ABR Staff Spotlight

ABR Staff Spotlight

IT Guiding Transition to Remote Exams

by Heather S. Hopkins, ABR Communications Coordinator



Over the past six months, the ABR has depended on its IT department to help staff and volunteers adapt to the rapidly changing environment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. From assisting staff transition to working at home, to facilitating virtual committee meetings and test assembly, IT has been instrumental in enabling the ABR to continue to meet the needs of our candidates and diplomates in this challenging time.


Now, with the ABR’s decision to begin administering exams remotely, IT will once again play a crucial role. Creating the necessary infrastructure to deliver exams that are fair, reliable, and secure while also optimizing the testing environment for examinees is the highest priority at the ABR. Most IT staff will be working to make sure design and testing of these platforms are completed in time to start remote exams in the first half of 2021.


Because many institutions, like universities, have been using remotely proctored exams for more than a decade, there are many solutions in the marketplace. “We will be selecting a vendor with as much experience in high stakes remotely proctored exams as possible,” said IT Director Scott Segal. 


Planning for oral exams, however, will require greater innovation. The ABR is talking with other American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) Member Boards who have started giving remote oral exams to learn from their experiences.


The ABR’s work over the past few years to create Online Longitudinal Assessment (OLA) to satisfy Part 3 of the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program will be helpful.


“The ABR has gained many insights into the challenges of presenting an image-rich assessment on devices supplied by users,” Segal said. “For example, in the exams given in the ABR exam centers, the ABR had complete control over the screen size. In OLA, we have gotten significant experience building applications that adapt to whatever size monitor the user has.”


One of the biggest concerns in moving to remote exams is security. Candidates will be allowed to take exams in their homes instead of in person, requiring remote proctoring.


“The ABR will be making significant changes to tighten the security of our existing exam administration software as well as taking advantage of a battery of measures that are supported by remote proctoring software vendors,” said Segal.


Many details about the administration of remote exams are still being worked out. For example, it is likely that some changes will be made in the number of days on which exams can be taken, not only to accommodate the demands of remote proctoring but also to take advantage of the additional flexibility it allows. Pilot projects of both the computer-based and oral exams to test the new platforms are in the early stages of planning.


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