FAQs - Questions, Facts, and Figures for Candidates


Note: This FAQ pertains to the ABCN Specialty Certification Process. An FAQ specific to the Subspecialty of Pediatric Clinical Neuropsychology can be found here.

1. What is board certification?
Certification by the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN) is a voluntary process and the last step in professional credentialing. It is designed to assure competent neuropsychological assessment through the evaluation of essential practice knowledge and skill. ABCN certification is granted to clinical neuropsychologists who successfully complete four stages of a rigorous peer review process: Credentials review and vetting; written examination to assess breadth of knowledge; practice sample (casebook) submission; and an oral examination by peer reviewers held semi-annually in Chicago.

2. What are the requirements for a clinical neuropsychologist to become ABCN certified?
Specific requirements differ depending on the date of completion of the doctoral degree. For details, click here: ABCN Requirements. The requirements for those graduating after 1/01/2005 reflect an evolved, more standardized training model (the Houston Conference Guidelines) that parallels and addresses the rapid expansion of knowledge in clinical neuropsychology and related sciences.

3. Why are ABCN candidates viewed differently based on the date of completion of the doctoral degree?
ABCN’s evolving candidacy criteria are consistent with the maturation of specialties and certifying boards. As knowledge within the field grows, training opportunities and standards of practice evolve in kind. Since the creation of ABCN in 1981, neuropsychology and related clinical neurosciences have advanced with great speed, and the progressive criteria for eligibility for board certification reflect this advancement.

4. Is ABCN board certification in clinical neuropsychology anything like board certification in medicine?
ABCN is intended to mirror board certification in medicine. Principally, board certification represents acknowledgment by one's professional peers that one is competent to practice in a designated specialty following thorough examination of one's knowledge and abilities. The ABPP affiliation status is another similarity. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) is the umbrella body for 18 medical specialty boards, including the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. In psychology, the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) is the umbrella board for 14 specialty boards, including ABCN. The ABCN examination process is analogous to that of medical specialty boards, and includes training requirements, credentials review, written examination, practice sample evaluation, and oral examination.

Unlike the uniformity of training and educational standards in medical schools, there has historically been more variability of training models in clinical psychology programs and in the path toward training and education in clinical neuropsychology. The Houston Conference guidelines are an attempt to create a uniform training model for clinical neuropsychologists and are endorsed by ABCN.

5. How is ABCN structured?
ABCN is an affiliated board, one of the fourteen specialty member boards of the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP). Started by APA in 1947 and later spun off, ABPP is the only board-certifying body in psychology with an umbrella structure. ABCN is governed by a board of individuals elected by the membership of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN). The primary mission of the ABCN Board is to arrange and conduct investigations and examinations to determine the qualifications of individuals who apply for certification in clinical neuropsychology. These investigations and examinations evaluate the ability of candidates to clearly demonstrate competence across core foundational and functional domains expected of all clinical neuropsychology specialists.

6. What is the relationship between ABCN, AACN, and ABPP?
The American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN) is a membership organization comprised solely of neuropsychologists who have successfully completed ABCN certification. ABCN manages the certification process, and AACN promotes the interests of certified neuropsychologists. Both organizations are overseen by the ABPP Board of Trustees.

7. How many ABCN board certified Clinical Neuropsychologists are there?
As of January 1, 2013, there were 907 board certified Clinical Neuropsychologists in 48 states and the District of Columbia, and four provinces in Canada.

8. Is ABCN mostly for academic neuropsychologists?
No. ABCN is a practice certification, not an academic certification. Practice certification means peer review of clinical work product in the
neuropsychological evaluation of individual patients. The most recent directory of AACN members shows that the majority of ABCN specialists are not affiliated with any academic setting. ABCN is especially important as an external credential for psychologists involved in private practice.

9. I’ve heard ABCN written and oral examination pass rates are abnormally low. Is this true?
ABCN pass rates are reasonable when compared to benchmark medical board rates. Written exam pass rates generally fall between 65-75%. Oral exam pass rates typically exceed 80%. By comparison, pass rates for the neurology portion of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology exam generally fall between 55-65% for the written exam and approximate 70% for the oral exam. In both neuropsychology and neurology boards, trends suggest that passing the written exam raises the likelihood of success at the oral exam.

10. I've heard rumors that ABCN is "elitist and exclusionary". Is there any truth to it?
No. The ABCN credential review and examination procedures are based on competence alone. It is the mission of the ABCN to have all competent, practicing clinical neuropsychologists pass board examination. Many prominent ABCN specialists did not train at high-profile institutions, and many work in community, social service, or private practice settings. Anyone who earns a doctoral degree from a regionally accredited program, and receives appropriate training in Clinical Neuropsychology, is eligible to take the examination. Click here to review training and education criteria. In some cases, exceptions can be made for individuals with nontraditional training backgrounds, as ABCN recognizes there may be more than one viable path to competence. Questions regarding such exceptions should be directed to the ABCN Central Office.

11. What does the Written Examination cover?
The Written Examination (WE) consists of multiple choice questions covering areas that are the foundational and functional/practice core knowledge bases for neuropsychologists identified by Section VI of the Houston Conference guidelines. These include: General Psychology (including statistics and methodology), General Clinical Psychology, General Psychopathology/Neuropathology, Brain-Behavior Relationships, and the Practice of Clinical Neuropsychology. Questions may cover factual, historical, practice, and/or professional issues, including ethics. Please refer to the Houston Guidelines for further detail: Houston Guidelines

The examination is administered electronically at Prometric Centers across North America in two-week windows, four times per year. A candidate registers for this examination through the ABPP website after being notified of passing the ABPP/ABCN Credential Review process. The appropriate form and examination fee must be received by ABPP at least one month prior to the registration deadline. Click here to view more information about the written examination, the upcoming schedule of exams, and registration deadlines

12. If I don't pass the written/oral examination the first time, does that mean I am not qualified or not sufficiently competent?
There are many reasons that competent neuropsychologists may not pass the written or oral examination, including stress, anxiety and insufficient or misapplied study. In such cases, competence may not be demonstrated, even though the candidate is otherwise qualified. Every effort is made to support the candidate through the process, and procedures are in place for re-examination in cases where the candidate does not pass. Peer support and opportunities for mentorship are available through the BRAIN portal.

13. What benefit is there to certification through ABCN?
Board certification through ABCN assures the public and the profession that the specialist has successfully completed the education, training, and experience requirements of the specialty including an examination designed to assess the competencies required to provide quality services in clinical neuropsychology. It reflects validation by one's peers of competency in the specialty of clinical neuropsychology, and consumers of neuropsychological services can be assured that the individual with ABCN certification has stood for and passed an examination of their skills and knowledge.

Those who wish to represent themselves as specialty practitioners can verify their competence in clinical neuropsychology to themselves, the public, employers, and health care payers by virtue of their ABCN Specialist credential. In contrast, unproven representation of specialty competence raises risk of public harm and confuses potential consumers about appropriate credentials. In the current climate of shrinking health-care resources, the ability to provide patients, insurance companies, ACOs, and other payers with external verification of competence through ABCN certification represents an important financial benefit.

Click here to read more about the advantages of board certification through ABPP and ABCN.

14. Do any governmental bodies or institutions recognize ABCN?
Yes. ABPP and all its specialty boards are recognized in 40 states as evidence for transferability of license. The Veteran's Administration recognizes only ABPP and its specialty boards as grounds for a salary increase to staff psychologists. State psychology licensing laws may require that claims of specialty certification meet specific criteria. Florida for example requires a certifying body that is national in scope, incorporates standards of the profession, provides assessments, and collaborates closely with organizations related to specialization in psychology (FL Statutes, Rule 490.0149). This language is based on the ABPP model. As another example, the Mississippi psychology board specifically names ABPP as satisfying statutory requirements for proving specialization. Other states are also preparing legislation to this effect.

15. Do you have a “Senior Option” for mid- or late-career neuropsychologists, making it easier to get certified?
No. Although some ABPP specialty boards offer a simplified process, there are no current ABCN plans to develop such an option. Reasonable flexibility, however, is incorporated into the credential review, taking into account historical training milieus. Additionally, peer support systems for ABCN Candidates are available through AACN and the BRAIN group.

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