In recent years, ATA has offered a limited number of exam sittings with a keyboard interface (administered in group sittings with software running on the candidate’s own computer). This approach has not lived up to expectations, so early this year the Certification Committee and ATA Headquarters staff began looking at alternatives for moving past the handwritten era.
Most new options for administering the exam involve outsourcing: hiring one or more outside companies to deliver the exam to candidates, monitor Internet access, and send the completed exams to ATA Headquarters. Exam delivery is the only operation potentially being outsourced; passage selection and grading will continue to be done by qualified ATA graders.
Several priorities are at play in choosing a new exam delivery method, including security, reliability, exam integrity, convenience for candidates, administrative interface, and integration with other systems. Reducing our current reliance on volunteers is also important. Outsourcing inevitably involves reconciling our needs with the reality of the third-party vendor’s system, as well as significant time and effort spent learning the vendor’s interface.
These factors make it unlikely that a new exam delivery method will be available to candidates before 2016. However, the Certification Committee believes that carefully choosing an exam delivery method that comes the closest to meeting all of our needs is preferable to continuing with a flawed method or launching a new method before it’s ready. Therefore, after significant research to select several promising methods, we will soon be conducting internal testing to determine which are the most viable. It may seem like a step backward to offer no keyboarded exams in 2015, but in all likelihood 2016 will be the last year in which handwritten exams are offered—which is more than two steps forward.
The Certification Committee thanks you for your patience as we continue working toward our common goal of bringing ATA’s exam delivery process into the 21st century.
David Stephenson is the chair of ATA’s Certification Committee.