Cardiology Board Exam Pass Rates are Down. How Can You Pass? 

cardiology pass rates

The journey to becoming a board-certified cardiologist includes the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) subspecialty examination in cardiovascular disease. While this exam was always known for being challenging, a recent trend of declining pass rates has made preparing for the test more important than ever. What is driving the drop in pass rates, and how can you ensure you are ready for exam day? 

Why are Cardiology Board Exam Pass Rates Dropping? 

The ABIM Cardiovascular Disease exam is a major step on the path to becoming a cardiologist. While it is not an easy exam by any measure, pass rates have been around 95%, and have remained level from year to year. However, a commentary in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has highlighted a concerning trend: pass rates for first-time test takers have fallen from 96% in 2018 to 86% in 2021 and 2022. 

What is driving this decrease? The authors of the commentary agree that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant disruptor to traditional educational methods: 

“Looking back, the structural changes in fellowship education induced by COVID affected almost all aspects of learning—including truncated physical examinations, abbreviated rounds, remote imaging interpretation with little direct oversight, and reduced procedural volumes. Academic emergency measures led to months of canceled conferences, grand rounds and national meetings, and didactic learning shifted to virtual conferences in which attention is easily diverted to other tasks. Moreover, the psychologic burden of fear concerning COVID increased anxiety, especially among healthcare workers, and sapped energy for self-directed learning.” 

-A. John Kadado, MD 

5 Ways to Prepare for the ABIM Cardiology Board Exam 

While pass rates are declining, taking the right steps can help you ensure success come test day. Here are five tips to help you prepare effectively for the ABIM cardiology board exam: 

  • Prioritize Self-Care to Avoid Burnout: The stress of a global pandemic can take a toll on your mental health. Make sure to take breaks, engage in activities you enjoy, and seek support when needed to maintain your well-being and focus. 
  • Embrace In-Person Learning Opportunities: Whenever possible, participate in hands-on learning experiences, such as industry conferences and in-person rounds. These experiences are invaluable for solidifying your knowledge and skills. 
  • Develop a Personalized Study Plan: Use structured learning tools like checklists and curriculums to create a study plan that covers all the necessary material. Regular self-assessment can help you identify areas where you need more focus. 
  • Practice with Real Imaging Interpretations: Seek opportunities to engage in in-person imaging interpretations. This direct experience is crucial for developing the diagnostic skills you’ll need in both your practice and the exam.
  • Utilize Practice Exams to Identify Knowledge Gaps: Take advantage of practice Cardiology questions and other resources to pinpoint areas where you need improvement. This will help you target your studies more effectively.  

The Power of BoardVitals for Cardiology Prep 

Declining pass rates are concerning, but using the right resources can help you ensure success come exam day. BoardVitals offers a comprehensive Cardiology question bank that is specifically designed to help you master the content and format of the ABIM cardiology board exam. 

The BoardVitals Cardiology Question Bank has been updated for 2024-2025. The question bank contains more than 1,350 Cardiology questions tailored to the ABIM Cardiology Certification Exam and ACC In-Training Exam. 

Study smarter, not harder, with the adaptive testing technology and AI-powered risk assessment analytics. These features allow you to personalize your study plan by identifying your strengths and weaknesses. With a personalized plan, you’ll focus your efforts on the areas that need the most attention, optimizing your study time and boosting your confidence as you prepare for the exam.  

Be ready come test day with the resources from BoardVitals. Sign up for a free trial today. 

The writing staff at BoardVitals is passionate about medicine, healthcare, and education. We’ve trained over 1.5 million physicians and work with more than 300 top teaching institutions. Learn more about our board review and continuing education products at

Try BoardVitals free for 10 days.

Free Trial. No credit card required.