Rights and Responsibilities for Test-Takers

Originally Published in Certification Magazine, 11/2000

Test-takers have rights. They have responsibilities, too. These points are made very clear in a pamphlet from the Joint Committee on Testing Practices (JCTP is a coalition of several national associations interested in improving testing practices). The pamphlet outlines 10 rights and 10 responsibilities of test-takers. Anyone involved with producing, delivering or taking tests should obtain a complete copy from the JCTP Web site ( www.apa.org/science/jctpweb.html ).

Rights 

I don’t have space to list all of them, but a couple are particularly important:

#3: As a test-taker, you have the right to be tested with measures that meet professional standards and that are appropriate, given the manner in which the test results will be used.

This means that test-takers have a right to pay for and take a well-built test where the results are used properly. The “professional standards” referred to in #3 can be found in several easy-to-get publications and textbooks or provided by test-development consulting services.

#10: As a test-taker, you have the right to present concerns about the testing process or your results and receive information about procedures that will be used to address such concerns.

Certifying organizations, in order to accommodate this right, must establish a method for handling test concerns. They must also inform certification candidates about that method.

I know what you’re thinking. Test publishers probably would rather spend limited resources creating a “well-built test” than provide to certification candidates an easy way to complain. Understandable, but a responsible certification program must provide an easy way to address these concerns.

Despite the most careful efforts, errors occur in tests and during delivery. Test-takers notice these mistakes, and if they feel their score was adversely affected, they should be able to call, report it and find out what can be done. Policies and procedures for dealing with these issues are easy to draft and publish to candidates, who will appreciate the customer-oriented professionalism and see added value in their certification. Addressing their concerns is not as difficult as it might first appear. I’ve dealt with hundreds of test complaints and learned that test-takers accept reasonable solutions and answers.

Responsibilities 

#6: As a test-taker, you have the responsibility to follow the test instructions you are given and represent yourself honestly during the testing.

Personally, I would have split this one into two separate responsibilities. Many mistakes, resulting in lower scores, are made during exams because some test-takers do not follow instructions, or do not understand how the questions are presented or how the test is scored. Test-takers should make greater effort to understand the format of the test, to practice with similar question types and to comprehend how the scoring and pass/fail decisions are made. This information, and perhaps even the practice tests, should be readily available on an organization’s Web site.

The second half of #6 deals with the candidate’s honesty before, during and after a test (for more on this, see my February 2000 column at www.certmag.com/issues/feb00/contrib_foster.cfm ). In particular, test-takers must not cheat during a test or share information about the test with colleagues or friends. Certification candidates must understand that such behavior weakens the certification program and reduces the value of their own credential.

As you can see, this pamphlet by JCTP contains valuable information for all organizations and individuals that participate in the testing process. It has no copyright and JCTP encourages wide dissemination. Test publishers and delivery providers should reprint these rights and responsibilities onto posters, handouts, wallet-sized cards, etc., and make sure that every test-taker is aware of them.

Because these rights and responsibilities also speak to requirements of the test publisher and test-delivery provider, they should be posted in the cubicles, offices and halls of these organizations. If the rights of the test-takers are constantly being considered, testing practices will improve. If test-takers will behave responsibly to tests that are being produced to industry professional standards, then they and the testing organizations will benefit together.

David Foster

President and CEO, Caveon Test Security