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New Assessment Platform Changes How Pediatricians Think About Exams

From the beginning, the ABP hoped that MOCAPeds, its new online assessment platform, would not only satisfy a pediatrician’s continuing certification examination requirements, but would also foster learning. It was to be “assessment for learning” instead of only “assessment of learning.” The questions would help pediatricians identify gaps in their knowledge, and the rationales that accompany the answers would help them fill those gaps.

However, no one anticipated how many pediatricians would find that MOCA-Peds questions would help them identify and fill gaps in their professional knowledge.

In a voluntary and anonymous survey sent to all pediatricians who completed the 2017 pilot and met the passing standard, nearly all (97.6%) who responded said they had learned, refreshed, or enhanced their medical knowledge. Of those, 62% had made a practice change related to something they learned while participating in the pilot.1

As one pediatrician noted, it’s about “keeping up to date in real time rather than cramming for a test.”

Dr. Sinda Althoen with a patient“I think MOCA-Peds is great,” says Sinda Althoen, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at Providence St. Joseph Health in Santa Ana, CA. Her experience with the platform began in 2019 when MOCA-Peds became available for General Pediatrics, Child Abuse Pediatrics, Pediatric Gastroenterology, and Pediatric Infectious Diseases for pediatricians who enrolled in a Maintenance of Certification (MOC) cycle in 2018.

“The number of questions is reasonable,” adds Dr. Althoen. “The time allotted is reasonable and five minutes [per question] is easy to find in my day.”

Dr. Althoen also credits MOCA-Peds with refreshing her memory and updating her knowledge in certain areas. “As a general pediatrician, I appreciate that the questions are relevant to the patients I see every day in my office. I find the questions on rarer syndromes to be a helpful reminder.”

Dr. Linda AlthouseFor Linda Althouse, PhD, ABP Vice President for Assessment, helping pediatricians identify gaps in their knowledge was one of the primary goals of the new platform. “MOCA-Peds allows the pediatrician to be more of an active participant in their learning,” says Althouse. “By participating in MOCA-Peds, pediatricians are able to continually obtain feedback on how they are performing in a number of content domains. These data are stored within the platform and accessible to the pediatrician. When participants assess their own learning needs, they are more likely to change their practice.”

The hope is that as more pediatricians gain access to the platform and participate, they will leverage MOCA-Peds as a tool to keep up with the ever-changing world of medicine.

“I think the best aspect of MOCA-Peds is the ongoing nature [of it],” says Dr. Althoen. “For general pediatrics [and subspecialties], there is great value in touching up on skills quarterly.”

The ABP recommends participants review learning objectives before starting MOCA-Peds each year, access resources while taking questons, and review the rationale and references supporting the correct answers.

Also, Althouse encourages pediatricians to visit the “Question History” page within MOCA-Peds, where they can get detailed information about the questions and answers, including rationales on which the answer is based. This information may help pediatricians identify and fill gaps in their knowledge.


From anonymous survey responses:

“MOCA-Peds helps you realize what has changed in medicine and put it into practice.”

“It’s really just refreshing general knowledge about things and in reinforcing things that I maybe haven’t thought about in a while. I am a subspecialist, and so there are many [General Pediatrics] items I don’t really look back on. However, I feel like refreshing my [General Pediatrics] knowledge makes me a better physician in general.”

“[Now] I routinely access clinical guidelines during chart review for conditions that I see less frequently, because the MOCA-Peds pilot highlighted areas of practice where my knowledge was not as strong.”

“By not studying endless hours of minutiae for a sit-down exam, I was able to [answer} these questions faster and immediately learn from the discussions and focus my extra time on practical continuing education for my patients.”

“I had gotten out of the habit of reading to stay current and MOCA-Peds was a great jump start to get going again.”



In 2019, MOCA-Peds was available for pediatricians in General Pediatrics, Child Abuse Pediatrics, Pediatric Gastroenterology, and Pediatric Infectious Diseases. Exam due dates for all subspecialties have been postponed until MOCA-Peds is available in those areas.

Other pediatric subspecialties certified by the ABP:

  • 2020 — Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine, Pediatric Nephrology, Pediatric Pulmonology
  • 2021 — Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, Pediatric Endocrinology, Pediatric Hospital Medicine, Pediatric Rheumatology
  • 2022 — Adolescent Medicine, Pediatric Cardiology, Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Pediatric Hematology-Oncology
1Turner AL, Olmsted M, Smith AC, Dounoucos V, Bradford A, Althouse L, Leslie LK. Pediatrician perspectives on learning and practice change in the MOCA-Peds 2017 pilot. Pediatrics. 2019;144(6):e20192305. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-2305.

Top photo: Dr. Sinda Althoen (left) with her patient, Nishant Patel. Photo by Tony Kawashima Photography.