The reasons a testing program might seek accreditation are similar to the reasons a test taker pursues a certificate, certification, or license. Test takers want formal validation of the knowledge and skills they have acquired through education, experience, and preparation. Likewise, our clients may want external, independent recognition of their program’s quality for their stakeholders, including test takers, employers, and regulatory bodies, and the public.
Here, we explore the reasons why an accreditation might be a good move for your testing program, what the relevant accreditation options are, and how PSI can support you to achieve them. Our aim is to help you think about whether accreditation is right for your testing program – now or in the future.
Why should my testing program seek accreditation?
An independent accreditation gives stakeholders increased trust and confidence that a program has met certain standards of high quality.
Achieving and maintaining accreditation also reassures test takers that their chosen program meets certain standards, as well as offering future test takers a potential differentiator when selecting from among competing credentials. This can help testing organizations to attract more test takers and grow their programs.
However, it’s important to note that accreditation may not be right for every testing program. The decision to pursue accreditation depends on a program’s unique needs – including the purpose of the program, the stakes of the credential, and the resources available to the organization. PSI leverages the team’s decades of accreditation experience in advising our clients through this important decision.
What are the accreditation options for your testing program?
We work with our certification clients to gain the accreditation (or multiple accreditations) that is relevant to their testing programs. Determinants in which accreditation(s) to pursue include the focus, industry, and type of credential.
- NCCA (National Commission for Certifying Agencies) is the accreditation arm of the Institute of Credentialing Excellence (ICE). Most recently revised in 2021, the NCCA standards outline “essential elements” of certification programs related to governance, structure, security, and test development, among others.
- ISO/IEC 17024:2012 is an international standard and particularly valuable for organizations with a global focus. Programs seeking accreditation to this standard must adhere to criteria related to governance, impartiality, validity, reliability, and transparency.
- Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC) is specific to certification programs related to specialty nursing practice areas. In addition to standards on psychometric best practices, ABSNC standards include definition and scope of the nursing specialty, test candidate eligibility, and a body of research-based knowledge.
In addition to certification programs, assessment-based certificate (ABC) programs can also be accredited. Standards for certificate programs include the ICE 1100 Standard for Assessment-Based Certificate Programs and the ANSI/ASTM E2659-18 Standard.
How can PSI help gain accreditation for my testing program?
We support around 80 different programs through accreditation consultation. Some are seeking dual accreditation, some are applying for reaccreditation, and some are new programs applying for accreditation for the first time.
We start by helping testing organizations decide whether an accreditation is right for their program. If they decide to proceed, we advise their team throughout the process. This includes a rigorous assessment and gap analysis to identify necessary areas for improvement to meet accreditation standards.
Our assessment looks at all the processes involved in developing and maintaining a testing program. For example, SME selection, test content development, and secure test delivery. We then help prepare the documentation needed to apply for accreditation, clearly demonstrating how a program meets the required standards.
Our accreditation consultation also extends to maintenance of accreditation, through the reapplication process, and submission of any documentation required for reaccreditation or annual reporting.
What if it’s not the right time for my testing program?
It’s important to note that even though an organization might not be seeking accreditation, our processes always comply with best practice standards. The goals of our partnerships with our clients are to best position them to seek accreditation should they decide to pursue it.
If a client is keen to achieve accreditation but there are areas where they don’t comply, we will work with them to reach a point where they can be ready. If a program doesn’t currently meet an accreditation standard, it can be helpful to create a road map. We work with testing programs to identify the gaps and needs, and then highlight where we should focus our efforts.
Alternatively, we might focus on a standard or standards within an accreditation that are most important to an organization, even if the organizations isn’t seeking the accreditation itself. It’s not necessarily all or nothing – there are options.
Is achieving accreditation a highly complex process?
While going for accreditation can be an important decision and a big undertaking, it’s not as complicated as you might think. We work with our clients to demystify the process and make it as straightforward as possible.
Often, programs are already meeting some of the standards they need for accreditation. And when there are areas of non-compliance, we work together to resolve them.
If you’re not sure whether accreditation is right for your testing program, we’d be very happy to have a conversation. Accreditation provides a range of benefits – enhanced credibility, competitiveness, compliance, and opportunities for continuous improvement. But if it’s not right for your program, we nonetheless follow the principles and standards required for accreditation to create and maintain high quality testing programs.