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Managing Certification Exam Retake Rules: Walking the Tightrope

by | Certification

In a perfect world, managing certification exam retake rules would be unnecessary: All of your candidates would pass their certification assessments with flying colors. In reality, “pobody’s nerfect!” Poor performance on one high-stakes exam shouldn’t mean that certification is permanently out of reach for your aspiring candidate. And yet, to maintain the exam’s integrity, we do implement rules and limits.

You’ve likely developed your certification exam retake rules in a delicate balance: On the one hand, you want to be able to offer candidates fairness and opportunity, and on the other, you must safeguard the intellectual property and integrity of your assessments.

What works best for one credentialing organization may not be what works best for another. Rules around schedules, limits, and fees will necessarily differ from program to program. Does your current candidate management system accommodate the specifics of your exam retake rules?

Rules Around Retake Schedules: Continuous vs. Window-based

We built LearningBuilder’s highly configurable Rules Engine with the flexibility to handle continuous examination and window-based exam schedules.

Programs offering continuous testing typically have very large item banks and are delivering through Linear-on-the-fly testing (LOFT). In this scenario, it’s easier to ensure that candidates face a different set of questions at each exam retake. So the criteria for scheduling a retake may be based on an organization’s perception of the required time to prepare or to prevent item harvesting.

On the other hand, programs with less robust item data banks typically use exam windows — sometimes once per year, sometimes more frequently — that open and close, rather than a continuous schedule. In that case, the frequency limit for retakes is naturally defined by the duration between exam windows. A candidate schedules their retake when the next window opens.

Rules Around Retake Limits: Frequency vs. Duration

We’ve found that the window-based model tends to lend itself best to durational rules around retakes. Unless the program offers more than one test form, candidates usually wait until the next window opens before retaking their exam.

Programs with a continuous testing model might favor retake rules regarding frequency rather than duration. For example, the rule may state that a candidate can only retake the exam “X” number of times before having to re-submit their application. In some cases, there might be an imposed wait limit, like 90 days, between retakes.

LearningBuilder makes it easy to implement exam retake rules based on the next window, or waiting periods, or the total number of attempts, and any combination of requirements. If your rules change as your program grows over time, we help you reconfigure your system to reflect those changes.

Exam Retake Fees: The Basics and Beyond

Exam retakes often come at a price. Retake fees cover the cost of a candidate’s seat at the exam, and LearningBuilder collects these fees as part of a larger certification management workflow.

LearningBuilder can also handle retake fees in other ways. For example, does your organization have an existing relationship with an employer who pays exam fees? You may reach an agreement wherein a bulk exam fee payment for all employee candidates comes with one free retake. Employers can find benefit with this model because, by building in a second chance, it can help to allay test anxiety for candidate employees, positively impacting overall staff certifications.

Another alternative retake fee model involves “bundling:” Candidates can add their first retake onto their initial exam fee for an upcharge, instead of paying a full retake fee later on. High-stakes certification exams often feel like just that to your candidates: high-pressure situations. By building that first retake in, candidates may feel the confidence of a safety net and be more inclined to “go for it” with their first exam.

Building your retake fees into pricing structures like these may come with other changes to the way your candidates approach testing. For example, if candidates know they have two chances, they might start to view the initial exam as a practice run, and not apply themselves as hard to preparing. Why would they, when they know they automatically have another shot at passing? As you track your pass rates, you may want to factor “free” or discounted retake fees into your analysis.

Managing Certification Exam Retake Rules with LearningBuilder

Managing complex rules around retakes can be fraught with the opportunity for error. We’re here to help. As the creators of LearningBuilder, we are adept at translating your candidate handbook into system rules so that LearningBuilder can do the work for you. After all, your certification management solution should work for you, not be something you have to work around. Schedule a call with us to see if our approach is a fit for your program processes.

Heuristic Solutions is a leader in software and technology for certification, licensure, and accreditation. Partner with us today, and we’ll modernize your system to better serve your organization.


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