CertLink FAQs

ABNM Announces CertLink A New Longitudinal Assessment Pilot

The American Board of Nuclear Medicine (ABNM) is excited to announce the launch of our new longitudinal assessment pilot: CertLink™, developed for American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Member Boards.   This pilot, which will periodically deliver nuclear medicine questions with detailed explanations and references directly to ABNM diplomates, is being evaluated as an alternative to the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) examination required of ABNM time-limited certificate holders every 10 years.

Based on adult learning theory, CertLink questions and explanations provide repeated exposure to relevant information as a way to test and expand knowledge. The process helps individuals fill knowledge gaps and demonstrate proficiency.  The questions will be image rich and high quality with practice-relevant content. We expect this new method of longitudinal assessment and feedback to bring more value to our diplomates.
The ABNM CertLink pilot will launch in January 2018 and run for 4 years. Approximately 100 diplomates will start participating in January 2018 so that issues can be identified and corrected before all interested diplomates start in April 2018.

The following Frequently Asked Questions explain CertLink in detail.

Enrollment and Eligibility

When can I enroll?

  • Enrollment is now open for all eligible diplomates: Diplomates with time-limited certificates expiring in 2018 – 2021 must enroll by January 1, 2018 to receive an extension of their current certificate expiration date to 2021 (for diplomates whose current certificate expires in 2018-2020), and a waiver for the MOC exam.
  • Diplomates with time-limited certificates expiring after 2021 have no specific enrollment deadline yet but are encouraged to begin participating as soon as possible. The enrollment deadline for these diplomates will be announced during 2018.
  • Diplomates with lifetime certificates may enroll at any time.

How do I enroll?

Diplomates will receive instructions by email in October 2017 that will include a link to an on-line enrollment form that will take only a few minutes to complete.  The enrollment form will also be available on the ABNM website at https://www.abnm.org/index.php/certlinktm/. Make sure your contact information on the enrollment form corresponds to the information in “My Profile” on the ABNM website (www.abnm.org). You may update “My Profile” by logging onto the website anytime. ABNM will reply with a message confirming your enrollment.

The ABNM would like approximately 100 diplomates to start participation with a “soft launch” in January 2018, and remaining diplomates to start participation with a hard launch in April 2018. The purpose of the soft launch is to identify and correct issues and improve the process for everyone. Diplomates will be asked to complete surveys prior to, during, and immediately following the pilot. Each of the surveys will take 5-10 minutes to complete. There is no extra credit for starting participation in January, nor any penalty for starting participation in April.  The enrollment form has a checkbox for diplomates to indicate their preferred start date. The ABNM will make an effort to accommodate preferences, but reserves the right to choose the start date for any diplomate.

How do I know if I am eligible?

All diplomates with unexpired, time-limited certificates (expiring in 2018 or later) or with lifetime certificates are eligible to participate if they have not been subject to any ABNM disciplinary actions (probation, suspension, or revocation of certification) in the past 10 years. Diplomates must be current with MOC requirements, including Part 2 (Lifelong learning and self-assessment) and Part 4 (Improvement in Medical Practice). The ABNM has made it easier for diplomates to fulfill the requirements, and has added a checkbox to the My Profile page on the ABNM website that allows diplomates to attest they meet the requirements. Diplomates with expired certificates must first pass the MOC examination if their certificate expired in 2013 or later.  Diplomates with certificates that expired prior to 2013 must first pass the Certification examination.

Are there other incentives to participate in CertLink?

 You will receive 1 hour of MOC self-assessment module (SAM) credit for each 6 questions attempted (including new questions and “clones”), which will help fulfill the MOC Part II annual SAM requirement.  AMA Category 1 continuing medical education (CME) credit is currently unavailable but may become available soon.

How much does it cost?

There is no difference in cost between participating in CertLink versus taking the MOC examination for diplomates who are currently participating in MOC. To participate in CertLink, diplomates must be current with annual MOC dues, and pay a one-time $615 examination fee, which is the same fee paid by diplomates who will take the 2018 MOC examination. Diplomates who continue to participate in CertLink will only have to pay the annual MOC dues in 2019, which is currently $400.

A one-time incentive is being offered to diplomates with lifetime or time-limited certificates, who have never participated in MOC, but would like to participate in CertLink. Diplomates must be current with MOC requirements, and pay annual dues of $400. In January 2019, diplomates who continue to participate in CertLink for re-certification, must pay a one-time examination fee of $1845 in addition to annual dues. Diplomates who continue to participate in CertLink only for education will only have to pay annual dues.

Can I still take the MOC examination prior to expiration of my certification in 2018 – 2021, or do I have to enroll in CertLink?

During the pilot period, CertLink is being offered as an alternative to the MOC examination.  You may take the MOC examination instead of participating in CertLink.

If I take the MOC examination, can I still participate in the CertLink pilot?

If you start participating in the CertLink pilot and take the MOC examination, you must pass the MOC examination to continue to participate in CertLink.  If you pass the MOC examination, you will receive a certificate that expires 10 years after the expiration date of your current certificate.  Your continued participation in the CertLink pilot becomes voluntary.

If I enroll in CertLink, will I get a new certificate?

 If your current certificate expires in 2018-2020, you will receive a letter that extends the expiration of your current certificate to December 31, 2021.  If your certificate expires after 2020, you will not receive an extension of the expiration date during the pilot, but we anticipate that diplomates who successfully complete the pilot will be credited at the end of the period, as described below.

If I have a lifetime certificate and enroll in CertLink, will my lifetime certificate be replaced with a new certificate?

You will always have a lifetime certificate, and your participation in CertLink is voluntary, but you may choose to participate in CertLink for the educational benefits as well as to fulfill the requirements of MOC. If you previously re-certified and you have an MOC certificate, you will receive a letter stating that you are participating in CertLink. If you have not previously re-certified, you will receive a letter that you are participating in CertLink, and, if you successfully complete the pilot and meet all MOC standards, you will receive an MOC certificate in 2021.

Diplomates with lifetime certificate who participate in CertLink and meet all MOC standards, will be designated as “Participating in MOC” on the ABMS public website, www.certificationmatters.org.

Will I get a new certificate at the end of the CertLink pilot in 2021?

If you received a letter extending the expiration date of your current certificate to 2021, or your current certificate expires in 2021, and you successfully complete the pilot and fulfill all other MOC requirements, you will receive a new certificate that expires 10 years after the expiration date of your current certificate. For example, if your current certificate expires in 2018, you will receive a new certificate in 2021 that expires in 2028.

If I have a certificate that expires after 2021, will I get a new certificate?

Diplomates who continue to participate in CertLink beyond 2021 will receive a new certificate prior to the expiration date of their current certificate.  If CertLink is not extended beyond the pilot period, diplomates may have to take the MOC examination to re-certify.  However, while CertLink may undergo some modifications with time, it is unlikely to be discontinued. More than half of the ABMS Member Boards are participating in, or planning to participate in, pilot programs like ours involving longitudinal assessment.

If for whatever reason CertLink is not continued beyond the pilot, the ABNM will determine an appropriate way to give diplomates credit for the time in which they participated (e.g., an extension of their time-limited certificate by an amount of time equivalent to their CertLink participation).

Question Delivery and Platform

How many questions do I have to answer?             

For the hard launch in April 2018, you will receive up to 52 questions over the next 12 months, including 36 new questions and up to 16 additional questions that are identical or very similar to questions you previously answered (called “clones”).

How often do I need to answer a question?           

You will be able to access all questions for one quarter at the beginning of that quarter.  You will receive an email or text with a link to the questions at the beginning of the quarter, and you must answer all questions by the quarter’s end. You may choose the rate at which you progress through each quarter’s questions. For example, you may answer one question a week, all of the questions at one time, or any frequency in between.

How much time do I have to answer a question?

Once you open a question or questions, you will typically have 3-5 minutes per question to submit your answer, depending on the length of the question.  The amount of time remaining will be displayed.

Can I use the Internet and other educational resources to answer questions?

Yes, diplomates may use other types of educational resources as needed as long as the question is answered in the allotted time. However, the time allotted for a question will typically not provide time for extensive review of educational resources.

Can I consult with my colleagues or peers when answering questions?

No, assessment is considered an individual activity.  You may not use “recalled” questions or answers, or any type of information provided by other diplomates.

Can I skip a question and return to it later after I’ve opened it?

No, you must answer the question within the allotted time. An unanswered question is scored as an incorrect response.

What type of questions will I receive?

During 2018, you will receive 4 new questions in each of the 9 major exam categories (Basic Science, Cardiovascular, Endocrine, Gastrointestinal, Genitourinary, Musculoskeletal, Neurology, Oncology, and Pulmonary). All questions will be multiple-choice, and many will have images.

Questions will be presented in a random order unless you choose to group questions together by category to focus your learning and self-assessment in specific areas (for example, 12 of the 13 items in the first quarter could be designated as Basic Science, Cardiovascular, and Endocrine).

Can I use my cellphone or tablet to receive and answer questions?

Yes, but it is not recommended, because it may be difficult to view images on a small device, particularly for questions with multiple images.

Tracking Progress and Receiving Feedback

How will I know if I answered a question correctly or incorrectly?

You will receive immediate feedback for each answer you submit.  CertLink will also display your cumulative performance over time, as well as a dashboard to show your areas of strength and weakness in each question category.

What type of feedback will I receive in regard to my performance?

After answering each question, you will receive a “critique” which indicates the correct answer, key learning point, and a brief review of the topic, including an explanation of why the options were correct or incorrect. At least one reference will also be provided.

What happens if I answer a question incorrectly?

You may receive the same question, or a very similar question (clone), typically in the next quarter.  If you answer a question correctly on the second presentation, this will count for your final score (replaces your incorrect response on the initial presentation).  You may also receive the same question or clone a second time if you answered a question correctly with low confidence (“guess”). Spaced repetition of questions reinforces learning.

What if I don’t answer all the questions?

You must answer all new questions (9 per quarter and 36 per year) in order to fulfill the requirements of meaningful participation, which is defined as answering distributed questions within the specified time frame for each year of the pilot program.  Answering up to an additional 16 repeated questions or clones per year is optional for meaningful participation, but may be necessary to achieve a passing score.

What is a passing score?

You must answer at least 40% of the 36 new questions correctly on the first presentation, and at least 60% of all questions (including repeated questions and clones) correctly by the second presentation. A psychometrically validated passing score will be introduced when enough data has been collected.

What happens if I don’t achieve a passing score?

If you don’t achieve a passing score at the end of the third year of your participation, you will receive a warning and be given the option of taking the MOC examination.  You may continue to participate in CertLink, but if you still do not achieve a passing score by the fourth year of participation, will need to pass the MOC examination before your certificate expires in order to re-certify.

Does the system allow for special accommodations?

CertLink can accommodate special needs as currently provided by the MOC examination (for example, extra time for those who qualify). You must submit the same documentation required for the MOC examination in order to receive appropriate accommodation for special needs.

What if I have a life emergency or need a break?

CertLink is designed with flexibility for emergencies and qualifying life events, with appropriate documentation.  Specifics will be provided as the pilot continues.

How can I provide feedback?

You will be able to provide feedback on each question after you submit your answer and read the critique. The first 100 diplomates who start participating in CertLink in January 2018 will be asked to provide additional feedback prior to full launch in April 2018. The ABNM will survey all participating diplomates at least once a year to improve CertLink.