The achievements of ten years of ESHRE certification in embryology

Published 17 December 2018

From almost 3000 candidates applying for certification in embryology, 1266 have so far been successful. Borut Kovačič, chair of the Certification Committee, looks back over the first decade and forward to new standards in the examination process.

Organised education in the field of clinical embryology was long recognised as an exposed weak spot in reproductive medicine, and this would prove the cue in 2007 for ESHRE to introduce a self-educational programme for clinical embryologists keen to acquire specialised postgraduate training and professional certification. This, ESHRE determined, would be organised through a two-level examination (for Clinical and Senior Clinical Embryologists), which today continues to flourish with ever continuing enthusiasm. So today, as we look back over this decade of certification in embryology, we find a total of 2894 candidates applying for certification, 2276 sitting the exams and 1266 (55.6%) passing with certification at either level. Not surprisingly, ESHRE Certificates for Clinical and Senior Clinical Embryologists are now recognised as a worthy qualification not only in Europe but in the world at large.

To further enhance the value of the programme, the certification steering committee applied in 2016 for validation of the entire process by the European Union of Medical Specialists (UEMS) in their Council of European Specialist Medical Assessment (CESMA). As a result, UEMS-CESMA monitored ESHRE's embryology exams in Geneva in 2017 and awarded its accreditation, valid for five years, in May 2018. It's for this reason that ESHRE embryology certificates now also carry the logo of CESMA, formally confirming that the ESHRE examinations take place in accordance with standards of recognised European medical specialist examinations.

With CESMA approval secured, ESHRE can now participate in CESMA workshops on standards and the organisation of exams. Some of these standards will be applied in the 2019 tests in Vienna. So, for example, the 2019 exam will take place in digital format, which has advantages for both candidates and organisers. The digital programme will give candidates better control over their answered and not yet answered questions at any time, and will allow quicker marking.


Another adaptation to CESMA standards is the introduction of two types of questions. Most (70) will be the 'single best answer' type, where one of the five choices must be selected as the 'most correct'. However, ten questions will be of a 'multiple correct answer' type, in which there will be more than one possibly correct answer, and each of the five optional answers will be marked as 'correct (true) or wrong (false)'. Each of the five answers from these ten questions will therefore be scored. This will all require more time as a test, so the Vienna exam will comprise a total of 80 instead of the previous 100 questions, and the exam will last for 2 hours and 15 minutes.

In a bid to encourage employer recognition of its initiatives in clinical embryology, ESHRE has now set up a new electronic continuing professional development (CPD) platform allowing ESHRE-certified embryologists to register their educational, scientific and professional activities in pursuit of CPD credits. The system provides an overview of these activities for each individual - the list of activities earning credit points can be found here: https://enmcp.eshre.eu/page/eshre-cpd-credit-system

Following recommendations from the Embryologist Certification Committee, certified Clinical Embryologists must collect 60 credits and Senior Clinical Embryologists 100 credits over a period of three years to meet CPD requirements. As proof of met requirements, ESHRE's CPD certificate can be issued annually to each candidate - and their names included in the list of certified and CPD-active embryologists: https://enmcp.eshre.eu/pages/enmcp-map-widget.php

We are also gratified to learn that the embryology certification programme is now an important criterion in the certification of ART centres for good clinical practice, which ESHRE introduced in 2018.

ESHRE certification in embryology: a decade year by year

* 2007 Curriculum and literature list for certification

* 2008 Fast track certification of Senior Clinical Embryologists

* 2008 First annual exam for Senior Clinical Embryologists

* 2009 First annual exam for Clinical Embryologists

* 2011 Introduction of electronic evaluation of exam answers

* 2012 Certification open to non-European Senior Embryologists

* 2013 Certification open to non-European Clinical Embryologists

* 2016 Introduction of online application platform

* 2018 First long distance e-exam in New Delhi (a pilot project)

* 2018 Online system and certification of continuing professional development (CPD)

* 2018 Accreditation of ESHRE certification for Clinical embryologists by UEMS-CESMA

* 2019 E-exam and updated format of questions