NCTA Professional Standards and Guidelines: Standards


The Standards in this document are organized into six sections: Policy, Contractual Agreements, Staffing, College or University Representation and Coordination, Physical Environment, and Testing Accommodations. Certain items pertain to CBT or PBT only. If unspecified, items cover both types of testing.

A. POLICY: Test Centers must adhere to general policies which promote high quality operations, ethical practices as outlined in the Code of Fair Testing Practices in Education (2004, Washington, DC: Joint Committee on Testing Practices), professional mandates, and policies consistent with their institutions and NCTA. They must

  1. Develop and implement a mission statement consistent with the policies and standards set forth in this document as well as their institutional mission.
  2. Operate with adequate financial resources to support the mission of the test center.
  3. Maintain adequate physical facilities in a location suitable to the requirements of the test center and the needs of examinees, which includes compliance with minimum legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
  4. Operate in a diligent manner to promote honesty, integrity, and fairness in all procedures.
  5. Operate under the guidelines of equal opportunity, affirmative action, and the ADA, as well as other local, state, and federal regulations.
  6. Protect the integrity of the test by following appropriate exam handling and storage procedures and by ensuring vigilant proctoring.
  7. Protect the confidentiality and rights of privacy of examinees and staff, defined by FERPA and other regulations.
  8. Adhere to program requirements of test companies in the administration of specific tests.
  9. Adhere to requirements and policies of their institutions in the administration of classroom exams and other assessments.
  10. Treat examinees in a fair, courteous, professional, and nondiscriminatory manner.
  11. Respond to examinee concerns with respect while maintaining the integrity of the administration.
  12. Make referrals to other campus offices and testing resources, as needed, to provide students and clients with the most appropriate services of the institution and community.
  13. Develop and implement site specific guidelines for test center operations and staff training.
  14. Evaluate the programs of the test center in an on-going, systematic, and comprehensive manner.

B. CONTRACTUAL AGREEMENTS: Test companies and test centers (or appropriate institutional representatives) will sign contractual agreements for test delivery services.

  1. Agreements will clearly define the responsibilities and expectations of both parties regarding the following concerns:
    1. Physical environment and space requirements.
    2. Candidate scheduling protocol.
    3. Administrator/Proctor responsibilities for exam delivery.
    4. System specifications for CBT.
    5. Test company support, including technical support, if applicable.
    6. Payment method and fee schedule, including compensation for no-shows and accommodated tests.
    7. Liability issues.
  2. Contracts may refer to Proctor or Administrator manuals for details on any of the above components. These manuals and other documentation need to be reviewed prior to signing the agreement since companies may have very specific, unique requirements for their testing programs. If a potential conflict is discovered, a solution may be able to be reached through open dialogue between the test company and an individual test center. This will necessitate a revision to the contract before it can be signed.
  3. Contracts and agreements must be signed by an individual within the institution who has signature authority for legal agreements. Consultation with an institution's legal department may be required. In some instances, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) or letter of intent may be used in place of a formal contract. Contracts will be signed by both parties before set-up and testing activities begin. After a contract is signed and in effect, both parties will work together to address areas where expectations are not being met.

C. STAFFING: A number of individuals may be involved in the setup, coordination, and administration of tests. These may include staff of the institution (both full-time and part-time) and/or staff hired only for particular testing situations. If undergraduate students are employed in the test center, they perform office tasks but do not administer tests, for their own protection as well as to preserve test integrity. Exceptions may be made for adult staff members who are taking undergraduate classes but who are primarily institutional personnel. In all cases, regardless of how specific tasks are divided up or covered by various individuals, one person must be accountable. This person may have a different title at each institution but will be referred to here as the Test Operations Manager (TOM).

  1. The TOM is ultimately responsible for the appropriate administration of testing programs. S/he coordinates all test administrations and may serve as the actual test administrator or may hire others for test day administration. The TOM
    1. Is an employee of the institution.
    2. Is knowledgeable about test policies, processes, and procedures.
    3. Is informed about all incidents occurring during testing, e.g. irregularities, facilities or environmental problems, and examinee or staff concerns.
    4. Conducts appropriate training for testing personnel, both part-time and full-time, to include all aspects of test administration, including management of emergency situations such as fire, power outages, illness, etc.
    5. Participates in professional development activities to stay current with trends and best practices in testing.
    6. Ensures the test center and all testing staff are evaluated at regular intervals.
    7. Is able to communicate effectively with a wide range of individuals.
    8. Provides direct oversight for testing activities and is responsible for adherence to all standards in this document.
  2. Specific responsibilities of the TOM for National Testing Programs (PBT and CBT) include
    1. Serving as administrator of record with the test companies, though not necessarily acting as an on-site Test Supervisor for PBT or as a Test Center Administrator (TCA) for CBT testing.
    2. Maintaining direct contact with test company personnel.
    3. Ensuring test company requirements for each program are fulfilled.
    4. Maintaining adequate staff to cover testing program requirements.
  3. Specific responsibilities of the TOM for College/University Testing Programs include
    1. Serving as the primary contact in the test center for faculty, departments, and testing programs.
    2. Actively managing the overall test center operations, though others in the test center may have more regular contact with institutional faculty, department staff, and distance learning faculty and staff.
    3. Fulfilling requirements for departmental or college/university testing, including distance learning programs.
    4. Informing faculty or departments of any limitations of services, as well as concerns or problems encountered in delivering exams.
    5. Maintaining adequate staff to cover testing requirements.
  4. Other Staff Needed for Testing - National Testing Programs: Test Supervisors, room supervisors, and proctors may be regular staff of the institution or contract workers hired solely for testing. It is important to avoid the reality or perception of a conflict of interest in the selection of staff, such as not administering tests to family members, not being involved in inappropriate test preparation or coaching activities, etc. Efforts will be made to hire diverse staff. It is imperative that test day staff
    1. Attend general proctor or supervisor training, including day-of-test staff briefings.
    2. Understand the concepts of standardized testing, the importance of test security, and the implications of testing irregularities.
    3. Be prepared to handle emergency situations.
    4. Thoroughly review test-related information such as test manuals prior to test day, concentrating on test-specific policies and procedures.
    5. Be reliable, punctual, detail-oriented, and able to deal effectively with people in difficult situations.
    6. Be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of individuals.
    7. Serve as a room proctor before becoming a room supervisor.
    8. Undergo performance evaluations at regular intervals.
  5. Other Staff Needed for Testing - CBT Testing: Staff (often TCAs) for CBT are usually full-time or part-time permanent employees of the institution but can be contract workers. It is imperative that these individuals
    1. Be thoroughly trained before working on their own, with ongoing training/certification as necessary and/or required by the test company.
    2. Understand the concepts of standardized testing, the importance of test security, and the implications of testing irregularities, including how to handle emergency situations.
    3. Be thoroughly informed on the policies and procedures for all exam programs they will be administering.
    4. Be aware of best practices in test delivery and in providing good customer service.
    5. Be reliable, punctual, detail-oriented, and able to deal effectively with people in difficult situations.
    6. Be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of individuals.
    7. Be able to do basic computer trouble-shooting as needed.
    8. Undergo performance evaluations at regular intervals.
  6. Other Staff Needed for College/University Testing, including Distance Learning Programs: Personnel for this type of testing may include full-time or part-time employees of the institution, including front office staff. Testing may be only part of a staff member's total duties and responsibilities. It is imperative that these individuals
    1. Understand the requirement for security and confidentiality of test materials (including items such as passwords) and examinee information.
    2. Receive training appropriate to their role in the testing process.
    3. Be thoroughly informed about test policies and procedures, especially test-specific ones.
    4. Be able to do basic computer trouble-shooting for CBT.
    5. Assist the TOM and other staff members with assigned responsibilities and duties.
    6. Be aware of best practices in test delivery and in providing good customer service.
    7. Be reliable, punctual, detail-oriented, and able to deal effectively with people in difficult situations.
    8. Be prepared to deal with emergency situations.
    9. Be able to communicate effectively with a wide range of individuals.
    10. Undergo performance evaluations at regular intervals.

D. COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY REPRESENTATION AND COORDINATION: The TOM is responsible for advocating for the needs of the test center through appropriate channels at his/her college or university. In addition, test center personnel must make formal and informal connections across the campus for the purposes of informing others about testing services, promoting appropriate interaction between the test center and other institutional departments, and ensuring appropriate facilities for test administration. Institutional representation and coordination are intended to establish and maintain administrative support for testing functions and increase visibility for the test center on campus and in the community.

  1. The test center will be represented at various levels within the organizational structure. As needs are identified, the TOM will make these needs, and the resources required, known to the appropriate personnel and offices in the institution.
  2. To develop an effective communication network with departments that provide campus services, test centers must
    1. Develop working relationships with campus resource personnel who authorize access to appropriate facilities. Coordinate with appropriate institutional departments to ensure all relevant services are provided. Contact and confirm with department contacts (e.g., Facilities Management, Public Safety/Security, Energy Management, Buildings and Grounds, Plant Operations, Mail Center, IT Support, etc.) to ensure that buildings and rooms are unlocked, temperature systems are in place, required equipment is available and functioning, and room setup is optimal.
    2. Communicate assessment goals and objectives across the campus and in the community on a regular basis.
  3. To implement appropriate public relations activities on behalf of the test center, it is important to
    1. Heighten awareness of the test center and its services by providing up-to-date information via flyers, brochures, newsletters, web pages, correspondence, etc., on a regular basis.
    2. Encourage appropriate use of testing services within and outside of the campus community in compliance with the test center's mission and goals.
  4. To achieve efficient, reliable, and timely test administrations of current or prospective students of the institution (placement exams, institutional and/or national exams, and credit by exam), test centers must
    1. Develop effective working relationships with faculty and institutional departments.
    2. Collaborate and communicate with faculty and academic departments about policies and procedures for the administration of exams and assessments.
    3. Maintain and/or securely store appropriate records (e.g., test tracking logs, program statistics, and/or exam scores).
  5. To achieve efficient, reliable, and timely test administrations for the external community (distance education, national test programs, testing companies/organizations, etc.), test centers must
    1. Develop effective working relationships with external agencies.
    2. Collaborate and communicate with external agencies about policies and procedures for all test administrations.
    3. Create, maintain, and securely store appropriate records as needed or required.

E. PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT: The location, space, and layout of the test center are vital to the accomplishment of its mission. In addition, the conditions under which tests are handled, stored, and administered are extremely important. The standardization of these conditions is essential to the integrity of every test administration.

  1. To ensure security of materials, the area where test materials are stored must
    1. Be locked with no insecure points of access, e.g., windows, transoms, false ceilings, etc.
    2. Have access limited to key testing personnel.
  2. At the test site, the TOM and/or staff must
    1. Maintain a distraction-reduced testing environment, anticipate outside factors that may divert the attention of examinees, and take action to avoid these potential problems.
    2. Consider room temperature and attempt to correct, as needed.
    3. Ensure adequate lighting.
    4. Provide appropriate test room(s) and space for given volume.
    5. Provide seating and writing surfaces appropriate for test volume, test materials, candidate characteristics, ADA accommodations, etc.
    6. Seat examinees to limit their view of other examinees' tests and to facilitate proctoring, following test program specifications.
    7. Check facility to ensure readiness for testing.
    8. Have backup plans in case of emergencies or problems, if possible. Contact test company about a shift to any backup plan.
  3. Access to the test site requires that
    1. Adequate parking is available.
    2. ADA requirements are met so examinees with disabilities can access the test center. The TOM should consult with the appropriate campus office to ensure compliance with ADA laws and regulations.
  4. CBT: Equipment and Space
    1. Testing contracts will specify that equipment is dedicated for use by one test company's programs or, if agreed to by test center and companies, equipment can be used by multiple companies. Contracts will specify who will retain ownership of the equipment, along with the responsbility to install updates. Test centers will keep the space clean and uncluttered and maintain appropriate temperature control to ensure equipment function.
    2. If a separate room is required for accommodations but is not available, the test center will attempt to schedule the test outside of regular testing hours so the entire center does not need to be shut down. If this is not possible, then the room will be used only for the accommodated test. Compensation for these different arrangements should be specified beforehand, preferably in the contract.

F. TESTING ACCOMMODATIONS: In order to comply with the ADA and the institutional mission of serving students, it is important for test centers to be fully informed about what is required legally and ethically to assist students with disabilities. Test centers will

  1. Collaborate with Disability Services offices on campus to determine who will provide needed accommodations. The test center will provide approved accommodations for classroom exams, if separate facilities for accommodated testing are not available on campus.
  2. Provide accommodations to people with disabilities, as specified by test company requirements, for national and certain institutional exams.
    1. If the accommodation requires only a minor modification that will not disturb others, the person may be tested in a room with other examinees.
    2. If the accommodation, such as reading aloud, may distract others, a separate room will be provided.