The American Board of Pathology (ABPath) publishes annual performance data for the anatomic pathology (AP) and clinical pathology (CP) board examinations, as well as for ABPath subspecialty examinations. Overall board pass rates for all AP and CP board examinees have increased during the past decade; however, no study has analyzed the board pass rates for pathology subspecialty examinations, and whether these follow the same trend.


To evaluate ABPath subspecialty examination pass rates to assess the trend in certification.


We analyzed the total number of first-time test takers and board pass rates for 11 pathology subspecialties recognized by the ABPath from 2007 to 2021, acquired from annual reports published by the ABPath. We compared the pass rates in 5-year intervals (2007–2011, 2012–2016, 2017–2021) for each individual specialty. We also analyzed the pass rate of CP subspecialties compared with AP subspecialties.


The overall mean pass rate for ABPath subspecialty examinations during the previous 15 years was 89% (range, 78.9%–100%), with the overall pass rate being significantly higher in 2017–2021 (P = .02). The contemporary overall rate of passing was significantly higher for AP subspecialty examinations (P < .001) and higher, though not significantly, for CP subspecialties (P = .13). There were significant differences between first-time test takers' mean pass rate (92.1%), repeat test takers' mean pass rate (54.5%), and the overall rate (P < .001).


Contemporary pathology subspecialty board examination pass rates are significantly higher than historic rates, possibly reflecting continuously improving and readily available preparatory materials.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.