Though the transition to online learning and testing was necessitated by social distancing and other challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the convenience of these new options has expanded the accessibility for candidates seeking to complete examinations for certification and licensure. New restrictions have led to new opportunities, and now counselors and other mental health care providers who want to strengthen their skill sets have choices available to them anywhere, at any time.
Recent research conducted by psychometricians Dr. Isbah Ali Farzan and Dr. Unber Ahmad, leaders of the NBCC Assessments Department, showed that participation in testing remained consistent at the start of the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic times. Together, they presented their findings at the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE) Exchange held in November 2021.
“After the onset of the pandemic, many industries suffered and faced declines in demand. However, our data revealed stable rates of registration and testing after the pandemic began. We believe this result could mean that while other industries were impacted by the pandemic, the need for mental health services was consistent, and even expanding, and the need for remote services was even more critical. Counselors took charge to meet these needs, and that may explain why these numbers remained stable,” said Ahmad.
Drs. Ali Farzan and Ahmad analyzed certification candidates’ data from the National Counselor Examination (NCE) in 2019 and 2020, which was administered online and in test centers, to study testing behavior before and after the start of the pandemic.
“This was our first, early foray into the world of online examination delivery, and it went very well to the degree that we’re slowly moving more and more exams in that direction. This movement means we are making testing, and obtaining certifications and licensure, more accessible for candidates,” Ali Farzan said. “We’re providing other options for people, and for those comfortable with the online testing environment, we can continue to evolve and provide those opportunities that candidates feel is best for them.”
An online option for taking the NCE became available in 2020. Since then, the Board Certified Coach Examination, TeleMental Health Examination, and Counselor Preparation Comprehensive Examination have also been made available online for those who prefer to test online rather than in a testing facility. Plans are in place for the National Clinical Mental Health Counseling Examination to become available online as well, Ali Farzan said.
As the credentialing industry continues to expand access to online tests, NBCC’s research will continue, as will its diligent efforts to ensure and maintain the reliability, fairness, and consistency of its tests and test methods.
“We are still researching the preferences of groups for certain testing environments and other factors,” Ali Farzan said, adding that she and Ahmad will present again to the American Association of State Counseling Boards in February.
“As NBCC continues to increase its support for online testing, we are conducting the necessary research just as we would before implementing any new initiative. Because credentialing examinations are a requirement for entry to many positions, delays in testing can have major impacts for candidates. Online administration options are helping us to help set the stage for the future of counselor testing.”