Methods: 15%;
  • Alternative Methods: 25%;
  • Clinical States: 45%.

How much does the pain medicine exam cost?

First-time examinees will pay $1600 for their registration. However, those applying for repeat certification (i.e. those who have paid an application fee on the 30th of June 2014 or earlier) pay $950. Those who register late (from the first of June to the first of September) will pay an additional $500.

How do I study for the pain medicine exam?

A candidate considering registration for this exam may benefit from first reviewing the ABA’s Pain Medicine Content outline. This gives a thorough overview of the topics to be covered. Text books for studying include McGraw Hill Speciality Board Review: Pain Medicine and Beyond Pain: A Comprehensive Pain Board Review For The Pain Management Physician.

For practice, studying with a question bank like BoardVitals provides a vast range of realistic sample questions that simulate the your computer-based exam on test day.

What happens if I fail this examination?

If an applicant achieves a non-passing grade on his or her first attempt, she or he can re-take it. Re-registration fees ($1200, with an added $500 for each late re-exam registration) must be paid by all repeat applicants.

What do I need to bring on test day for the exam?

On test day, you should come fully prepared after a good nights rest and bring the registration letter from the ABA and an ID showing the applicant’s photograph and signature. Both are required to gain access to the examination area.

However, make sure you leave the following items at home:

  • Electronics including: watches, times, calipers, monographs, and phones
  • Study materials including books, note cards, and other resources
  • Pens and pencils
  • Purses and briefcases

Phone calls or other communications during the exam are also prohibited.

If you need scratch paper during the exam, the test administrator will provide paper and pens at their disposal for students. You will be given a secure locker to store your belongings.

Ready to start studying? BoardVitals offers a free trial of our Pain Medicine Question banks.

Good luck on the exam!