Format of the Comprehensive Objective Examination in Anatomical Pathology

This information refers to the format of the 2021 exam. The exam board is currently considering the best approach to represent visual material (i.e. microscopy) on the exam. All references to exam components in this document or to the exam dates on the Royal College web site may be subject to change. The format of the 2022 exam will be updated in early November 2021.

The examination assesses the candidate’s abilities to function as a consultant anatomical pathologist across the CanMEDS domains of Medical Expert, Communicator, Collaborator, Leader, Health Advocate, Scholar and Professional.

  1. Written Component

The first written component consists of one 3-hour paper containing 28 short answer questions (SAQ). Each SAQ normally has multiple parts.

The second written component consists of one 3-hour paper containing photographic images encompassing Histopathology, Gross Pathology, Cytopathology, and Forensic Pathology. For each case, the candidate is expected to give the most specific diagnosis based on the image(s). There may be more than one image per case, and some cases may also include more than one question. The paper will have up to 40 cases for Histopathology and 15 cases each of Gross Pathology, Cytopathology, and Forensic Pathology.

The subjects covered in this examination will include, but are not limited to, basic pathophysiology of disease (basic science), gross pathology, principles of surgical pathology, forensic pathology (autopsy), cytopathology, molecular pathology, special techniques and laboratory management.

Questions may cover all competencies as described in the Objectives of Training in the Specialty of Anatomical Pathology .

Study materials should include, but are not limited to, standard textbooks of basic pathology, diagnostic surgical pathology, forensic pathology, and cytopathology.


  1. Practical Component

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic , and the inability to conduct an on-site applied examination, Anatomical Pathology has chosen to base the certification decision on the written examination only i.e. there will not be an applied examination in 2021. In 2022, the delivery of the applied component will be re-evaluated.

Revised October 2020