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The Rights of Test-Takers

Posted by David Foster, Ph.D.

updated over a week ago

Originally published in Certification Magazine. 

The Questions Test Takers Should Ask 

Do you know how your certification test results are being used? Do you know if they are being kept confidential? Have you been treated with respect and courtesy when taking a test? Do you know the steps to address your concerns about the test or the testing experience? These are a few questions that address your rights as a test-taker. They are questions you should know the answers to, because your test provider should already be transparently communicating about these topics.

Resources for Test-Takers

Over the past few years, the increase in the use of tests has been phenomenal, and tests are clearly accepted as a common part of our culture. And I’m not just talking about IT certification tests, but testing in all industries, in education and in government. With such growth and activity, it is easy to focus on the many aspects of the tests themselves, sometimes ignoring the test-takers. For this reason—to address the rights of test-takers—the Joint Committee on Testing Practices (JCTP) was formed as a cooperative effort of several professional organizations.

The main objective of the JCTP is the advancement, in the public interest, of the quality of testing practices. As part of this goal, the committee produced a document titled “Rights and Responsibilities of Test-Takers: Guidelines and Expectations.” As the title suggests, the pamphlet contains a list of 10 rights and 10 responsibilities that you, the test-taker, have.

By knowing your rights, you are in a better position to monitor the quality of the examination experience, not just what occurs while taking the test. (Your responsibilities will be listed in a future column.)

You should keep in mind that these rights are not legally based, nor are they inalienable rights such as those listed in the United States of America’s Bill of Rights. According to the document produced by the JCTP, “they represent the best judgments of testing professionals about the reasonable expectations that those involved in the testing enterprise… should have of each other.”

Your Rights as a Test-Taker

As a test-taker, you have the right to:

  1. Be informed of your rights and responsibilities as a test-taker.
  2. Be treated with courtesy, respect and impartiality, regardless of your age, disability, ethnicity, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or other personal characteristics.
  3. Be tested with measures that meet professional standards and that are appropriate, given the manner in which the test results will be used.
  4. Receive a brief oral or written explanation prior to testing about the purpose(s) for testing, the kind(s) of tests to be used, if the results will be reported to you or to others and the planned use(s) of the results. If you have a disability, you have the right to inquire and receive information about testing accommodations. If you have difficulty in comprehending the language of the test, you have a right to know in advance of testing whether any accommodations may be available to you.
  5. Know in advance of testing when the test will be administered, if and when the test will be administered, if and when test results will be available to you and if there is a fee for testing services that you are expected to pay.
  6. Have your test administered and your test results interpreted by appropriately trained individuals who follow professional codes of ethics.
  7. Know if a test is optional and learn of the consequences of taking or not taking the test, fully completing the test or canceling the scores. You may need to ask questions to learn these consequences.
  8. Receive a written or oral explanation of your test results within a reasonable amount of time after testing and in commonly understood terms.
  9. Have your test results kept confidential to the extent allowed by law.
  10. Present concerns about the testing process or your results and receive information about procedures that will be used to address such concerns.

David Foster, Ph.D.

A psychologist and psychometrician, David has spent 37 years in the measurement industry. During the past decade, amid rising concerns about fairness in testing, David has focused on changing the design of items and tests to eliminate the debilitating consequences of cheating and testwiseness. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 1977 with a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, and completed a Biopsychology post-doctoral fellowship at Florida State University. In 2003, David co-founded the industry’s first test security company, Caveon. Under David’s guidance, Caveon has created new security tools, analyses, and services to protect its clients’ exams. He has served on numerous boards and committees, including ATP, ANSI, and ITC. David also founded the Performance Testing Council in order to raise awareness of the principles required for quality skill measurement. He has authored numerous articles for industry publications and journals, and has presented extensively at industry conferences.

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Topics from this blog: Test Security Basics Certification