Pediatric Board Exam Time Per Question, Number of Blocks & More

PBR 2012 Corrections and Clarifications
Can I Improve Pediatrics In-Training Exam Scores For Myself? Or For My Program?

The Ins & Outs of TEST DAY!

As the pediatric board exam nears, I'm often asked the following questions:

  • Pediatric board exam time per question and pacing is something I struggle with. Can you help?
  • How many questions are on the pediatrics board exam?
  • What is the number of sections for the American Board of Pediatrics INITIAL board certification exam?

The information on the American Board of pediatrics website is a little confusing, so I've tried to clarify some things below. I try to address some of the more key information you will need on test day. In this article I'll talk specifically about the INITIAL pediatric board certification exam. You'll learn:

  • How many sections are administered for the initial certification exam
  • How many questions are on the peds exam
  • How many questions you can expect to see in each section
  • How much time per question to allot

The break up for the ABP initial certification exam is quite different from the maintenance of certification exam (MOC exam), and the online practice test area that's used by the ABP gives info about the peds MOC exam (Maintenance of Certification exam, aka the “peds recertification exam”). While the software and user interface is the exact same for both exams, the time per block, the number of blocks and the number of breaks is quite different.


  • Total number of questions for the entire initial certification exam: 332 – 336
  • Total number of sections on the initial peds board exam: 4 (NOT two. Again, the online tutorial is for the ABP MOC recertification exam)
  • Total number of questions per block83 to 84
  • Total time per block1 hour and 45 minutes


  • Total number of questions for the entire pediatric maintenance of certification exam: 200
  • Total number of sections on the peds MOC board exam: 2 – ABP Online Tutorial
  • Total number of questions per block: 100
  • Total time per block: 2 hours


You should assume that each block will have 84 questions per block. Each block is 105 minutes long, which means you will have 1 minute 15 seconds per question.


This assumes there are only 83-84 questions per block (based on my direct communication with the ABP). Please verify this at the beginning of each section.

  1. Make sure you watch the timer VERY closely
  2. Each section 1 hour 45 minutes long (105 minutes) long.
  3. You should be getting 12 questions done per 15 min
    • 1 hour 30 minutes left – #12 is done, starting #13
    • 1 hour 15 minutes left – #24 is done, starting #25
    • 1 hour left – #36 is done, starting #37
    • 45 minutes left – #48 is done, starting #49
    • 30 minutes left – #60 is done, starting #61
    • 15 minutes left – #72 is done, starting #73
    • 00 minutes left – #84 is done. If there are only 83 questions, you should have 1 minute and 15 seconds to spare!



This assumes you have gone through the online ABP practice test area/mock exam in detail prior to the exam day. Make sure you do this! It will allow you to try out the software and read the various introduction sections. Note that it only has 5 questions and no answers. Also, it mentions TWO blocks instead of FOUR because it is an MOC-specific tutorial.

The ABP gives you 90 minutes of break time broken up as described below. You cannot gain break time by skipping the intro/tutorials, but by familiarizing yourself with those areas a head of time you can save a little extra “brain power” on the day of the exam. So, please go through the tutorial and familiarize yourself with the testing software layout, the keyboard functionality, the image button, the lab sheet, the honor code, etc. By doing this, you can SKIP the first 3 sections of instructions on the actual day of the test (you'll shorten your day by 15 minutes). If you do as I suggest, here's what your exam day should look like:

REGISTRATIONArrive 30 minutes prior to the start time




EXAMINATION SECTION 11 hour and 45 minutes

BREAK (Optional)Up to 15 minutes – If you’re not back at your desk by the 15th minute, the next section will start without you!

EXAMINATION SECTION 21 hour and 45 minutes

BREAK (Optional)Up to 60 minutes – If you’re not back at your desk by the 60th minute, the next section will start without you!

EXAMINATION SECTION 31 hour and 45 minutes

BREAK (Optional) – Up to 15 minutes – If you’re not back at your desk by the 15th minute, the next section will start without you!

EXAMINATION SECTION 41 hour and 45 minutes


OPTIONAL SURVEYUp to 15 minutes – Skip?

TOTAL TIME8.5 – 9 hours


Did this help? Would you change anything about the above structure? Do you have any recommendations for others who will be taking the exam? I'd love to hear your thoughts so PLEASE leave a comment below.

PBR 2012 Corrections and Clarifications
Can I Improve Pediatrics In-Training Exam Scores For Myself? Or For My Program?
Ashish Goyal, M.D.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 19 comments
Rani -

Thanks again Ashish! That was huge! It really helps to understand that the practice put out by ABP was for MOC. I like the tips about extra 15 min breaks and turning your clock to noon to help pace. Very Smart! Very thoughtful of you too!

Would you still recommend to start at the last question on this computer base test?

I have so much gratitude for you and your family for all the time you spend helping us.

Vanessa -

Thanks for the helpful pointers, Ashish. However, I believe there is a typo in your timeline where you mention “12:15 – should be done with quest 83…” I think it should be “01:15” based on your timeline. Otherwise, good stuff!:-). God bless you.

Dr. V.

Ashish -

Awe… too sweet. My family has been great this month given that it’s crunch time. I think we’ll have a celebratory dinner on Friday in honor of all of you 🙂

As for your question, GOOD ONE!

The answer is that I WISH you could do that. I just scanned the tutorial and it seems way too painful to get to the end of the exam to look at the last 5 questions. While I WISH it was easier, I guess the answer is to just start at number 1, but KEEP PACE. You have to be able to let go of questions that are taking too long!

Some of the EASIEST and QUICKEST/SHORTEST questions have been know to pop up at the end of each 84 question section!

Good luck!!!


Ashish -

Hey V,

Thanks so much for catching that! I’ve modified it to coincide with the timer since you can’t take in a watch.

Good luck on the exam!!


Letitia -

Ashish, what do you think about taking 3 30 minute breaks. I did this for USMLE due fatigue and anxiety. It helped me to stop, rest my eyes and have a small snack. I think that a long lunch will make me more nervous.

Dr. Letitia

Ashish -

I didn’t really address how I’d use the time for myself, but based on another comment it looks like watches are not allowed. I’ve also reviewed the Prometric list of prohibited items and it looks like they almost want you to go in naked. No personal items whatsoever. Eyedrops are probably fine.

SO, it looks like the breaks will have to by the Prometric test center’s rules. GET BACK to your seat by the end of your 15 minutes… OR ELSE!

Good luck!!!



Thank you Ashish. Lots of useful tips and info. You are GREAT!!!!!!!!

Ashish -

Thank YOU for the wonderful comments. I truly appreciate it and it makes my day!

Randi -

I am SO far behind in my studies and working in a busy new practice. I’m sure I’ll be failing in October at this rate! Do you think it’s best to withdraw and reschedule for next year, or do my best and take the exam now? I just finished residency…started working right away…a decision I wish I’d thought through differently.

Ashish Goyal, M.D. -

Hi Randi,

Great question. Honestly, I NEVER tell people to withdraw unless they’ve failed over and over again, and it’s obvious that they haven’t been able to put in the studying needed to pass the exam. For you, I think you should study as much as you can and take the exam this year anyway. Several reasons:
1. You have the best chance of passing the first year out of residency.
2. Taking the exam will give you experience with the boards. You can come home and highlight topics that you found yourself struggling with and really focus on them next year.
3. My prediction is that the overall pass rate for 2013 will be even HIGHER than the 2012 pass rate. You can read about it in the PBR article about the American Board of Pediatrics pass rates and their history.

Reasons NOT to take the exam:
1. If you fail, Ashish will need to honor the PBR First-Time Pass Guarantee and give you your money back!… Or maybe that’s a reason to take it anyway? 🙂

Hope this helps,
– Ashish

Ashah -

I will be 30-31 weeks pregnant while taking the exam. Any suggestion for managing break time? Instead of taking 60 minute break can I take smaller and frequent breaks?

Ashah -


Ashish Goyal, M.D. -

Hi Ashah,

If you want any exceptions made, you’ll have to actually ask the ABP to make special considerations. In all honestly, I doubtful that the pregnancy will afford you any special consideration… but you never know!

I’d give them a call, or send them an email to find out.

Would love to hear back from you after they get back to you with a decision.

Good luck!
– Ashish

Waleed Khan -

Hi Ashish
I am doing good re the core study material and I am hoping I will be able to finish it atleast 4 if not 5 times before the exam but I did not do enough q and answers. What do you suggest? Any thoughts or input will be appreciated. Please and thanks for all the great work

Ashish Goyal, M.D. -

Hi Waleed,

If you truly feel that you have a good handle on the content, then it sounds like you have some work to do on question-answering strategies. I think that’s where the coaching program comes in, but I know that is something that was only available and affordable for a handful of people.

For you, I’d start looking at the questions that you get wrong and try to look for patterns.
– Are you second guessing yourself?
– Are you answer the actual question being asked, or are you selecting answers that do not necessarily answer the question being asked?
– Are you running out of time?
– Are you chasing answers that you’ve never heard of before?

There’s a LOT that goes into it… I hope this helps in some way.

– Ashish

Sarah-Jo -

Hi Ashish,

I’m having trouble getting the ABP Practice Exam/Mock Test to work properly…it doesn’t go past the tutorial 🙁 Any recommendations?


Ashish Goyal, M.D. -

Hi Sarah-Jo,

There’s often confusion around the tutorial that you’re referring to. I’m guessing you meant this one: ABP Tutorial

That area is simply for you to see what the user interface looks like. It has 5 questions, but NO answers. I think the best reason to visit that area is to read everything ahead of time and to familiarize yourself with the interface. Doing so will save you some brain drain on the morning of your exam, and will also decrease some of the stress and anxiety that could come with seeing software that you’ve never encountered before.

Hope that helps!

– Ashish

Vinh Nguyen -

Wonderful instruction & guideline, Ashish. It’s way better than ABP itself. It saves us lots of time & energy on this. Thank you very much.

Ashish Goyal, M.D. -

Quite welcome Vinh. Good luck on Thursday!


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