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Ask a Psychometrician: How Do Diplomates Perform on Quarterly Questions?

A key benefit of participating in the Quarterly Questions program is receiving instant feedback about your performance. Question by question, we show you how your clinical knowledge in core and subspecialty ophthalmology stacks up against the program standard, along with how it compares to your peers.

Often, we’re asked for more information about the overall results of the program. How well, as a group, are American Board of Ophthalmology diplomates performing? What’s the state of our collective knowledge in ophthalmology? Let’s examine the data to learn more.

Because diplomates have the option to complete Quarterly Questions at their own pace, even across multiple years, we’ll simplify the analysis by looking only at performance data within a standard calendar year. So far, as of October 31, 2019, 3,077 diplomates have answered the 40 knowledge-based Quarterly Questions released in 2019. Of those 3,077 diplomates, 99.8% have achieved or exceeded the minimum passing standard of 65% correct. (Keep in mind that this percentage could fluctuate a bit before December 31, since diplomates who haven’t completed their questions can still do so at any time.)

A summary of performance on each year’s knowledge-based Quarterly Questions is listed in the table below.

Quarterly Questions Annual Knowledge-Based Question Performance

Pass rates in the range of 98-99% may seem high, but this is expected. All ABO diplomates earned their certification by passing the WQE and Oral examinations and have since been participating in continuing medical education, so we’d expect that the vast majority of diplomates are keeping their knowledge up to date. Additionally, a high pass rate is reflective of appropriate content relevancy of the assessment. Because the knowledge-based questions target clinically relevant knowledge, we expect that our diplomates would have mastery over this domain. Because the ABO’s mission is in part to protect the public, it is important to identify the small fraction of practicing diplomates whose knowledge base may be lagging behind. The ABO reaches out to these colleagues to determine, if possible, why they are having trouble with the exercise and to help them with remediation.

A Note About Scoring Quarterly Questions has a performance standard, which means that participation alone is not sufficient to receive credit for the activity. Each year, a passing standard (or “cut score”) is set for the questions that will be delivered in that calendar year. The standard is determined by a group of practicing ophthalmologists using established psychometric principles. In 2019 the passing standard is 65%. The passing standard may differ slightly from year to year because the difficulty of the questions may change. Although usually not appreciated by examinees, setting different performance standards to account for differences in difficulty (in order to keep the performance standard constant over time) is used for almost all examinations. To earn a “pass” for Quarterly Questions in 2019, a diplomate must answer at least 65% of the 40 knowledge-based questions correctly, and also answer 10 article-based questions. The article-based questions do not have a performance standard for MOC, but require a score of 8 out of 10 (80%) correct to qualify for CME credit.

*The passing standard is the minimum score needed to pass that year’s version of the activity.

**The average score was calculated based on the scores of diplomates who attempted all 40 knowledge-based questions between January 1 and December 31 of the same calendar year in which the activity was launched.

***These data indicate the percentage of diplomates who met or exceeded the passing standard. Because passing Quarterly Questions over several years is required for maintaining certification, this information is not equivalent to the overall pass rate for the activity as a whole.

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