Designing a certification examination

With the goal of creating fair, valid and reliable certification examinations, our testing services team collaborates with subject matter experts (SMEs) to determine who the certification examination will certify, the competencies a certified person must possess, and then in managing content throughout the certification examination development cycle.

Determining who to certify

The first critical step in developing a certification examination is deciding what knowledge, skills and abilities should be assessed to determine whether a candidate has the qualifications necessary to become certified.

The certification examination candidate

Who is the target audience for the certification? The initial task is to define who the certification examination is for, which may or may not include a specific demographic group, level of education or training in a specialized course.

Job task analysis and objective domain

What does our target audience know and what will be covered in the certification examination?

Led by a psychometrician, a focus group of SMEs outlines the duties, actions and responsibilities of our target audience for the certification examination. This job task analysis helps us understand exactly what the successful candidate will be required to do by future employers or educators.

The result of the job task analysis is the objective domain for the certification examination. The objective domain is a comprehensive set of specific and measurable knowledge, skills, and abilities. The objective domain serves three purposes. First, it guides the content development team in creating items that assess the right things. Second, it tells the candidate the knowledge, skills, and abilities they will need to pass the certification examination. Third, it tells the employers and educators who value the certification what a certified candidate should be expected to know.

Blueprint survey

After the objective domain is created, we use a broader base of SMEs to conduct a blueprint survey. Rating scales are used to indicate task relevance (i.e. how relevant the task is for certification status) and frequency (i.e. how often the task is performed). The psychometrician uses the data from this survey to stipulate the number of items allocated to each specific section on the certification examination. The final product of this process is a certification examination blueprint that defines exactly what will be assessed.

Developing a certification examination: