Additional Training Guidelines

Candidates who failed the Written or Oral Exam three times or who exceeded the time limit will need to complete an additional training program before being re-admitted into the certification process.  Details about the additional training can be found below.


The Board has two firm rules about the additional training.  They are:  1) the training must be done under someone who is ABTS certified and 2) the training must be pre-approved in advanced by the Board.  A candidate also needs to complete the additional training within the two years immediately upon failing the Part I (Written) or Part II (Oral) Exams for the third time.


There is no set time length for the additional training, but it usually ranges from 6-12 months.  If the additional training is arranged soon after the last failing exam, a candidate does have time to be re-admitted into the certification process for the next scheduled exam.


The additional training does not have to be in an ACGME approved fellowship, but some candidates do choose to do it this way. However, other candidates decide to work closely with someone in their home town or in their practice.  The Board leaves this decision up to each candidate. The Board also lets the candidate decides if the focus of the additional training should be on cardiac, general thoracic or both. Although it is not necessary for the candidate to operate on cases with his/her mentor, the Board would encourage the candidate to at least observe cases with a senior partner, faculty or other colleague who specializes in the focus area that the candidate struggle with on the exam.

Once a candidate has identified the ABTS certified person, he/she will need to write a letter to the Executive Director, outlining the additional training program.  The letter can be about 1-2 pages long. The Board does not have any specific requirements for what the additional training contains, but in the past candidates usually attend conferences at their institution, have regular meetings with the mentors, attend the Annual Meetings of the AATS/STS, participate in a board review course, and review the TSDA weekly curriculum with the mentors.  Again, these are just a few things that candidates have done over the years, but each candidate is free to design the additional training with the mentor as he/she sees fit.


Once the Board receives the letter from the mentor and assuming the additional training program is well defined, the Executive Director will send a letter to the candidate approving the additional training.   Upon completion of the additional training, the mentor will need to write a follow-up letter to the Executive Director explaining how the training went. He or she will need to confirm that the candidate is ready for the certifying exam.  Assuming that the training goes well, the Executive Director will send the candidate a letter re-admitting the candidate into the certification process.  The candidate will then be given two attempts in two years to pass the Written or Oral Exam.

Historically, candidates that complete a very thorough and comprehensive additional training program do very well on the exam when they return.