"Standard Model" Computer Based Testing
What is the change that is happening in NICET's testing system?
In the past, most NICET tests have been based on work elements (small testing modules selected by candidates). Work element tests have been administered in a paper-and-pencil format at NICET test centers four times each year. These tests are now being converted to Standard CBT exams. While we tend to refer to these as the new CBT tests, there are actually two parts to this change:
- "The Standard Model" — This refers to the development process, format, and scoring of the exams. The development process is much more elaborate, rigorous, secure, and costly than in the past, with detailed procedures for the development and approval of every test question. As one progresses up through the Levels, there will be one test for each subsequent Level (or, possibly, 2 or 3, all of which must be passed). Each test will have a passing score that will be based on an analysis of beta test results.
- Computer-Based Testing — These tests will be administered on a computer at a secure, proctored computer-based testing center. These will normally be part of a network of such centers (currently Pearson VUE). Applications for testing will be sent to NICET, which will respond with an eligibility email or letter containing instructions for scheduling an exam at the appropriate network. Testing may be scheduled at any available time within an eligibility period that will extend for 3 months.
Why did NICET move from Work Elements to "Standard" CBT exams?
The certification industry, like other industries, have developed standards that codify the best practices for the assessment of individual capabilities. These standards change over time. NICET wants to maintain the value of its certifications by keeping its tests current, both in terms of content and of certification standards and best practices. Additionally, CBT is more convenient for you, the candidate.
What do you mean 'it will be more convenient for me'?
Combining CBT with NICET's online test application allows you to schedule an exam in much less time than was the case with paper-and-pencil tests. With more testing locations to choose from, and with centers that are typically open 5 or 6 days a week, you can more easily find a time and a place to fit your needs. Furthermore, the simplicity of the Standard test format (often just one test per Level) makes for an easier test application process, and allows you to apply for more than one test on one form (permitting faster access to the tests required to progress to higher certification Levels). In addition to faster scheduling, you get faster test results. As you leave the test center, you will receive your score report indicating whether you passed or failed and, if you failed, some information on which areas of the exam you did well or poorly.
Will the certification Levels that I earned by testing work elements still be valid?
Yes. While the content has been updated, the scope of the Levels is generally the same under the new standard test as it was with work elements. Any certifications earned through work element testing will continue to be valid as long as recertification requirements continue to be met.
Will Work Elements (WEs) "cross-over" into the CBT format?
No. There is no test unit in the Standard/CBT format that is equivalent to a work element.
What if I don't pass the exam?
You may take the test again under the same retest policy. Your score report will include some information about whether you did well or poorly on the major content areas of the exam.
Are there application deadlines for CBT exams?
Yes. When your application is processed, you will be given a 3-month period within which to take your exam. A new eligibility period will begin on the 1st of each month. The deadline is based on how the application is submitted:
- Paper application — These applications must be mailed and postmarked seven weeks prior to the first day of the window for which you are applying.
- Online application — These applications must be submitted by the 15th of the month before the beginning of the eligibility period for which you are applying. For example, to apply online for the period beginning on March 1 and extending through March, April, and May, you must complete and submit your application by February 15.
Beta test: What's that?
The beta test is the procedure NICET uses to test the test; we need to see if the questions are clearly written, at an appropriate level of difficulty, and generally performing well. If you take a Beta test, your score report will be delayed while NICET analyses the performance of the questions. Beta tests are normally offered at a reduced fee; often free with a separate fee later for experience evaluation and certification.
How are NICET Standard Model tests developed?
NICET's general procedure for developing tests follows these steps:
- Practice Analysis: A group of typically 8 to 10 volunteer Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) meets several times to define the work that is included in each Level of certification, and the knowledge and skills required to perform it. The primary product is the set of Content Outlines that are made available on the NICET website.
- Validation: First a new group of SMEs reviews the practice analysis for general completeness and correctness. Then the practice analysis is converted into a detailed survey which is sent to hundreds of technicians to determine the accuracy of its contents.
- Blueprinting/Test Design: A group of 6 to 10 SMEs uses the survey results to determine how many questions and what kind of questions should be asked on the test about each task in the practice analysis.
- Question Writing: NICET conducts a series of workshops in which groups of qualified SMEs are brought together, trained in the question-writing process, and provided with the hardware and software necessary to author questions that are clear, on-topic, and appropriate for the Level.
- Question Approval: Newly-written test questions are edited twice by NICET staff. A group of 4 SMEs must then unanimously approve of the question before it can go on a beta test.
- Beta testing: New test questions are tried out either by building a full beta test composed of new questions, or by adding a few beta questions to a regular test. In either case, the object is to collect statistical data to determine whether each question is ready for use in regular testing.
- Building a Test: NICET staff and a psychometrician (an expert in testing and measurement) uses statistical data from the beta test to select questions and assign them to a test according to the test blueprint. The passing score is set based on the beta test data and the judgment of a group of SMEs. The time limit for the regular test is set based on time data from the beta and is set to allow most test-takers to finish at a normal pace.
- Publishing: NICET staff assembles questions into a test, adds computer tutorials and other screens, and converts it all to the correct electronic format to run on the CBT test center network's system. After the test is checked for proper functioning and display, it is made available to candidates.