The exam, as I remember it, consists of two parts: a written multiple choice format, which is pretty straightforward and easily manageable if adequately prepared, and an oral part. I remember the oral part as the more strenuous one. The format of the latter is case based and requires examinees to rotate along different examiners from different subspecialties. Questions are open-ended, start off easy and gradually progress to a higher level of difficulty. Usually they will provide you with a photo-documented case and ask your opinion about the differential diagnosis. The more you know, the more questions you get.
Also if you don’t know the answer, don’t panic! It’s very normal not to know everything! Examiners are in general very friendly and will try to help you out where they can. The official language of the exam is English although it’s possible, at least for the oral exam, to opt for examiners in your own language.
Preparation for this exam takes some time and i would say that an average student probably will need about a full year of almost daily study (2/3 hrs) in order to be succesfull. In Belgium Kanski’s Clinical Ophthalmology is recommended as minimum study material and often suffices to pass the exam. I, personally, preferred and studied the Basic and Clinical Science Course (BCSC, American Academy of Ophthalmology) and found this to be very helpful as it provides more insight and details which may come handy in the oral part. Also some European residency programs require studying the BCSC as part of their residency education program to meet national requirements for Board certification. If so i believe it’s a little effort to sit for the EBO as well.
I would certainly recommend the EBO not only because of it’s long and prestigious tradition but also because it gives the succesfull candidate an extra qualification that is recognised all over Europe. We, Europeans, all graduate from very different national residency programs and the EBO provides a way to measure our theoretical knowledge of basic ophthalmology regardless of our previous pathway.
Those who have acuired the EBO Diploma are allowed to add the title FEBO (Fellow of the European Board of Ophthalmology) after their name.
The exam day is, as tradition wants it, concluded by an informal dinner in Paris which allows for some well earned relaxation after a stressful period.
Good luck to you all!
Kristof Van Schelvergem, MD, FEBO