Certification exam delivery is the process of administering a certification test to candidates.  This might seem straightforward, but it is surprisingly complex.  The greater the scale and the stakes, the more potential threats and pitfalls.

For starters, you need to make sure the exam was developed well in the first place.  Learn more about that here.

1. Determine Approach to Certification Exam Delivery

The first step is to determine how you want to deliver the certification exam.  Here are your options for exam delivery.

  • Test Centers
    • Your locations
    • Third party
  • Mode of delivery
    • Paper
    • Online
      • Unproctored
      • Remotely Proctored (Recorded)
      • Remotely Proctored (Live)
      • Multi-modal (a mix of the above)

Which approach to use for certification exam delivery depends on several factors.

  • Are you going to seek accreditation?
  • Do you have an easy way to make your own locations?  One example is that you have quarterly regional conferences for your profession, where you could simply get a side room to deliver your test to candidates since they will already be there.  Another is that most of your candidates are coming from training programs at universities, and you are able to use classrooms at those universities.
  • What are the stakes of the exam?  In rare cases, it can be unproctored online.  Low- to medium-stakes can be delivered with recorded video proctoring.  The highest stakes exams will almost always be at test centers with in-person proctoring, including strong measures like fingerprinting and retinal scanning.  Learn more about remote proctoring.
  • How many exams are you planning to deliver?  If a large volume, higher-cost approaches might be out of your budget.
  • What is your testing cycle like?  Some exams are on-demand year-round, while some might be one or two Saturdays per year.

2. Shop for Vendors

Once you have some idea what you are looking for, start shopping for vendors that provide services for certification exam delivery, development, and scoring.  In some cases, you might not settle on a certain approach right away, and that’s OK.  See what is out there and compare prices.  Perhaps the cost of Live Remote Proctoring is more affordable than you anticipated, and you can upgrade to that.

Besides a simple Google search some good places to start are the member listings of the Association of Test Publishers and the Institute for Credentialing Excellence.

3. Create Policies and Documentation for Certification Exam Delivery

Once you have finalized your vendors, you need to write policies and documentation around them.  For example, if your vendor has a certain login page for proctoring (we have, you should take relevant screenshots and write up a walkthrough so candidates know what to expect.  Much of this should go into your Candidate Handbook.  Some of the things to cover:

exam development certification committee

  • How to prepare for the exam
  • How to take a practice test
  • What is allowed during the exam
  • What is not allowed
  • ID needed and the check-in process
  • Details on specific locations (if using locations)
  • Time limits and other practical considerations in the exam

4. Let Everyone Know

Once you have written up everything, make sure all the relevant stakeholders know.  Publish the new Candidate Handbook and announce to the world.  Send emails to all upcoming candidates with instructions and an opportunity for a practice exam.  Put a link on your homepage.  Get in touch with all the training programs or universities in your field.  Make sure that everyone has ample opportunity to know about the new process!

5. Roll Out

Finally, of course, you can implement the new approach to certification exam delivery.  You might launch a new certification exam from scratch, or perhaps you are moving one from paper to online with remote proctoring, or some other change.  Either way, you need a date to start using it and a change management process.  The good news is that, even though it’s probably a lot of work to get here, the new approach is probably going to save you time and money in the long run.  Roll it out!

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Nathan Thompson, PhD

Nathan Thompson earned his PhD in Psychometrics from the University of Minnesota, with a focus on computerized adaptive testing. His undergraduate degree was from Luther College with a triple major of Mathematics, Psychology, and Latin. He is primarily interested in the use of AI and software automation to augment and replace the work done by psychometricians, which has provided extensive experience in software design and programming. Dr. Thompson has published over 100 journal articles and conference presentations, but his favorite remains .
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