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Examination Structure

  Examination Structure (164.8 KiB, 2,818 hits)


Examination of the European College of Veterinary Pathology

(last update: February 2020)

  1. Examination Structure

The examination tests a balanced mix of general, specific, theoretical and practical knowledge relevant to the veterinary pathology profession. It comprises five sections: Histopathology, Gross Pathology, General Pathology, Veterinary Pathology and Comprehensive Pathology. To pass the examination, a candidate must pass each of these five sections.


This section of the examination is performed on a selection of 18 histological specimens (glass slides, i.e. haematoxylin-eosin stained tissue sections), one cytological preparation and one print-out of a transmission electron microscopy image. The case material represents a balanced mix of different relevant animal species, organ systems, and pathologic processes. For each case, 20 points may be obtained; these are distributed between tissue identification, description (including its design), morphological diagnosis, and, where appropriate, aetiology, pathogenesis and/or “name the disease”. The total amount of time allocated to this section is 4 hours and 30 minutes; one slide set is shared between two candidates.

Gross Pathology

This section of the examination is performed on a selection of 60 gross photographs. The case material represents a balanced mix of different relevant animal species, organ systems, and pathologic processes. Images are projected on a wall screen. Each case carries a total of 3 points, based on questions such as: morphological diagnosis, etiology, lesion in another organ, pathogenesis, and/or clinical signs. The amount of time allocated to each photograph is 2 minutes, with a total of 2 hours for this section.


General Pathology

This section of the examination comprises 70 questions, i.e. 50 multiple choice questions (MCQs) and 20 short answer questions (SAQs). For each MCQ, the correct answer must be selected from 4 choices. Each MCQ carries 4 points, and each SAQ carries 5 points. Questions cover the various disease processes and are generated from textbooks and journal articles. The total amount of time allocated to this section is 4 hours.

Veterinary Pathology

This section of the examination is further subdivided into subsections (small animals, large animals, laboratory animals, poultry and exotic animals). Candidates are requested to select 3 different subsections by choosing one of the major items (A or B) and one of the minor items (a to d).

Major items:

  1. Small (dog and cat) and large (ruminants, pigs and horses) domestic animals
  2. Poultry (industrially kept birds) and large animals (ruminants, pigs and horses)

Minor items:

  1. Small domestic animals (dog and cat) – only if B selected as major item
  2. Laboratory animals (mouse, rat, non-human primate, dog, rabbit, guinea pig and other species used for biomedical research and drug safety assessment)
  3. Exotic animals (cage birds, zoo animals, wildlife)
  4. Poultry (industrially kept birds) – only if A selected as major item

Each subsection comprises 25 MCQs and 10 SAQs. For each MCQ, the correct answer must be selected from 4 choices. Each MCQ carries four 4 points, and each SAQ carries 5 points. Questions are balanced with regards to the topics, i.e. disease processes, organ and species distribution (e.g. “large animals” covers ruminants, pigs and horses). They are derived from textbooks and journal articles. The first two subsections are given in one first session of 3 hours; the third subsection is given in a second session of 1 hour and 30 minutes on the same day; there is a break between the first and the second sessions

Comprehensive Pathology

This section of the examination tests practical problem solving, data analysis and interpretation skills, as well as knowledge of common research techniques in veterinary pathology. It comprises 5 subsections and covers the following non exhaustive list of practical fields: data analysis, toxicologic pathology study, lesion assessment/quantification, abstract review, forensic case, second opinion case, clinical pathology investigations; other fields may be included. Each subsection requires a short essay-type answer. The five subsections carry equal weights in the total score, there is a balance of different technologies and approaches tested. The total amount of time allocated to this subsection is 4 hours and 30 minutes, though the different subsections may not require an equal amount of time.


Abstract review: This is often in the context of a review, for a grant application, a conference participation or a manuscript submission. The abstract usually has a length of 400-500 words and contains errors that need to be identified and corrected. This subsection requires the application of general and/or special veterinary pathology knowledge.

Toxicologic pathology: For this subsection, a combination of selected gross and/or histology pictures, survival curves, organ weight tables, clinical pathology parameters, macroscopic and/or microscopic incidence tables can be provided and will require description and interpretation. This subsection requires the application of knowledge on clinical and/or anatomic pathology findings in laboratory animals, based on the comparison of treated and untreated groups. Basic knowledge about the format of toxicologic pathology data and the methodology as well as the vocabulary used in toxicology studies is helpful. Background observations and/or outlier values will have to be differentiated from test article-related findings, and candidates may be asked to draw conclusions or express hypotheses regarding the safety of the test article, the dose-dependency of effects, and putative mechanism of action; they may also be asked to suggest additional refinements to the study protocol.

Data analysis: This subsection requires basic knowledge on molecular pathology, it is tested in the context of a scientific study. Research data are presented in various forms (e.g. graphs, blots) and requires description and interpretation. This subsection usually also requires knowledge about a technique that was applied in the study. It is therefore expected that the candidates know the basic principles of frequently applied techniques. This includes molecular techniques to analyse DNA, RNA, proteins, epigenetic alterations, genetic modifications and reporter assays. This does not require knowledge about protocols (e.g. the pH of a certain buffer), but tests the basic understanding of techniques used to complement pathology findings. Candidates may also be asked to use the data to express a new hypothesis and suggest further experiments to be carried-out.

Second opinion case: This subsection can deal with a forensic case or a clinical case and tests the candidate’s diagnostic pathology knowledge. Pictures of histological and/or gross lesions and/or clinical data (including reference values) and/or special stains may be provided. The candidate is not asked to provide a detailed description of the histological changes, but is expected to provide a morphological and/or aetiological diagnosis.

  1. Examination Committee and exam preparation process

The Exam Committee (EC) is composed of active ECVP diplomates who have been members for at least three (3) years. The number of EC members is based on the number of candidates. One member acts as the chairperson and is a member of the ECVP Council. EC full members are enrolled for a five (5) year tenure. Full membership is accessible only after having completed one year in the EC as an associate member. Each year, new associate members are enrolled in the Exam Committee to ensure a pool of successors to members leaving the EC. Members represent specific areas of expertise in the field of veterinary pathology (e.g. large animals, poultry or laboratory animals), the different employment sectors of the profession (academia, diagnostics, industry) and different European countries. New associate and full members are selected by the Committee, considering the above criteria.

Each exam section (or subsection when applicable) has a section leader who is responsible for the final assembly of the exam paper. Exam papers are put together from a selection of questions with answers that each EC member submits for the different exam sections. Questions submitted by ECVP diplomates, who are not EC members, will also be considered and submission is rewarded by CPD points. Questions are then selected by a remote review process and a four-day preparatory meeting in the autumn prior to the examination, where all questions are reviewed by the EC and the final, consolidated exam paper is assembled.

  1. Credentials

The general requirements of the College Examination are that the eligible candidate must:

  1. have satisfactory standing in the profession
  2. be qualified to practice veterinary medicine in a European country and received their veterinary qualification from an EAEVE-approved establishment or presents evidence of veterinary education and training which in the judgement of the Council is an equivalent qualification.
  3. have worked or undergone training as a veterinarian in a field relevant to veterinary pathology (“internship”) for at least one (1) year subsequent to graduation from veterinary school.
  4. have then completed at least three (3) years of supervised training in a pathology residency programme that is acceptable to the Council or have completed an alternate training programme approved by the College.
  5. have published at least 2 original papers in internationally recognised journals in the field of veterinary pathology.

The final requirement to obtain the full credentials is having passed at least two sections of the exam. If a candidate fails to pass 2 sections, he/she has to resubmit a new application and this attendance is not considered as an attempt.

  1. Examination Rules

Splitting the examination

It is possible to split the examination. A candidate can choose to take three sections of the examination of her/his own choice as a first block. Of those chosen sections, the candidate must pass at least two sections to progress and reach a minimum score of 30% in the third section. The failed section of the first exam block can be taken separately or together with the sections of the second block. The candidate has 3 attempts to pass the missing sections within the 4 years following the year the first block was taken.

Passing of individual sections and passing the examination

Attendance of the examination can have two possible outcomes.

1) The candidate passes at least two (2) attempted sections and has reached a minimum score of 30% in the failed section(s): She/he is now considered as fulfilling all final credentials and the attempt is considered as the first attempt at the examination. The candidate is now offered up to three (3) additional attempts within the next 4 years to retake the failed sections or (in the case of the split examination) to sit the failed and/or additional sections.

2) The candidate passes one or no section or failed sections with a score below 30%: The candidate is considered as not having fulfilled the final credentials for the examination. The candidate can apply to the examination in the following year, at which stage the above process starts again.

Failing the entire examination

A candidate who has fulfilled final credentials (option 1 above), but does then not pass all 5 sections (after resitting failed sections) within the given time frame (total of 5 years), has failed the entire examination. She/he is allowed to again apply to the examination as a new candidate. The above process starts again.

Withdrawal and illness

Withdrawal prior to the examination or failure to appear for the examination will not constitute an attempt to sit all or any section(s) of the exam, but will count as one of the years for which repeat candidates are eligible to pass any previously failed section(s). A candidate’s illness during preparation for, or during the actual examination, will not be considered a valid reason to waive the rules of the College. In the event a candidate starts, but is unable to complete the examination, results will be determined for all sections for which the candidate is scheduled, regardless of the number of sections completed.


Last Updated: March 11th, 2020