Note: This FAQ pertains to the ABCN Specialty Certification Process. An FAQ specific to the Subspecialty of Pediatric Clinical Neuropsychology can be found here.
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.
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.
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 15 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.
ABCN is an affiliated board, one of the 15 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.
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.
As of May 13, 2020, there were 1,399 board certified Clinical Neuropsychologists in 50 states (plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands), as well as five Canadian provinces and Australia.
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.
The cumulative written exam pass rates generally fall between 60-70%. The oral exam pass rates typically exceed 80%. Our data indicate that pass rates increase from one stage of the exam to the next. Individuals who pass the written exam appear to be well prepared for the oral exam.
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.
The Written Examination (WE) consists of multiple choice questions covering areas that are the foundational and functional/practice core knowledge bases for neuro- psychologists 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 details.
The examination is administered online in a remote format 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
ABCN supports diversity in all its forms encompassing, but not limited to, age, disability status, economic circumstances, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation. We believe that varied backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives help to generate better ideas to solve the complex problems of an increasingly diverse world. We actively recruit diverse board members to ensure that different perspectives are considered at the decision-making level. We also have a committee to help us think in a more focused way about how we advance diversity and inclusion across the work we do. Diversity awareness and practice is integrated throughout our written and oral exam processes. ABCN also promotes board certification in under-represented populations through our commitment to nominating individuals for relevant awards/grants.