The Process for Submitting Potential Certification Exam Questions

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By Daryl Lee Spiewak, CEM, TEM, MEP, Lead Trainer for the CEM Commission, and Chair, IAEM-Global Communications Work Group

Rather than having certification commissioners write all of the certification examination questions, the IAEM-USA Board approved a process for others to develop and submit proposed questions to be considered for inclusion in the examination questions databank. This month’s article will address those procedures.

Step One

The very first step is to go online and download three documents from the Certification Resource Center tab at www.iaem.org. The first document to download is the IAEM Certification Study Guide for Exams, the second document is Appendix C of the CEM Commission Manual, and the third document is the IAEM Exam Question Submission Form. The study guide provides the listing of general and country-specific publications used to develop the questions in the examination question databank and is a key reference for researching and referencing your question and answers. Appendix C contains detailed instructions and suggestions on how to design your proposed examination question. The submission form is the document you use to submit your proposed question to IAEM for consideration.

Step Two

The second step is to review those documents to become familiar with the detailed requirements. Then decide on the topic for the question(s) you wish to submit for consideration. Afterwards, select the appropriate reference(s) and review that material too.

Step Three

The third step is to actually develop your proposed question(s). Recall that the certification examination is the same for the AEM® and the CEM® so there is no need to write different versions of your question. Each examination consists of general management and emergency management questions – and in certain cases, country-specific questions – in a multiple-choice format.

Question Domains and Ratios

Current examination questions are divided into five specific emergency management domains – Prevention (~5%), Mitigation (~10%), Preparedness (~20%), Response (~20%), and Recovery (~10%) – and in selected general management topics (~5%). Approximately 30% of the questions are reserved for country-specific ones.

International examinations consist of 100% of the five domains and general management topics. Since the examination question databank contains enough questions on general management topics, your proposed question(s) need to relate to, and be identified with, one of those five emergency management domains. This need is reflected in the IAEM Exam Question Submission Form.

When developing your question(s) forget about simple rote memory-type questions. The Certification Commission is seeking questions on a higher-order critical thinking level. These questions will use memory-plus application, analysis, synthesis or evaluation skills requiring candidates to recall principles, rules or facts and to apply them in a real-life context. This is important because these are the situations emergency managers often find themselves in and where they must solve related problems.

Our examination questions must reflect those higher-order skills. Write your proposed question(s) in the multiple-choice format. A multiple choice question consists of a direct question rather than “fill in the blank,” and contains one clearly correct answer with three plausible distractors. The three plausible distractors may be true statements, but they must not correctly answer the specific question asked. All four responses are also similar in structure and length. If possible, the correct answer should not be the longest one or the shortest one.

Finally, the proposed question(s) and four selections must be grammatically correct. It does not matter if the question/selections are written in standard American, Canadian, United Kingdom or Australian English. Select and stick to one version, and use the correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. Also ensure that the wording is simple, precise and unambiguous.

Things to Avoid

When writing your proposed question(s) and four selections, avoid negative-type questions such as, “Which of the following responses is not correct?” Make your proposed question(s) positive instead, “Which of the following responses is correct?”

Avoid using “all of the above” or “none of the above” selections. Most test takers would automatically select either response as the correct one without ever reading the question, because if that selection is offered as an option, it is usually the correct one.

Avoid using any clues that would point to the correct response. Some of these pointers include extreme qualifiers, such as always, never and only; nonsensical words; and unreasonable statements.

Step Four

The fourth and final step is to complete the submission form by filling in the blanks and submitting it to IAEM Program Manager Kate McClimans at KMcClimans@iaem.com. She will submit your form to the IAEM-USA Certification Examination Maintenance Task Force for review and decision.

IAEM-USA Certification Examination Maintenance Task Force Actions

The IAEM-USA Certification Examination Maintenance Task Force is led by the IAEM-USA Certification Commission Chair and includes representatives from every IAEM council. They are tasked with reviewing questions every year, alternating between countries and core pools to ensure that the question databank is up-to-date and validated with current source material that is open-source and accessible. They also ensure that the individual questions are adequately challenging.

After the Maintenance Task Force receives your submission, they will first conduct a Design Element Review to check the actual construction and design of the question, the correct answer, and the three distractors.  Next they will conduct a Content Review to ensure that the information provided, the question, and the correct answer are valid and correct. The third step is to validate the source material for currency, relevance and availability.

The last step is for the Maintenance Task Force to either accept or reject your submission. If they approve the proposed question(s) and three distractors, the submitter will receive an acceptance letter that may be used to satisfy the “Other” category of Contribution to the Profession during the current recertification cycle. If the Task Force rejects the proposed question and responses, the submitter will receive a rejection letter with a brief explanation stating why the submission was rejected.

Should your submission be accepted, congratulations on a job well done! You will have completed one of your Contributions to the Profession requirements for recertification as well as made the certification examination better. Should your submission be rejected, don’t despair. Rewrite the submission and send it in again, or develop a new question(s). Keep working at it. We need a lot of good, well-developed questions and distractors to keep the certification examination up-to-date and relevant to today’s new emergency managers. Currently, we need good and relevant questions in the Prevention, Recovery and Mitigation domains. So put on your thinking caps, develop some questions, and submit them to IAEM for consideration.

Next Month

Next month I will describe some social media concepts that may be reflected on the certification examination. As usual, please send any questions you have about the examination or the certification process to me at info@iaem.com, and I will address them in future articles.

IAEM Bulletin, May 2019

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