Many of you may have heard colleagues complain about the daunting COLA requirements that loom over our heads each recertification cycle! But most of us have no clue what COLA stands for, let alone what they are, where to find them or what they mean with regards to our certification. The fact is they are really pretty simple, just another hoop to jump through for recertification.

Once you are officially board certified in EM, your certificate will state an expiration date that is 10 years out, by this date you must complete a handful of things, but for the sake of time and space in this email I am only going to go into detail on COLA’s. You can review the rest of the details on pages 17-20 in our membership packet.

WHAT IS A COLA (Continuous Osteopathic Learning Assessment)?
A COLA module involves reading multiple articles from the literature and then completing an online examination regarding those articles. Each COLA contains 40 questions on emergency medicine core content categories. A list of the specific references/articles are provided by the AOBEM but access to them is not. ( )

Each physician must take and pass a minimum of 8 COLA modules within a 10-year cycle. Each candidate has a maximum of 3 opportunities to pass each. A new COLA module is available each year and each COLA is only available for a 3-year period. After that you will pay an expired fee.

If you register and pay for the COLA before it expires but don’t actually get around to completing the questions until after the 3-year expiration period, you should contact AOBEM to discuss. In the past they have honored this and given you access and credit, but is obviously not the desired or recommended method.

Any COLA that is still downloadable online (expired or current) is available for you to complete, regardless of when you graduated from residency. For instance, if you graduated in July 2015, you can still complete a COLA from 2012 if it is still available to download on AOBEM.


$105/COLA Module
$210/Expired COLA Module

The catch is that this fee simply provides you the reference information for the articles, access to the test and the CME credits (8, 1-B credits). You then have to go out and findrights to the articles, which in some cases requires an additional payment through the specific Journals to have access to the articles.


8 COLAs in a 10-year period is basically an annual requirement, but those who have walked before us have some insight into ways to help get through them:

– ACOEP COLA REVIEWS: Every spring the ACOEP hosts a COLA review the Thursday evening of the conference. It is 5 hours long, and thoroughly presents and summarizes each article, then reviews each question and answer to ensure you pass on the first go-around. It also includes dinner. Worth 5 (1-A) credits for the course in addition to the 8 (1-B) credits for completing the COLA. $200/review

– DIGITAL CLASSROOM: You can also access recorded versions of past COLA reviews through the ACOEP digital classroom. The question and answer portion of the live COLA review will be edited out of the online version for academic integrity purposes. You can still obtain the answers but it will be necessary to listen to the entire recorded lecture rather than just fast forwarding to the end for answers. Worth 2 (1-B) credits. $50/review.

– STUDY GROUPS: some people get with a group of friends from residency or work to share in the total cost of obtaining all the articles, and they alternate years they are responsible for purchasing the articles.

– GET YOUR COMPANY TO PAY FOR IT: some physicians work for companies that either help supply them with the articles through their hospital sources and/or include this in any CME stipends/reimbursements.

– ALUMNI POWER: some residencies actually purchase these articles annually through their university/hospital resources and send them out to its past residents each year. This serves as a great way for programs to keep in touch with alumni as well as a great reminder that it is time to do another test.