How has the testing landscape changed for state licensure?


How has the testing landscape changed for state licensure?

Alon Schwartz


State licensure testing has been in a high intensity period of change, like every sector. Boards have had to handle the impact of the pandemic, rapidly adopt new technology and respond to changing test taker expectations.

State Licensure Departments need to ensure licensure testing is highly accessible and convenient for all test takers. Improvements like adaptive technology and providing exams in additional languages have helped remove barriers that can affect specific groups or populations. One major change that has seen a dramatic improvement in accessibility and take-up of licensure testing is the large-scale move to multi-modal testing.

Multi-modal gives test takers the option to either take a secure test at their nearest PSI Test Center, or to access tests remotely with PSI Online Proctoring. This flexibility and convenience are what many of us have come to expect from modern life.

Power of choice

The addition of choice in how tests are taken is powerful. Providing options improves take-up of testing and ensures people can select the modality that best suits their circumstances and individual preferences. Giving them the best chance of successful completion of State licensure tests.

  • With online proctoring, test takers can take a test at home or in their place of work. They are observed by a trained online proctor using the webcam and microphone on their device.
  • With multi-modal, if a test taker needs the necessary technology and facilities, and is more comfortable with traditional testing methods, they can still opt for a test center.

Whether an individual chooses to test remotely or in-person, they are still able to test at a time and in a location that suits them.

Multi-modal is the new norm

Multi-modal testing isn’t new and has been used in some sectors for many years. For example, PSI has onboarded State licensure testing across a wide variety of industries including Barbering & cosmetology, construction, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Insurance and Real Estate.

However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on adoption rates. Now more PSI clients use multi-modal testing than ever before:

  • In 2020, 11% of PSI insurance licensure exams were remotely proctored, compared with 41% in 2022 to date.
  • In EMT licensure, remotely proctored exams increased from 8% to 16% in the same period.
  • In real estate, 41% of exams are now remotely proctored, up from 7% since the start of the pandemic.
  • For barber and cosmetology, no clients used multi-modal testing in 2020. This is now at 12%.

Overall, during the pandemic over 50% of our clients rapidly adopted multi-modal testing particularly as many test centers were closed. In the intervening two years, State Licensure Departments have seen the benefits and now over a quarter of our clients continue to offer their test takers the option of multi-modal testing.

Increase in testing rates

Not only has there been an increase in multi-modal testing since 2020, but there has also been an increase in overall testing rates across many industries. This increase reflects the broader trend for changing careers through the pandemic. While this might be due to job loss or redundancy, it is also due to people reflecting on work-life balance and their own priorities.

Take the real estate industry as an example. According to the National Association of Realtors, more than 156,000 people joined the sector in 2021 and 2020 combined — nearly 60 percent more than in the two years prior. Data from real estate licensure testing backs this up with PSI delivering approximately 175,000 real estate licensure tests in 2019. This increased to nearly 220,000 in 2021.

Insurance is another sector that has seen an uptake in testing. Insurance licensure testing rates increased from around 175,000 in 2019 to 275,000 in 2021.

Adaptable test delivery – ready for anything

In the case of Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the decision to supplement their existing program of in-person test centers with online proctoring in 2018 meant they were well placed to respond to the pandemic. Washington State was the first insurance regulatory body to adopt multi-modal testing in the country.

The original change was made to address the needs of remote test takers in the State. As well as the challenge of test availability at traditional test centers, particularly during peak periods. When COVID hit they were perfectly positioned to scale up in response to the increased demand for secure remote testing.

Testing numbers increased from around 1,500 in 2019 to 14,000 in 2021. With many test takers still opting to test remotely even though test centers have re-opened.

Multi-modal is thriving

Multi-modal testing is clearly thriving, and PSI is onboarding new organizations to this flexible test delivery model all the time.

Today, test takers expect a high level of choice and convenience from licensure testing. And they have embraced the opportunity to select the mode of testing that works best for them. Equally, licensing boards are seeing the increased demand for flexible testing, and they are responding to that need.

PSI research shows test takers want multi-modal options. Importantly for both test takers and State Licensure Departments, satisfaction rates remain high regardless of modality, and scores and pass rates are comparable across modalities. The pandemic gave licensure testing a firm push towards multi-modal. And it’s now clear there’s no going back.